Spanish L2 Development in a Short-Term Domestic Immersion Program


  • Kara Moranski University of Cincinnati
  • Juan Godoy-Peñas University of Cincinnati
  • Bernard Issa University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Mandy Faretta-Stutenberg Northern Illinois University
  • Harriet Wood Bowden University of Tennessee, Knoxville



Domestic immersion, study abroad, replication, classroom research


This exploratory study evaluated the impact of a Spanish second language (L2) domestic immersion (DI) program that was developed expediently at a large university in the United States in response to widespread study abroad (SA) program closures due to COVID-19. Spanish language learners (n = 14) participated in an intensive, six-week summer immersion program for a total of 96 contact hours over the duration of the program. L2 development was evaluated via a conceptual replication of Issa et al. (2020), which recently provided compelling evidence of the benefits of short-term SA programs. L2 gains were measured using an acceptability judgment task, a lexical decision task, and an elicited imitation task. Results showed that DI learners had significant L2 gains in some of the same areas as the SA students, including subject-verb agreement and scores on the elicited imitation task. Implications for creating and maintaining DI programs in the current educational landscape are discussed.

Abstract in Spanish

Este estudio exploratorio evaluó el impacto de un programa doméstico de inmersión (DI) de español como segunda lengua (L2) que se desarrolló en una universidad estadounidense en respuesta al cierre generalizado de estudios en el extranjero debido a la COVID-19. Catorce estudiantes de español participaron en un programa de inmersión intensivo durante el verano con un total de 96 horas de contacto a lo largo de las seis semanas de duración del programa. El desarrollo de la segunda lengua se evaluó a través de una réplica conceptual de Issa et al. (2020), el cual recientemente había aportado datos convincentes sobre los beneficios de programas de estudio en el extranjero de corta duración. La adquisición de la segunda lengua se midió usando una tarea de juicio gramatical, una tarea de decisión léxica y una tarea de imitación suscitada. Los resultados mostraron que los estudiantes del programa doméstico de inmersión desarrollaron sus competencias lingüísticas de forma significativa en algunas de las mismas áreas que los estudiantes que participaron en programas en el extranjero, incluyendo la concordancia entre sujeto y verbo, así como la puntuación en la tarea de imitación suscitada. Se discuten también algunas implicaciones sobre la creación y el mantenimiento de programas domésticos de inmersión en el actual panorama educativo.


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Author Biographies

Kara Moranski, University of Cincinnati

Kara Moranski (Ph.D., Temple University) is an Assistant Professor of Spanish Linguistics in the Department of Romance and Arabic Languages and Literatures at the University of Cincinnati. She uses her training in both applied linguistics and educational statistics to conduct curricular research, seeking to identify and enhance instructional methods that promote classroom language development, primarily but not limited to Spanish language education.

Juan Godoy-Peñas, University of Cincinnati

Juan Godoy-Peñas (Double Ph.D. Florida International University and Complutense University of Madrid) is an Assistant Professor Educator in Spanish, Coordinator of the Spanish basic language program, and Co-Director of the Spanish local immersion program at the University of Cincinnati. His work focuses on curriculum development, diversity, equity, and inclusion in second language teaching, and the role of technology in language classrooms.

Bernard Issa, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Bernard Issa (Ph.D., University of Illinois at Chicago), is an Associate Professor of Spanish Linguistics at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, specializing in second language acquisition. Bernard's research agenda examines how individual difference variables (e.g., motivation, attention, second language use, and working memory) relate to the learning and processing of second language grammar and he examines how those variables interact with learner external factors including instructional method and learning context (e.g., study abroad, domestic immersion).

Mandy Faretta-Stutenberg, Northern Illinois University

Mandy Faretta-Stutenberg (Ph.D., University of Illinois at Chicago) is an Associate Professor and Spanish Basic Language Program Director in the Department of World Languages and Cultures at Northern Illinois University. Her research explores the role of individual differences in learner characteristics in explaining variability in linguistic development for learners in various learning contexts, such as study abroad, domestic immersion, classroom instruction, and various laboratory settings.

Harriet Wood Bowden, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Harriet Wood Bowden (Ph.D., Georgetown University) is an Associate Professor of Spanish Linguistics at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Her research examines first, second, and heritage language acquisition and neurocognition. She is particularly interested in understanding the interaction of multiple learner-internal and external factors influencing language learning and neurocognition, including cognitive, pedagogical, and contextual (including study abroad vs. foreign language learning contexts).


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How to Cite

Moranski, K., Godoy-Peñas, J. ., Issa, B. ., Faretta-Stutenberg, M., & Wood Bowden, H. (2023). Spanish L2 Development in a Short-Term Domestic Immersion Program. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 35(1), 345–391.



Learning from COVID-19