On The Role Of Context In The Development Of Learner Language
Insights From Study Abroad Research
Based on an expansive study of Irish university learners of French, this paper aims to illuminate the specificity of the role played by ‘learning context’ on the learners’ language development. Following discussion of the concept of ‘learning context’ in language learning, the paper compares the language development of classroom instructed learners in Ireland and ‘study abroad’ learners who are also instructed learners, but who have resided in France thanks to an international exchange programme. Given the differences in the type of intercultural encounter which each learning context permits, the paper collates results of a study which attempts to capture how such encounters might transform the learners’ language use on a particular aspect of their linguistic repertoire in French, namely the expression of past time reference. Whilst the results detail the highly beneficial effect of the study abroad context on the learners’language development, they none the less point to a number of similarities in the past time systems of both the study abroad learners and the instructed learners. The results are discussed in relation to previous findings and areas for future research.