Interactions Between Cultural Attitudes, Cultural Instruction, and Second Language Use by International Students at the University Level

Publication Year:
2015
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Downloads 212
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Repository URL:
https://surface.syr.edu/etd/353
Author(s):
Smith, Rebecca K.
Tags:
Intercultural communication; Second language use; Study abroad; Arts and Humanities
thesis / dissertation description
While participating in study abroad programs, language instructors and learnersalike hope that learners will have many opportunities for communicative intercultural engagement in the second language (L2). Such interactions are desirable because correlations exist between the quantity and quality of L2 interactions that learners have and the ultimate language gains that they attain while studying in a host country (e.g., Baker-Smemoe, et al., 2012; Dewey, et al., 2013; Isabelli-Garcia, 2006). In order to optimize L2 development, this study investigates learners' out-of-class L2 use, cultural attitudes, and social motivations, in addition to analyzing how these factors may be impacted by different types of cultural instruction.The data for this study are drawn from two upper-intermediate, first-year classes of English as a Second Language (ESL) at a university in the US, targeting the following: (1) free-writing exercises involving cultural knowledge and experiences, and (2) a pre- and post-intervention survey of cultural attitudes and intercultural L2 use. The intervention provided explicit cultural instruction in one class and implicit cultural instruction in the other. Quantitative and qualitative analyses focus on the ways in which explicit and implicit cultural instruction impact learners' attitudes, which may relate to the ways in which they interact in the L2, integrate into the host community, and use the L2 meaningfully for intercultural interactions outside of class.Results offer insights into the baseline cultural attitudes and social motivations of ESL learners who have recently arrived for extended study abroad experiences in the US, in addition to providing information regarding learners' patterns of L2 usage and their perspectives on intercultural communication. Statistical analyses demonstrate that while attitudes and motivations did have positive increases throughout the course of one semester, varying pedagogical interventions involving explicit or implicit methods of cultural instruction did not appear to have a significant effect. This may have implications for course design as instructors consider how to best provide cultural instruction in the second language classroom.