Carnegie Mellon University

Barbara F. Freed

Barbara F. Freed

Professor Emeritus of French Studies and Applied Linguistics

Department of Modern Languages
Carnegie Mellon University
Baker Hall 160
Pittsburgh, PA 15213


As a Professor of French and Second Language Acquisition (SLA) my research interests extend in two diverse but complementary directions. The first relates to second language learning and use within a broad socio-cultural context, in the United States elsewhere in the world. The second, quite distinct but not unrelated, centers on social art history with a particular focus on the lives, interactions and work of artists who made the French Riviera their home during the first half of the 20th century.

Within the context of SLA my interests have spanned a continuum from the applied to the theoretical - from empirical research to teacher training. This has included projects as diverse as the development and assessment of second language proficiency, language maintenance and loss within the socio-political context which characterizes the United States today, as well as to the acquisition and use of second languages by learners in the United States and in France. I have maintained an interest in the variables that affect second language learning: age, first language, functions of language for the learner and, the most neglected, context of learning. In my earlier work I looked specifically at input in second language acquisition in an attempt to define and characterize the type of speech to which second language learners are exposed. This research was part of a larger inquiry that explored the relationship between language acquisition and the linguistic environment of the learner. More recently, I have continued to address issues related to the context of learning, specifically with respect to language learning that occurs in the study abroad environment. Here again, I have been concerned with native speaker perceptions of speaker attributes and in identifying and describing differences in the linguistic skills of students who have spent time in immersion contexts as opposed to those whose learning has been limited to the formal language classroom.

The published body of work that has emerged from this line of inquiry has addressed various issues that relate to the context of learning. An initial project focused on the development of oral proficiency and grammatical achievement as it related to out-of-class contact in a study abroad setting. Subsequent work compares the development of fluency, both oral and written, among students of French who have spent a semester abroad as compared to those who had studied only in the formal university classroom at home. More recent research projects have refined and expanded analyses of learning context and have combined the constructs of oral and cognitive fluency in an effort to determine ways in which there is an interaction between cognitive skills, features of the learning context and expressions of oral fluency. These studies have looked at both French and Spanish as second languages.

Complementary to my work in applied linguistics/second langugage acquisition, I have recently developed a new area of exploration. Having lived and taught in southern France at various points in my career, I have turned toward an examination of the historical and cultural context in which the great masters of 20th century art lived and worked on La Côte d'Azur. The initial result of this work was the publication of Artists and Their Museums on the Riviera (Abrams, 1998). Subsequently this book was the inspiration for a series of innovative courses which incorporated interactive videoconferences from several of the museums on the Riviera (The Picasso and Cocteau Museums, The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and the Center for Concrete Art). Research for this volume also led to my discovery, and eventual translation, of a book about Henri Matisse's self-proclaimed masterpiece, the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence. Henri Matisse – La Chapelle de Vence (Gardette, 2000), written by the woman Matisse identified as "the true initiator" of the chapel. This book served as motivation for a documentary film completed in June 2003 - Un Modèle pour Matisse: Histoire de la Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence/A Model for Matisse: The Story of the Vence Chapel. Funds for these projects were supplied by grants from the Florence Gould Foundation, the Berkman and Falk Funds, and the Office of the Dean of H&SS at Carnegie Mellon University.


Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 1979

Selected Publications

  • Frontiers: The International Journal of SA. Confirmed Beliefs or False Assumptions? A Study of    Home Stay Experiences in the French Study Abroad Context. (with Wenhao Diao). In press.
  • Encyclopedia of Language and Education. Vol. 4/Second and Foreign Language Education. Considering Language Learning in a Study Abroad Context. Springer. 2007.
  • Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. Phonological short-term memory and adult acquisition of L2 fluency. (With I. O'Brien, I., N, Segalowitz, and J. Collentine). 2007
  • Applied  Psycholinguistics. Phonological memory and lexical, narrative, and grammatical skills in second-language oral production by adults.(With, Irene O'Brien, Norman Segalowitz, N., and Joe Collentine). 2006
  • AAUSC Journal. Native Speakers’ Perceptions of Fluency Acquired by Study Abroad Students. (With Deborah Dubiner and Norman Segalowitz). December 2006
  • Studies in Second Language Acquisition. Guest co-editor (with J. Collentine) and author of related articles for thematic volume on Context of Learning 2004.
  • Un Modèle pour Matisse: Histoire de la Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence/A Model for Matisse: The Story of the Vence Chapel. (Producer, Director, Screen Writer) 2003.
  • Henri Matisse – La Chapelle de Vence. (Translation) Editions Grégoire Gardette 2000.
  • Artists and Their Museums on the Riviera . Harry N. Abrams 1998.
  • Frontiers: The International Journal of Study Abroad. Guest Editor of a volume devoted to Language Learning in a Study Abroad Context, 1998.
  • Second Language Acquisition in a Study Abroad Context. John Benjamins and Company. 1995.
  • Foreign Language Acquisition Research and the Classroom. D. C. Heath and Co. 1991.
  • Selected Screenings of A Model For Matisse: US:  MoMA, Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art, The Barnes Foundation, The Philadadelphia Museum of Art; France: Le Musée Matisse, La Maison Européenne de la Photographie, France 5/ARTE; Spain: Caixa Forum, Muséo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia; S. America: Pinacoteca           do Estado de São Paulo; Australia, Gallery of Modern Art; Denmark, Louisiana, Danish Museum of Modern Art; Sweden, Swedish National TV. UK: The Princes Drawing  School; Qatar, National Museum, 2007.

Selected Activities and Awards

  • Founding Department Head. the Department of Modern Languages, 1990-1995
  • Chair, Academic Affairs, Institute for American Universities Aix-en-Provence France
  • Trustee: The French International School in Philadelphia, The Sociological Initiatives Foundation, Pierre Salinger Award for the Best Documentary, Avignon/NY Film Festival 2005
  • Animanvision/Digital Cut Award for Best Film for Television, International Festival of Films on Art 2004.
  • Funding awards: Florence Gould Foundation, the Berkman and Falk Funds. La Fondation d’Art

Department Member Since