Social networks, target language interaction, and second language acquisition during the year abroad: A longitudinal study is a project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (research award number: RES-062-23-2996) running from May 2011 to October 2013.
The specific aims of the project are to document the development of Modern Languages students’ knowledge and use of the target language over a 23-month period including a 9-month stay abroad, and to investigate:
- learners’ evolving social networks while abroad
- factors influencing type and amount of language engagement abroad
- the kinds of learning opportunities afforded by target language interaction in a year abroad context
- the relationship between social networking, affect, social interaction and language learning
Participants are students of Spanish and French, spending their third year (of a four-year degree course) abroad in Spain, Mexico, and France. We have recruited 25 students per language (drawn from ERASMUS, foreign language assistant, and work placements). Ten native speakers of each language have also been recruited.
During the main fieldwork phase, six data collection cycles with all participants are planned: 1) pretest, 2-4) successive on-site data collection cycles, 5) posttest and 6) delayed posttest. Pre- and posttests will take place at the home university, while all other data collection will take place abroad. A subset of 12 participants will additionally be invited to participate in individual case studies. These in-depth studies will involve day-long participant observation (shadowing) on two occasions during the year to document amount of time spent interacting in the target language, and the nature of that engagement. These participants will also self-record three interactions in the target language, with members of their current social network, using audio equipment.