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The Benefits of Living in Foreign Language Housing: The Effect of Language Use and Second-Language Type on Oral Proficiency Gains

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Abstract

Many colleges and universities in North America employ foreign language housing (FLH) as a means of exposing students to a second language (L2). However, little research examines the effectiveness of these houses on L2 use and gains. The purpose of this study was to examine whether L2 learners living in FLH use the L2 more and whether they make greater language gains than classroom-only learners. This study also evaluated what kinds of tasks predict greater gains and whether such gains are related to the L2 studied. FLH learners of French, German, Russian, and Japanese were matched with classroom-only learners based on age, gender, and proficiency. Both groups took a preprogram and postprogram oral proficiency interview (OPI) and reported their L2 use. Results revealed that FLH students used the L2 more and made greater language gains than classroom-only learners, although differences across the 2 groups were related to the L2 they were studying. In addition, results revealed that using the L2 in particular tasks predicted greater language gains. Such findings suggest that FLH, as portrayed in the current study, with students grouped by language and 1 native speaker per apartment, provides an environment in which students can improve L2 oral proficiency.

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