Dr. Melissa Baralt began her career as a primary school teacher in Maracaibo, Venezuela. She then attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. to study how the brain acquires language and what teachers, caregivers, and parents can do to maximize the language learning process. She is currently an associate professor of Applied Linguistics at Florida International University (FIU). At FIU, Dr. Baralt has two key roles: language teacher trainer and psycholinguistics researcher.
At present, Dr. Baralt’s funded studies explore how bilingualism moderates executive function in children born prematurely. She and her team are working with FIU’s biomedical engineering faculty to use Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) to explore the neural recruitment of executive functioning in preterm-born children with different language environments. Dr. Baralt’s research also focuses on language-development interventions for young children, with a focus on bilingual language development.
In May of 2017, Dr. Baralt and her team were announced as the winners of the United States Bridging the Word Gap Challenge, funded by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB). The intervention, a free phone app called Háblame Bebé, teaches Hispanic parents how and why to give ‘Language Nutrition’ to their infants in their heritage language, and promotes caregiver pride surrounding Hispanic bilingual identity. As a member of the Bridging the Word Gap Research Network Group, Dr. Baralt’s work focuses on evidence-based intervention practices to help prepare culturally and linguistically diverse children for kindergarten.
For more information, please see her Modern Languages department webpage at https://dll.fiu.edu/people/faculty/melissa-baralt/.