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Keywords:

  • Study abroad;
  • Arabic;
  • Egypt;
  • gender;
  • diglossia language learning

ABSTRACT

This article provides a snapshot of the experiences of 18 students studying abroad in Cairo, Egypt. Using a modified version of the language contact profile (Freed, Segalowitz, & Dewey, 2004), I investigate their language use and find that students use English more than they use Arabic and that there is considerable individual variation in Arabic use. Using interviews, I explore factors promoting study abroad participants' use of English and limiting their use of Arabic. The data indicate that students have difficulty gaining access to native speakers of Arabic compared to their use of English with other international students. Furthermore, gaining access to native speakers of Arabic does not guarantee the use of Arabic; their Arabic proficiency, interactional goals, and identification as foreigners can promote the use of English above Arabic. Finally, I examine the ways in which students are nevertheless able to overcome these limitations to gain access to native speakers and use Arabic.