A Comparison of Spanish Second Language Acquisition in Two Different Learning Contexts: Study Abroad and the Domestic Classroom
Keywords:study abroad, second language acquisition, Spanish
In this paper, we report the results of a study that compared differences in the linguistic gains made by native English-speaking students from the United States who were studying Spanish in one of two different contexts of learning. One was a regular university classroom situation in Colorado; the other was a study abroad program in Alicante, Spain. We examined the gains students made on a number of linguistic dimensions: oral proficiency, oral fluency, grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and communication strategies. In addition, we investigated the relationships between these variables and a variety of background factors, including aspects of language learning readiness. As far as we know, this is the first study to examine such a comprehensive array of variables associated with linguistic performance as a function of context of learning. Each of the individual studies that contributed to the full report of this project can be found in a special issue of the journal Studies in Second Language Acquisition edited by Collentine and Freed (2004). When those studies are looked at as a whole, they lead to general interpretations that were not immediately apparent when considering each of the reports separately. In this paper, we review these results, discuss the larger picture that emerges, and speculate on future questions about the effects of the study abroad experience on second language acquisition (see also Freed, Segalowitz & Dewey, 2004, for a related study).
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