Social Interaction and Linguistic Gain During Study Abroad


  • Sally Sieloff Magnan,

    1. University of Wisconsin-Madison
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      Sally Sieloff Magnan (PhD, Indiana University) is Professor of French, Codirector of the Doctoral Program in Second Language Acquisition, and Director of the Language Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin.

  • Michele Back

    1. University of Wisconsin-Madison
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      Michele Back (MA, University of California, Berkeley, PhD candidate, University of Wisconsin-Madison) is Lecturer in Portuguese at the University of California, Riverside, California.


Abstract: This study investigates the role of social interaction in language gain among study abroad students in France. Using the ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI), the Can-Do self-assessment scale (Clark, 1981), a revised version of the Language Contact Profile (LCP; Freed, Dewey, Segalowitz, & Halter, 2001), and preand postdeparture questionnaires, we examine gains in oral proficiency as related to language contact in the study abroad environment. This research shows that language gain is possible during a semester-long study abroad program. It does not uphold the common belief that living situation and contact with authentic media differentiate students who improve from those who do not. Looking at the background of students (age, gender, grade point average, etc.), it reveals that only prior coursework in French correlates strongly with gains in proficiency once abroad. In its most surprising finding, this study suggests that speaking French with Americans may impede proficiency development.