Leire Sarto Zubiaurre

Thesis working title: The Acquisition of Spanish as a Foreign Language by Irish learners

Supervisor: Professor Bettina Migge and Assistant Professor Stephen Lucek


I am a first year PhD student in Linguistics. I obtained a BA in Classics (University of Zaragoza) and an MA in Historical Linguistics (Universiteit Leiden), after which I decided to venture into the world of foreign language education. I obtained an MA in Spanish as a Second Language from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid that allowed me to spend a year as a Spanish instructor at Harvard University. During my time in the US, I realized that even though there are millions of Spanish learners around the world, there is a lot we don’t know about how bilingual speakers and speakers of minoritized languages learn Spanish. This brought me to Ireland and to UCD. Here I research how Ireland’s unique linguistic context shapes the acquisition of Spanish as a foreign language. My research interests include Second and Third Language Acquisition, Sociolinguistics, and Foreign Language Pedagogy. I have taught Spanish in Greece, Spain, the United States, and now here in UCD, where I also tutor in Linguistics modules.

Thesis Summary: My thesis examines the acquisition of Spanish as a foreign language in Ireland. More specifically, I am looking at the influence of Ireland’s linguistic diversity, and particularly at the role of Irish, on the acquisition of Spanish as a third/foreign language. I am also interested in how the learners’ linguistic background influences the development of their metalinguistic awareness (how they think about language) and their language attitudes. As a whole, my thesis seeks to understand how multilingual learners with various degrees of Irish competence learn Spanish and the pedagogical applications that might be derived from it.