The Linguistic Gains and Acculturation of American High School Students on Exchange Programs in Germany
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThere has been a sharp rise in study abroad participation over the last few decades (Institute for International Education, 2011), which can largely be explained by the rise of short-term study abroad programs. While there is much to be gained from participation in such programs, mid-length and year programs may offer the greatest benefits for linguistic gain (e.g. Brecht, Davidson & Ginsberg, 1996; Freed, 1995; Lafford, 2004; Vande Berg, 2003). Despite the advantages of longer stays, the percentage of students studying abroad for an entire year "has remained steady for over a decade" (Institute for International Education, 2011). Roughly four-percent of all students who study abroad choose to do so for an academic or calendar year. This statistic points to a problem with attracting students to pursue longer stays abroad. The Open Doors Report, prepared by the Institute for International Education, assumes a narrow view of study abroad by excluding data on American high school students. The present study attempts to fill a gap in the research by examining the overseas experiences of 14 American high school and gap year students who studied abroad in Germany during the academic year of 2011-2012. Data for this study was collected in the form of questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, the WebCAPE German placement test developed at Brigham Young University, and unofficial Oral Proficiency Interviews. The findings of the current study may help inform those involved in study abroad at both the high school and university levels. The purposes of this mixed-methods research, which is organized into three articles, are the following: 1) to investigate students' use of technology in a study abroad context, and examine how online communication might be indicative of participation in multiple Activity Systems (e.g. Engeström, 2011; Lantolf & Thorne, 2006; Leontiev, 2006), 2) to describe students' degree of participation in new Communities of Practice at German schools (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998; 2000) and, 3) to investigate students' (re)construction of national and regional identities. The role that language proficiency and prior instruction in the target language might play in the study abroad context is explored across all three topics.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Second Language Acquisition & Teaching