Study Abroad Immersion

The CSLC has developed a research-driven program for summer language study abroad in the form of the CSLC SLA Grant Program. Drawing upon scholarly insights into the language immersion model for study abroad, the CSLC is also pursuing a longitudinal research program of study abroad outcomes via ACTFL OPI pre-/post-testing data, preparatory and reentry coursework evaluation, structured interviews and reflective journaling protocol.

A surprising amount of experimental research and qualitative ethnography has been conducted regarding the efficacy of second language acquisition in study abroad contexts. While much of the preliminary research suggested the inefficacy of study abroad language programs, recent scholarship has demonstrated that study abroad language programs are, in fact, extremely effective routes for language acquisition, but only when properly constructed and implemented.

Many participants of study abroad language programs show greater gains than participants of domestic immersion language programs in the areas of: 1) Overall language proficiency, 2) oral language fluency, 3) culturally competent language use and 4) overall inter-cultural sensitivity/awareness. However, these gains are both minimal and widely variable when examined within population means as a whole. At the same time, when individual study abroad language program factors are considered, a much more coherent picture of language acquisition abroad emerges.

Thus, the CSLC's research in this area is intended to elucidate the quantitative and qualitative gains of language study abroad according to the variables that best determine these outcomes. Accordingly, the following research questions guide CSLC data collection and analysis:

  1. What language learning phenomena (language proficiency, instructional pedagogy, linguistic processing) best determine language and inter-cultural competence gains?
  2. What programmatic structures (pre-/post-language assessment, preparatory & reentry coursework, length of instruction, community engagement) best determine language and inter-cultural competence gains?
  3. What attitudinal phenomena (learning styles, affective barriers, learning goals, cultural accommodation) best determine language and inter-cultural competence gains?
  4. What interactional variables (types, nature and frequency of interaction) with native speakers best determine language and inter-cultural competence gains?

This research initiative is closely tied with the development of the CSLC's SLA Grant Program as well as the Center's leadership of a interdisciplinary learning community on 'Language Study Abroad'. In conjunction with this initiative the CSLC hosted an invited speaker as well as authored a series of documents in support of our discussions (see below).

Language Study Abroad: Findings and their implications for program design at home and abroad (11/12/2010)

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Beatrice Dupuy, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, French & Foreign Language Education
Co-Director, National Foreign Language Resource Center CERCLL
University of Arizona

At the same time that student interest in study abroad programs is growing and the incentives for them to participate are multiplying, it is becoming increasingly clear that study abroad is much more than a context where one can assume that language and culture learning will take place because of unlimited interactional and linguistic opportunities. During a stay abroad, interaction among various elements can create conditions that can either inhibit or facilitate access to L2 social networks and to interactional opportunities as a result. If that is the case, if the SA experience is uniquely personal, is there anything educators can do to change the way participants view and approach it and help them participate in learning activities as fully as possible? What do research studies recommend in terms of programmatic courses of action that could be implemented both at home and abroad to help SA participants meet their pre-departure goals and beyond? Which programmatic courses of action have been implemented and what outcomes have they yielded? Which programmatic courses of action have not yet been considered and why they ought to? After 1) a review of selected recently published study abroad studies; 2) gaps and needs in the research will be highlighted; finally 3) warranted and informed recommendations for possible programmatic courses of action here, at home and abroad, will be made.

Download: Summary of Language Study Abroad Research & Implications for Notre Dame
Download: Worksheet: Reflecting on the Goals of Study Abroad