Article published in:Study Abroad Research in Second Language Acquisition and International Education
Vol. 1:1 (2016) ► pp. 34–60
The short-term homestay as a context for language learning
Three case studies of high school students and host families
The study abroad home stay is often credited with particular value for language and culture learning. While living with host families, students are believed to observe and to participate in a wide range of everyday practices while upgrading their language proficiency and intercultural awareness. However, in quantitative studies of college-aged students abroad, the putative home stay advantage has been notoriously difficult to prove, perhaps in part because these students are interpreted by all parties (including themselves) as relatively independent young adults whose goals need not align with those of their hosts. Research examining the experiences of high school students has to date relied largely on self-report data suggesting that younger students are likely to be received as temporary family members, although this reception does not guarantee a productive language-learning environment. Based on field notes, audio recordings of conversational interactions, and interviews with both students and host family members, in this article we present three case studies, grounded in sociocultural theory and illustrating a range of experiences in a short-term summer homestay immersion program for American high school students in China. Our findings suggest that relatively advanced initial proficiency offers many advantages for interaction with hosts, but that students with modest initial proficiency can also develop warm and cordial relationships in the homestay if all parties are so predisposed. The inclusion of host family perspectives, heretofore relatively rare in the literature, also permits consideration of the homestay as a context for learning for all parties.
Keywords: sociocultural theory, Chinese, case study, homestay
Published online: 03 May 2016
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