Patterns of eye movement reveal language proficiency

Scientists report that eye tracking technology can be used to judge the progress of people learning English as a second language


New research has found that eye tracking technology can be used to determine how well someone has picked up English as a second language.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology study found that patterns of eye movement correlate strongly with levels of performance on traditional standardised tests.

During the research, a group of 145 students divided evenly among four native languages (Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish) and 37 native English speakers were given 156 sentences to read.

Their patterns of eye movement were recorded and the length of time they fixated on particular words was analysed.

Scientists found that people who are learning a new language have a particular pattern of eye movement.

Their eyes dwell on particular words for longer periods of time as they attempt to comprehend the text.

The researchers found that eye movement analysis produced “competitive results” when compared with the Michigan English Test and the Test of English as a Foreign Language.