Competing priorities: Student perceptions of helps and hindrances to language acquisition during study abroad
Multiple studies have investigated the effect of language contact on language proficiency, testing the assumption that the study abroad context means greater contact with the target language (L2). Other studies have examined the context of L2 interactions, considering host families, contact with community members, and interactions with non-native-speaking peers. While these studies are helpful, larger scales studies are needed to determine how students are interacting with native and non-native speakers during study abroad. The current study examines student perceptions of helps and hindrances to L2 gain during semester-long study abroad of more than 100 students studying Spanish in Spain, Honduras, and Peru. Participants completed surveys patterned after the Language Contact Profile of Freed, Dewey, Segalowitz, and Halter (2004) and took the Versant Language Test before and after their study abroad experience. They also participated in a post-program interview which was subsequently transcribed, encoded and analyzed. Results suggest that students experience competing priorities in decisions governing L1 vs L2 use and that student intentionality is key to successful language learning.
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