The Acquisition of Sociolinguistic Competence in a Study Abroad Context

Author: Vera Regan, Martin Howard, Isabelle Lemée

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Multilingual Matters
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This volume explores the relationship between 'study abroad' and the acquisition of 'sociolinguistic competence' - the ability to communicate in socially appropriate ways. The volume looks at language development and use during study abroad in France by examining patterns of variation in the speech of advanced L2 speakers. Within a variationist paradigm, fine-grained empirical analyses of speech illuminate choices the L2 speaker makes in relation to their new identity, gender patterns, closeness or distance maintained in the social context in which they find themselves. Using both cross-sectional and longitudinal data, four variable features of contemporary spoken French are analysed in a large population of advanced Irish-English speakers of French. This close-up picture provides empirical evidence by which to evaluate the wide-spread assumption that Study Abroad is highly beneficial for second language learning.

This book is a real eye opener for anyone who would equate conjugating verbs and memorizing noun genders with 'learning' a second language. Regan et al. offer a stunning demonstration that effective communication hinges on acquiring the sociolinguistic competence to interpret (and produce) the many choices among variant linguistic structures that native speakers make regularly in their everyday interactions. Exemplifying with the controversial Year Abroad experience, the authors provide a first detailed account of how this is achieved. Their results should be required reading for educators, planners and policymakers, as well as linguists of all stripes.

This exciting new book represents a significant leap forward for research on the effects of study abroad on second language acquisition. It focuses on the sociolinguistic competence of second language learners in a university setting, an unexplored dimension of this research strand. The volume offers a careful documentation and analysis of the crucial role played by a one-year stay in France on the acquisition of key aspects of sociostylistic variation in the spoken French of advanced-level students of French as a Second Language. Second language researchers, programme planners, and teachers will undoubtedly find this volume an insightful and useful resource.

Raymond Mougeon

This book makes a contribution to the growing literature on study-abroad programs by focusing on the acquisition of sociolinguistic competence in learning a non-native language by means of immersion. It provides valuable information about SLA in the study-abroad context, one that is favored by the European Union authorities in their attempt to promote language learning among the citizens ofits member states. This book constitutes invaluable endorsement for the study-abroad programs. especially providing convincing evidence for a widely-held belief that spending a year abroad favors L2 speakers' linguistic and sociolinguistic development.


Vera Regan is Associate Professor of Sociolinguistics at University College Dublin. She is Chevalier de l’ordre des Palmes Académiques and has served as President of the European Second Language Association, President of the Association for French Language Association, and President of the Association of Canadian Studies in Ireland.

Martin Howard is Lecturer in French at University College, Cork, Ireland. A former President of the Association for Canadian Studies in Ireland, he is currently a member of the Executive Committee of the European Second Language Association (EUROSLA), and Treasurer of the International Council for Canadian Studies (ICCS). He is a former Government of Ireland Research Fellow and was a recipient of the Prix du Québec. His research focuses on Second Language Acquisition, Sociolinguistics, and Canadian Studies. He has published on (socio)linguistic variation in relation to both native speaker and learner French, as well as on the acquisition of temporality.

Isabelle Lemée is Assistant Lecturer in the Department of French at St Patrick's College in Ireland. Her research focuses on Second Language Acquisition, as well as on Canadian Studies. She is currently the Secretary of the Association for Canadian Studies in Ireland. She is also on the Committee of the Association for French Language Studies and the Association of Applied French (AFA).

Chapter 1 – Second Language Acquisition and Linguistic Variation

Chapter 2 – Linguistic Outcomes of Second Language Acquisition in a Study Abroad Context

Chapter 3 – Extralinguistic Factors Affecting L2 Development during Study Abroad

Chapter 4 – The research project: an overview

Chapter 5 – The acquisition of ne deletion by Irish learners of French

Chapter 6 – The variable use of Nous/On by Irish learners of French

Chapter 7 – The acquisition of /l/ deletion by Irish year abroad speakers of French

Chapter 8 – The variable use of future temporal reference

Chapter 9 – The role of gender in the acquisition of sociolinguistic competence in an L2 during the year abroad

Chapter 10 – Spending a Year Abroad. Do we acquire sociolinguistic competence?

Postgraduate, Research / Professional, Undergraduate
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