LINGUIST List 25.1379

Fri Mar 21 2014

Review: Applied Linguistics; Discourse Analysis; Pragmatics; Sociolinguistics: Kinginger (2013)

Editor for this issue: Rajiv Rao <>

Date: 13-Dec-2013
From: Maria Gomez Laich <>
Subject: Social and Cultural Aspects of Language Learning in Study Abroad
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Book announced at

EDITOR: Celeste Kinginger
TITLE: Social and Cultural Aspects of Language Learning in Study Abroad
SERIES TITLE: Language Learning & Language Teaching 37
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Maria P Gomez Laich, Carnegie Mellon University


Celeste Kinginger’s “Social and Cultural Aspects of Language Learning in Study
Abroad” offers a rich collection of empirical studies that portray the
diversity of contemporary, socially-oriented research on study abroad in a
variety of languages and countries. The volume is divided into three parts.
Part I consists of a topical orientation in which the main aim of the book is
stated. In the introductory chapter “Social and cultural aspects of language
learning in study abroad,” Kinginger offers a brief summary of recent research
on language learning in the study or residence abroad environment and argues
for the “need to frame language learning as a dialogic, situated affair that
unfolds in intercultural contexts and includes significant subjective
dimensions” (p. 5). The author also states that a primary aim of the volume is
to expand the range of student populations, languages, and methodologies for
research on language and culture learning in study abroad contexts.

In Chapter Two, entitled “Researching whole people and whole lives,” James A.
Coleman argues that second language acquisition (SLA) study abroad research
should see subjects not just as language learners, but as “rounded people with
complex and fluid identities and relationships which frame the way they live
the study abroad experience” (p. 17). He claims that the sociolinguistic
networks that students develop during study abroad -- with fellow-nationals,
with other outsiders, and with locals--, their degree of immersion and
engagement with the target language community, the pattern of their contacts
with home (Coleman & Chafer, 2010), their learning objectives, their
individual differences (e.g., motivation, attitudes, and goals), and aspects
of learners’ identities (e.g., religion, gender, or social class) all
influence the outcomes of the sojourn. Coleman also presents data from a
recent long-term research project involving U.K. students in Senegal. The
study highlights the significance of valuing the agency of the individual in
order to have a better understanding of the study abroad experience.

Part II features six qualitative case studies adopting a variety of
theoretical research paradigms, such as poststructuralist, activity
theoretical, sociocultural, and language socialization. In Chapter Three,
entitled “Self-regulatory strategies of foreign language learners: From the
classroom to study abroad and beyond,” Heather Willis Allen takes a
sociocultural and activity theory perspective to trace the development of
motivational self-regulation strategies, including motivation maintenance,
goal-setting, and language learning strategies (Dörnyei, 2001) of three U.S
college students of French during and after a six-week study abroad experience
in France. Data were collected through blogs, semi-structured interviews, and
questionnaires over a four-year period (before study abroad, during study
abroad’s final week, and three years after study abroad). The study shows how
learners use motivational self-regulation strategies and suggests that the
college-level foreign language curriculum should assist learners in developing
these strategies.

In Chapter Four, “‘Opening up the world’?: Developing interculturality in an
international field experience for ESL teachers,” Elizabeth Smolcic employs
assumptions from sociocultural theory and activity system analysis to explore
the development of intercultural awareness of U.S English as a Second Language
(ESL) teachers during a seven-month long program that included an
international field teaching and culture/language learning experience in
Ecuador. The data included semi-structured interviews, journal entries,
written reflective papers, and researcher field notes, and were collected at
three different phases of the program: before departure for Ecuador, during
the experience abroad in Ecuador, and up to three months after the end of the
program. The author presents data from one participant in the program and
shows how the cultural and linguistic immersion experience led to the
participant’s identity re-configuration, intercultural growth, and sensitivity
to learners’ needs. She also highlights the importance of reflective practices
and the need for teacher education to move teacher-learners towards

Fred Dervin’s contribution, “Politics of identification in the use of lingua
francas in student mobility to Finland and France,” tackles the theme of
identity and language use by exploring the use of English and French as lingua
francas (ELF and FLF hereafter) by mobile European students in Finland and
France. The chapter reports on two studies: a macro level study of the
politics of identification in relation to ELF based on data from a
questionnaire distributed to Erasmus students in Finland, and a case study of
a Finnish university student of French who studied in France for a period of
six months. On the whole, students’ representations of ELF in the macro level
study appear to be quite negative and there is an indication that “ELF
modifies the way students identify with others -- and thus their self-images”
(p. 120). As far as the case study is concerned, the Finnish student’s
representations of FLF were positive; the student could be “herself” with FLF
users and could project a desired self-image.

In Chapter Six “An American in Paris: Myth, desire, and subjectivity in one
student´s account of study abroad in France,” Timothy Wolcott presents a case
study of an American undergraduate who spent a semester in an island program
in Paris. The program was geared toward “the American-style academic study of
selected aspects of French and European history, society and culture” (p.
132). Although several critics suggest that such programs lead students to
cocoon themselves in an isolated community that impedes full cultural
immersion and negotiation of difference, the student’s testimony did not
confirm these predictions. Adopting a poststructuralist orientation to
identity, Wolcott shows how living in Paris triggered deeply personal and
subjective reactions in the student in question.

In Chapter Seven, “Exploring the potential of high school homestays as a
context for focal engagement and negotiation of difference: Americans in
China,” Dali Tan and Celeste Kinginger examine the experiences of high school
sojourners in a summer study and home stay program in China. Two interesting
features of the program are that it functions “in loco parentis” for the
students and discourages students from gathering with their co-nationals after
school. Drawing on interview data collected over a seven-year period, the
authors examine the potential of high school home stay experiences for
engagement both in the routine communicative practices of the host communities
and in “negotiation of difference” (Block, 2007) in encounters with Chinese
hosts. The results show that students conceive of the home stay as a rich
learning environment. The findings also suggest that a high school study
abroad experience can be quite different from that of college-aged students
since high school students tend, among other things, to have more intensive
engagement with their host families.

In Chapter Eight, “The transformation of a “frog in the well”: A path to a
more intercultural, global mindset,” Jane Jackson examines one Hong Kong
Chinese student’s intercultural competence development before, during, and
after a study abroad experience in Canada. The student showed an inflated
sense of intercultural competence before he left his native country, which
could have had some negative effects on his motivation to try to interact with
English speakers. During his time abroad, he did not take advantage of many
opportunities to practice speaking English because of his own negative
attitudes towards the host country and personality attributes such as
ethnocentricism. Upon return to China, the student participated in an elective
course aimed at expanding and extending learning after study abroad through
guided, critical reflection. The course helped him realize more about himself
as a “whole person” and why he avoided such communicative opportunities. At
the end of the course, the student showed an improved level of intercultural
competence. The results of this study demonstrate the importance of intensive
reflection before, during, and after an abroad experience.

Part III of the volume features four chapters that illustrate a variety of
methods in research on the pragmatic competence of sojourners in relation to
the construction of self and identity through a second language. In Chapter
Nine, “I joke you don’t: Second language humor and intercultural identity
construction,” Maria Shardakova reports on a cross-sectional experimental
study that explores the effects of proficiency and study abroad on sojourners’
identity construction through L2 humor. The study focuses on the relationship
between the intended identities American learners of Russian wish to convey
through L2 humor, and the identities attributed to them by native speakers as
well as learners of Russian. Data were collected in two stages. During the
first stage, humor samples from American learners of Russian were gathered.
These learners completed discourse completion questionnaires, submitted their
responses in writing (pretending to reply in the form of an email), and were
asked to describe the self-portrait they intended to construct. During the
second stage, new participants -- Russian L1 speakers and learners of
Russian-- evaluated the humorous emails and indicated their reactions to the
emails. The results show that the examined variables -- proficiency and study
abroad -- did not affect learners’ self-positioning. Both variables, however,
affected the perception of L2 humor by the interlocutors. Increases in
proficiency, for example, resulted in learners being perceived as less rude,
more polite and more humorous.

Chapter Ten, “Getting over the hedge: Acquisition of mitigating language in L2
Japanese,” by Noriko Iwasaki, reports on an often neglected, yet socially and
interpersonally significant aspect of learners’ language -- hedges. Employing
pre- and post- study abroad Oral Proficiency Interview data, the study
quantitatively and qualitatively examines five L2 Japanese speakers’ use of
hedges. The quantitative analysis shows that the L2 learners drastically
increased their use and repertoire of hedges after studying abroad. The
qualitative analyses show that learners use hedges to socially package
interpersonal functions more often after their study abroad experience, and
that some students chose to use hedges that are often associated with young
native speakers of Japanese, therefore indexing a youthful identity.

In Chapter Eleven, “Identity and honorifics use in Korean study abroad,”
Lucien Brown analyzes quantitative (i.e., discourse completion tests) and
qualitative (i.e., recordings of natural conversations and retrospective
interviews) data to chart four male second language learners’ acquisition of
Korean honorifics. The students chosen for the four case studies were of
different ethnic backgrounds and were all participating in a one-year study
abroad program in Korea. The findings revealed a gap between the students’
knowledge of the prescriptive native-speaker norms of how honorifics should be
used to express social meanings and the way they actually used them. These
results demonstrate that study abroad context is an arena in which new
identities are sought and constructed and that individuals will ultimately
make linguistic choices that match their desired identity in a given
situation. Another important finding is that the participants sometimes
encountered situations in which native-like patterns of interaction were not
available to them; their position as exchange students and foreigners resulted
in the belief on the part of some Korean interlocutors that the norms of
honorific use were not needed in interactions with them.

In the final chapter “A corpus-based study of vague language use by learners
of Spanish in a study abroad context,” Julieta Fernandez uses a cross-sectional
learner corpus to analyze the use of general extenders by four English L1 learners
of Spanish after a year abroad in Spain. General extenders (GEs) are “typically
phrase- or clause-final expressions with the basic syntactic structure,
conjunction + noun phrase, which extend otherwise complete utterances” (Overstreet, 2005, p. 1847).
The analysis of individual learner data revealed “wide individual differences in the
frequency, types and functions of GEs” (Fernandez, p. 325). By complementing quantitative
data with an analysis of learners’ narratives of their study abroad experiences, the author
also gained insights about the types of activities learners were involved in while abroad
and the opportunities they had to engage in communication with members of the host community.
By combining these two sources of data, the author provides a rich analysis of the participants’
language development in study abroad.


In the introductory chapter, Kinginger states that the volume is intended to
“showcase the value of contemporary socially-oriented approaches in research
on language learning in study abroad” (p. 9) and to “expand the representation
of student populations and languages beyond the usual focus on American
undergraduates studying French, Spanish, or German” (p. 13). The volume
fulfills this need to expand the range of student populations, languages under
scrutiny, and research methodologies for research on language and culture
learning in study abroad contexts. Although two of the studies, namely, Willis
Allen’s and Wolcott’s, portray the experiences of American college students of
French, they do so applying novel research methodologies and theoretical
frameworks. Willis Allen takes a sociocultural and activity theory perspective
to trace the development of motivational self-regulation strategies. Wolcott,
on the other hand, adopts a poststructuralist orientation to identity to show
how living in Paris triggered deeply personal and subjective reactions in his
focal student.

Another strength of the volume is that its rich collection of empirical
studies succeeds in addressing the need to consider individual differences,
localized aspects of context that influence language development during study
abroad, and identity issues that develop when learners move across
geographical and sociological borders. In its scope and complexity, this
volume reaches out to a wide target audience, including researchers in the
field of applied linguistics, and language educators and professionals
involved in the design of study abroad programs as well as in the design of
curricula attending to the pre- and post- phase of the study abroad

One of the weaknesses of the volume is that although the author states that
there is a “need to frame language learning as a dialogic, situated affair
that unfolds in intercultural contexts and includes significant subjective
dimensions” (p. 5), the empirical studies presented do not include the voices
of the hosts. Overall, however, “Social and Cultural Aspects of Language
Learning in Study Abroad” is a reflection-provoking and stimulating volume
that updates the portrayal of study abroad in the applied linguistics


Block, (2007). The rise of identity in SLA research: Post Firth and Wagner.
“Modern Language Journal”, 91, 863-876.

Coleman, J.A., & Chafer, T. (2010). Study abroad and the Internet: Physical
and virtual context in an era of expanding telecommunications. “Frontiers: The
Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad”, 19, 151-167.

Dörnyei, Z. (2001). “Teaching and researching motivation”. Harlow, England:

Overstreet, M. (2005). And stuff und so: Investigating pragmatic expressions
in English and German. “Journal of Pragmatics”, 37, 1845–1864.


Maria Pia Gomez Laich is a first year Ph.D student in Second
Language Acquisition at Carnegie Mellon University. She is interested in how
learners develop pragmatic competence in a second language, what internal and
external factors (i.e. transfer from the native language, insufficient
knowledge of the target language and its communicative practices,
opportunities to interact with native speakers of the target language through
observation and legitimate peripheral participation, attitudes towards the L2,
length of stay in the target language community) affect its development, and
how second and foreign language speakers sometimes deploy a repertoire of
pragmatic routines that differs from the target language in order to maintain
a sense of L1 self- and cultural identity.

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