The Acquisition of Sociolinguistic Competence in a Study Abroad Context

By (author) Prof. Vera Regan, Martin Howard, Dr. Isabelle Lemée

Publication date:

11 May 2009

Length of book:

184 pages


Multilingual Matters



ISBN-13: 9781847691576

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.