Learner Acquisition of Dialect Variation in a Study Abroad Context: The Case of the Spanish [θ]


  • Kathryn Ringer-Hilfinger


The present study aims at analyzing the acquisition of dialect variation by native English–speaking university students who study Spanish for a semester in Spain. The selected variable is the phoneme /q/ (theta). The goal is to assess learner awareness, opinion, and use of [θ]. Data were elicited through a set of oral and written tasks conducted with 15 university students prior to, during, and after attending their study abroad program in Madrid. Although post–study abroad learners demonstrated high awareness of native speaker use of this dialect feature compared to pre–study abroad learners, this did not seem to determine their use of [θ]. Data suggested that (non) acquisition varies according to the dialect employed by the native speaker(s) with whom students are in contact before and after living abroad.