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Dr Talia Isaacs

Dr Talia Isaacs

Dr Talia Isaacs
BA, MA, PhD (McGill University), PgCert (Bristol)

Senior Lecturer in Education

Office Room 3.16
Helen Wodehouse Building,
35 Berkeley Square, Clifton BS8 1JA
(See a map)

+44 (0) 117 331 4312


  • Second language speaking and listening
  • Pronunciation assessment and instruction
  • Rating scales and rater processes
  • Mixed methods research
  • Form-focused instruction
  • Language for Specific Purposes
  • Cross-cultural communication


Talia Isaacs joined the University of Bristol as a Lecturer in Education after completing her PhD at McGill University, Canada in 2011, and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2014. Her research centres on second language (L2) aural/oral assessment (particularly of pronunciation and fluency), with a focus on the development and validation rating scales, the alignment between rater perceptions and L2 speech productions, and oral communication breakdowns and strategies in workplace and academic settings. A burgeoning interest within this area is in the conversational discourse between doctors and patients and links to stakeholder perceptions and health outcomes. 

Talia is director of the EU-funded Second Language Speech Lab on Priory Road (view press release for the lab launch). She also co-coordinates the Centre for Assessment and Evaluation Research, and serves as a faculty representative on Senate. Her research has attracted funding from the European Commission on identifying the linguistic factors that promote comprehensible speech, from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada on the validation of an L2 speaking scale for formative assessment purposes, and from the British Council on distinguishing between different levels of the IELTS pronunciation scale. Talia is a recipient of the Canadian Modern Language Review Best Graduate Student Paper Award and the IELTS Master’s Award for the “most significant contribution to the field of language testing.”

Although her research has primarily interfaced L2 pronunciation with assessment, Talia is known for the breadth of her research interests and experience. Her published papers span the topics of endangered languages, communicative drills, musical ability, and L2 vowel production, for example. She has examined the language needs and interactions of engineers in technical settings and has participated in projects on health care access for linguistic minorities and policy effects of the OECD's PISA test. Most recently, Talia has drawn on her classical singing background to record French spoken stimuli and a sung rendition approximating French speech timing for the 5Hz project featured at the Bristol Arnolfini (Smith, White, Kazanina, & Hornby, 2014). As part of the experiment, listeners' neural responses were recorded using electroencephalograms (EEGs) while hearing Talia's spoken or sung stimuli.

Talia is on the Editorial Board of Language TestingLanguage Assessment Quarterly, and the Journal of Second Language Pronunciation, an expert member of the European Association for Language Testing and Assessment, a founding member of the Canadian Association of Language Assessment, and has served on various committees of the International Language Testing Association. She has acted as a peer-reviewer and rapporteur for Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) research grants, as an evaluator for doctoral studentships and academic prizes, and regularly reviews for journals in applied linguistics, educational assessment, and phonetics. Her work has appeared in high impact journals, including Applied Psycholinguistics, Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, Health Communication, Language Assessment Quarterly, and Studies in Second Language Acquisition.

Dissemination and public engagement

2014 - BBC Somerset interview on UK regional accents; Made in Bristol TV interview on the Second Language Speech Lab launch.

2014 - Led Association of Language Testers in Europe (ALTE) workshop on assessing productive skills to international test developers in Sèvres, France (with G. Yu).

2014 - Plenary presentation at the Language Testing Reserach Colloquium (LTRC) in Amsterdam on the role of learner first language background in pronunciation assessment in relation to the conference theme, "towards a universal framework." 

2013 & 2014 - University of Bristol staff development workshops on assessment-feedback and academic integrity to Faculty Education Directors and teaching staff.

2013 - State-of-the-art keynote address on pronunciation assessment at the Cambridge English Centenary symposium. 

2013 - Workshop on why mixed methods is still a "paradigm in the rough" in applied linguistics research and talk on modelling comprehensibility in rating scales, Lancaster University.

2012 - Click here to view a Canadian press release about a co-authored research article with Pavel Trofimovich on "Disentangling accent from comprehensibility" that recently appeared in the high impact journal, Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. The story was reported by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the Montreal Gazette, and the Ottawa Citizen. Click here to listen to a French language interview streamed on Radio Canada International.

2012 - Invited presentation as part of the Cambridge Assessment seminar series: "How do examiners reach judgements?" Click here to access podcasts of a post-talk interview and the entire seminar.


Talia spearheaded the development of and coordinates three new units introduced between 2012 and 2014: Teaching and Assessing Fluency and Pronunciation (to MSc TESOL students),  Questionnaire Design and Analysis (to Master's and Doctor of Philosophy students as part of the ESRC-funded South West Doctoral Training Centre), and Second Language Pronunciation and Fluency (to Doctor of Education students). She additionally coordinates Pedaogy and Curriculum in TESOL (to MSc TESOL students). In addition, she is actively engaged in assessment literacy training for colleagues within the university (e.g., Faculty Education Directors) and beyond (e.g., workshops through the Association of Language Testers in Europe).

Talia supervises PhD, EdD, and MSc students with overlapping research interests in applied linguistics and educational assessment (click here for dissertation topics of current doctoral students). She is actively involved in training graduate student Research Assistants in all aspects of the research process through her externally funded projects. Selected narratives of current and former students are available thorough the 100 Stories website, launched as part of the Graduate School of Education's 2013 centenary.

External collaborators

Professor Jo-Anne Baird, University of Oxford; Professor Michel Laurier, University of Ottawa, Canada; Dr. Kazuya Saito, Waseda University, Japan; Professor Norman Segalowitz, Concordia University, Canada; Dr. Ron Thomson, IAS Benjamin Meaker Visting Professor, University of Bristol and Brock University, Canada; Dr. Pavel Trofimovich, Concordia University, Canada; Dr. Carolyn Turner, McGill University, Canada


  • Applied Linguistics
  • Construct Validity
  • Educational Assessment
  • Foreign Accented Speech
  • Health Communication
  • Higher Education
  • Individual Differences
  • Intelligible Pronunciation
  • Mixed Methods Research
  • Rating Scales
  • Second Language Acquisition
  • Social Integration

Recent publications

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system


Dr Isaacs currently teaches 4 courses:

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