Does Language Matter? The Impact of Language of Instruction on Study Abroad Outcomes


  • Emily Mohajeri Norris
  • Michael Steinberg



Study abroad, Language acquisition, Education abroad, Language instruction


Study abroad is a holistic educational experience that affords participants opportunities to develop new academic interests, participate in academic internships, establish friendships with host country nationals, explore a new culture, expand their worldview and sense of self, as well as improve their target language skills. This article presents a study that aims to demonstrate that the full range of study abroad language environment models all provide valuable experiences with lasting longitudinal benefits for study abroad participants. 


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Emily Mohajeri Norris

Emily Mohajeri Norris is an international education consultant based in Charlottesville, VA. She holds a Master’s Degree of Education, with a focus on international education, from Harvard University. She was the Administrative Director of the UCLA Education Abroad Program; NAFSA’s Director of Student/Community Linkage Programs, during which time she managed the State Department-funded COOP grant program; and an English as a Second Language teacher in China. Emily has evaluated a Chinese teacher-training program, conducted and published results of a study tour of international education in China, and created policies and an international student orientation program for a distance-learning college in Switzerland. 

Michael Steinberg

Michael Steinberg is Executive Vice President and Director of Academic Programs at the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES). He is a member of the Council of the Forum on Education Abroad and serves as Chair of the Forum Standards Committee. His most recent publications include a chapter in the Guide to Outcomes Assessment in Education Abroad (2006), and “Involve Me and I Will Understand” Academic Quality in Experiential Programs Abroad, (Frontiers, Winter 2002). He earned his Doctorate in history from The Johns Hopkins University. 


Akande, Y., & Slawson, C. (2000). A case study of 50 years of study abroad alumni. International Educator, 9(3), 12–16.

Bartini, M., Green, M. & Hesel, R. A. (January 2008). College-bound students’ interests in study abroad and other international learning activities: A special edition of studentPOLL. Washington, D.C.: American Council on Education (ACE), Art & Science Group LLC, & College Board.

Brecht, R. D., Davidson, D., & Ginsberg, R. (1995). Predicting and measuring language gains in study abroad settings. In B. F. Freed (Ed.) Second language acquisition in a study abroad context (pp. 37–66). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Brown, A. (1983). U.S. students abroad. In H. Jenkins (Ed.), Educating students from other nations (p. 67). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Brown, H. E. (1998). Sojourner adjustment among undergraduate students: Relationships with locus of control and coping strategies. (Doctoral dissertation, The Claremont Graduate University, 1998). Digital Dissertations, 59/04, 1912.

Carlson, J. S., Burn, B. B., Useem, J., & Yachimowicz, D. (1990). Study abroad: The experience of American undergraduates. New York: Greenwood Press.

Carlson, J. S., Burn, B. B., Useem, J., & Yachimowicz, D. (1991). The experience of American undergraduates in Western Europe and the United States. In E. G. Barber & B. B. Burn (Eds.), Occasional papers on international
educational exchange #28, research series. New York: Council on International Educational Exchange.

Carsello, C., & Creaser, J. (1976). How college students change during study abroad. College Student Journal, 10, 276–278.

Carson, J. G. & Longhini, A. (2002). Focusing on learning styles and strategies: A diary study in an immersion setting. Language Learning, 52, 401–438.

Cash, R. W. (1993, May). Assessment of study abroad programs using surveys of student participants. Paper presented at the Association for Institutional Research Annual Forum, Chicago.

DeKeyser, R. (1991). Foreign language development during a semester abroad. In B. F. Freed (Ed.), Foreign language acquisition research and the classroom (pp.104–119). Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath & Co.

Dukes, R., Lockwood, E., Oliver, H., Pezalila, C., & Wilker, C. (1994). A longitudinal study of a semester at sea voyage. Annals of Tourism Research, 21(3), 489–498.

Freed, B. F. (Ed.). (1995). Second language acquisition in a study abroad context. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Freed, B. F. (1998). An overview of issues and research in language learning in a study abroad setting. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 4, 31–60.

Herman, N. B. (1996). The i mpact of study abroad experiences on the psychosocial development of college students (Doctoral dissertation, Ohio University, 1996). Digital Dissertations, DAI-A 57/11, 4659.

Institute for the International Education of Students (IES). (2003). The IES MAP for study abroad: Charting a course for quality. Chicago: Author.

Institute of International Education (IIE). (2008). Open doors 2007. New York: Author.

Isabelli, C. (2000). Motivation and extended i nteraction i n the study abroad context: Factors i n the development of Spanish language accuracy and communication skills. (Doctoral dissertation, University of Texas, Austin, 2000) Digital Dissertations, DAI-A 61/11, 4362.

Kauffman, M., Weaver, H., & Weaver, T., (1992). Students abroad: Education for a global society. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press.

Koestler, J. (1986). A profile of foreign language majors who work, study, and travel abroad. The Modern Language Journal, 70(1), 21–27.

LaFranchi, H. (2003, August 13). Why more students are studying abroad: Reasons such as ‘seeing the world’ still prevail, but some students also want new views of the US role. Christian Science Monitor, USA section, p. 3.

Lathrop, B. J. J. (1999). The influence of study abroad programs on United States students’ psychological development (Doctoral dissertation, University of Georgia, 1999). Digital Dissertations, DAI-A 60/11, 3917.

McCabe, L. J. (1994). The development of a global perspective during participation in Semester at Sea: A comparative global education program. Educational Review, 246, 275–286.

McCombie, R. P. (1988). Foreign study: An analysis of the long-term impact. (Doctoral dissertation, Loyola University of Chicago, 1988) Digital Dissertations, DAI-A 49/02, 569.

Norris, E. M., & Dwyer, M. (2005). Testing assumptions: The impact of two study abroad program models. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 11, 121–142.

Norris, E. M., & Gillespie, J. (2005). Study abroad: Stepping stone to a successful international career. NACE Journal, 65(3), 30–36.

Opper, S., Teichler, U., & Carlson, J. (1990). Impacts of study abroad programmes on students and graduates. Higher Education Policy Series, 11(2). London: Jessica Kingsley.

Peterson, D. (2003). The decision to study abroad: Contributing factors and implications for communication strategies. (Doctoral dissertation, Michigan State University, 2003) Digital Dissertations, DAI-A 64/05, 1450.

Wauldbaum, R. K. (1996). A case study of institutional and student outcomes of an educational exchange program: The University of Denver and the University of Bologna (Doctoral dissertation, University of Denver, 1996). Digital Dissertations, DAI-A 57/07, 2908.

Wilkinson, S. (1995) Foreign language conversation and the study abroad transition: A case study. (Doctoral dissertation, The Pennsylvania State University, 1995). Digital Dissertations, DAI-A 57/01, 140.

Wortman T. I. (2002). Psychosocial effects of studying abroad: Openness to diversity (Doctoral dissertation, Pennsylvania State University, 2002). Digital Dissertations, DAI-A 63/07, 2479.




How to Cite

Mohajeri Norris, E., & Steinberg, M. (2008). Does Language Matter? The Impact of Language of Instruction on Study Abroad Outcomes. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 17(1), 107–131.



Research Articles