Article published in:Study Abroad Research in Second Language Acquisition and International Education
Vol. 4:2 (2019) ► pp. 193–223
Women students from Saudi Arabia in a study abroad programme
Sociocultural experiences and English proficiency development
Most students taking part in Study Abroad (SA) programmes aim to immerse themselves as fully as possible in the target language (TL) country and so improve their TL proficiency, as well as their own personal development towards independent adulthood. From a research perspective, the quality of social networks involving TL speakers, and hence the social interactions the SA students engage in, are seen as of paramount importance in determining the ultimate success in TL attainment. This paper addresses a cohort of learners who have not received a lot of attention in the SA literature, namely Saudi Arabian female students, whose individual immersion into the TL context is limited by cultural restrictions, importantly the need to be accompanied by a male guardian (mahram). Based on a data set of a cohort of nine students gathered over the period of one year, this study aims to establish the extent to which these students engage in social interactions in the TL setting and how these affect their overall language proficiency development. Data was gathered pre-, during, and post-SA, using a mixture of qualitative and quantitative instruments. These tested language proficiencies and surveyed the social interactions and engagement with the TL of the students, using both questionnaires (Language Engagement Questionnaire, Social Networking Questionnaire) and semi-structured interviews. Findings suggest, firstly, that despite the limitations on social interactions, these students clearly benefit from SA. Findings show a complex set of relationships between language development and interactions, with diverse strategies employed to access social networks and thus engage in interactions. Overall, these results point to SA settings as highly conducive learning environments, even for students who face cultural restrictions in their interactions.
- 2.Social interactions and social networks in study abroad
- 3.2Setting and SA programme
- 4.Data collection
- 4.1Language development tests
- 4.2Measurements of interaction
- 5.1Language proficiency development
- 5.2Language use in the SA context
- 5.3Perceived impact of social interactions on language proficiency development
- 5.4Entering social networks: Buddies as access
- 5.5Engaging in social interactions: Culture as access point
- 5.6Student agency: Escortee or expert
- 5.7Comparative case analysis: Basma and Reem
Published online: 24 July 2019
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