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The effect of social and cultural interaction on L2 learning in study abroad programmes

The effect of social and cultural interaction on L2 learning in study abroad programmes
The effect of social and cultural interaction on L2 learning in study abroad programmes
The aim of this study is to explore the impacts of social and cultural interactions on the process of foreign language learning during study abroad (SA). The empirical study focuses on female Saudi Arabian SA participants who underwent English as a second language studies in English Language speaking countries. It is known from literature that participants' ability to become proficient in a second language is affected by the extent to which such participants are able to use that language in their socio-cultural settings. At the same time, female Saudi Arabian participants have been identified in the literature as a marginalised group of learners in terms of the extent to which they are able to interact with their social and cultural settings. A major factor making these students? experience different relates to the prohibition for female Saudis to travel without a male relative accompanying them. Hence, most of these SA participants travelled with one or several members of their families, creating more complex networks of established and new connections.

As such, this study focused on determining whether or not female Saudi Arabian SA participants who have had more social and/or cultural interactions while they were studying abroad gained more in language proficiency development from the SA programme than participants who did not have as much interaction.

This study developed a mixed method research design that employed both quantitative and qualitative data gathering and analysis protocols. For the quantitative part of the study, surveys and tests were used to gather data on English language confidence and proficiency at different points in time, as well as on the extent of their social and cultural interactions while they were in English Language speaking countries. These data were used to determine if participants were able to gain significantly in English language confidence and proficiency from their SA programme and if there were significant correlations and associations between such gains and their levels of social and cultural interactivity. Qualitative data gathering was carried out using semi-structured interviews which sought to examine participants' experiences while they were studying abroad in greater depth and detail in order to explain how social and cultural interactions may have affected their ability to learn the language effectively.

Findings suggest complex levels of interplay between social and cultural interactions and language development, which are partly in line with those of other SA students and partly appear to be unique to this cohort of learners due to their specific circumstances. More specifically, it was found that various aspects of English language proficiency, such as general proficiency, complexity, accuracy, and fluency, improved among the respondents following their undertaking of the study abroad program. The differences between individual participants in this improvement were linked mainly to the levels of social interaction they engaged in. Findings suggest that participants who engaged in high levels of social interaction were able to utilize these as a means for improving their proficiency in English. However, no sufficient evidence was found to indicate that social interaction in the SA setting was indispensable to achieving significant gains in L2 proficiency. This was because there were some participants who were observed to have gained considerably in their L2 proficiency but engaged in little social interaction with L1 speakers. On the other hand, it was found that all of the participants engaged in various instances of cultural interaction across the program, which made it difficult to determine the actual impact of cultural interaction on L2 gains. Thus, social interaction in the SA setting was established as having a positive effect on second language learning while results on the impact of cultural interaction on the same were inconclusive.
Alfayez, Hassna
0d80ee8b-3b7b-480c-88b9-a2e77d7bb71f
Alfayez, Hassna
0d80ee8b-3b7b-480c-88b9-a2e77d7bb71f
Huettner, Julia
bb0cd345-6c35-48e1-89f7-a820605aaa2c
Mitchell, Rosamond
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Alfayez, Hassna (2016) The effect of social and cultural interaction on L2 learning in study abroad programmes. University of Southampton, Faculty of Humanities, Doctoral Thesis, 285pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

The aim of this study is to explore the impacts of social and cultural interactions on the process of foreign language learning during study abroad (SA). The empirical study focuses on female Saudi Arabian SA participants who underwent English as a second language studies in English Language speaking countries. It is known from literature that participants' ability to become proficient in a second language is affected by the extent to which such participants are able to use that language in their socio-cultural settings. At the same time, female Saudi Arabian participants have been identified in the literature as a marginalised group of learners in terms of the extent to which they are able to interact with their social and cultural settings. A major factor making these students? experience different relates to the prohibition for female Saudis to travel without a male relative accompanying them. Hence, most of these SA participants travelled with one or several members of their families, creating more complex networks of established and new connections.

As such, this study focused on determining whether or not female Saudi Arabian SA participants who have had more social and/or cultural interactions while they were studying abroad gained more in language proficiency development from the SA programme than participants who did not have as much interaction.

This study developed a mixed method research design that employed both quantitative and qualitative data gathering and analysis protocols. For the quantitative part of the study, surveys and tests were used to gather data on English language confidence and proficiency at different points in time, as well as on the extent of their social and cultural interactions while they were in English Language speaking countries. These data were used to determine if participants were able to gain significantly in English language confidence and proficiency from their SA programme and if there were significant correlations and associations between such gains and their levels of social and cultural interactivity. Qualitative data gathering was carried out using semi-structured interviews which sought to examine participants' experiences while they were studying abroad in greater depth and detail in order to explain how social and cultural interactions may have affected their ability to learn the language effectively.

Findings suggest complex levels of interplay between social and cultural interactions and language development, which are partly in line with those of other SA students and partly appear to be unique to this cohort of learners due to their specific circumstances. More specifically, it was found that various aspects of English language proficiency, such as general proficiency, complexity, accuracy, and fluency, improved among the respondents following their undertaking of the study abroad program. The differences between individual participants in this improvement were linked mainly to the levels of social interaction they engaged in. Findings suggest that participants who engaged in high levels of social interaction were able to utilize these as a means for improving their proficiency in English. However, no sufficient evidence was found to indicate that social interaction in the SA setting was indispensable to achieving significant gains in L2 proficiency. This was because there were some participants who were observed to have gained considerably in their L2 proficiency but engaged in little social interaction with L1 speakers. On the other hand, it was found that all of the participants engaged in various instances of cultural interaction across the program, which made it difficult to determine the actual impact of cultural interaction on L2 gains. Thus, social interaction in the SA setting was established as having a positive effect on second language learning while results on the impact of cultural interaction on the same were inconclusive.

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More information

Published date: March 2016
Organisations: University of Southampton, Modern Languages

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 390419
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/390419
PURE UUID: 7243c169-178c-4d5e-b768-72193318335a

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Date deposited: 12 Apr 2016 12:54
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 19:28

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Contributors

Author: Hassna Alfayez
Thesis advisor: Julia Huettner
Thesis advisor: Rosamond Mitchell

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