ABROAD STUDY AND LANGUAGE LEARNING Essay Example
Is study abroad a necessary part of Language Program?
Is study abroad a necessary part of Language Program?
We live in a world that is characterized by various multicultural systems across various societies or nations. Because of the different cultures in the world, people communicate through the use of many languages. Therefore, there is a necessity for individuals to acquire or learn other languages apart from their native ones for the purpose of realizing an effective communication and interaction in the global society. Our cultures are defined and developed by the languages we speak, and therefore, people should make initiatives of engaging in language learning programs. Kramsch (1998) argues that language is the medium through which human beings can conduct the social domain of their lives. Language is also used to ensure that there is a proper communication, which involves the exchange of ideas, opinions, and meanings among people. For us to use language for communication, it must give a reflection of the cultural factors that exist in complex and multiple ways. Language is very significant in expressing cultural reality in our societies. First of all, the words that are uttered by people give a reflection of the common experiences. Moreover, these words provide an expression of the ideas, events, and facts that can be communicated because they contain knowledge of the world that is worth being shared by individuals. Again, language helps in fostering people’s ideas, beliefs and their points of view about a phenomenon in the society. In addition, people do not only show expression of their experiences but also use language to create their experiences. Another way through which language is used to embody cultural reality is through the non-verbal and verbal means of communication. People give meanings of their experiences through the nature of the medium they choose to use, for example through telephone communication, through e-mails and much more. Lastly, based on Kramsch’s arguments (1998), language also involves the use of many signs that represent cultural values in different regions or states. Human beings identify themselves through the use of distinct or distinct languages. It implies that language is used to provide a social identity of individuals. Based on the above, none should be prohibited from acquiring many languages that can assist in influencing his or her interaction through enhanced communication. The purpose of this paper is to provide the reasons why study abroad is significant in language programs. It also describes the relationship that exists between language, culture and identity and other benefits of the study abroad programs.
Language, culture, and identity
In understanding the impacts of abroad study program on language learning, it is equally significant to have a detailed look into language, cultural systems, and identity. In light to this, there is a strong relationship that exists between the three aspects. They remain inseparable because one influences another. Language, culture, and identity have a cyclic and endless relationship. According to Hall (1997), language involves the medium through human beings ‘make sense of meanings of things.’ Also, he says that it is the medium that allows individuals to carry out production and exchange of meanings in the society. Language is used to construct meanings that are shared across various cultures to provide a unique identity of individuals worldwide (Hall, 1997). Language constructs meaning because it operates as a representational model or system. The representational system involves the use of signs and symbols, for example, images, objects, musical notes and others to aid in the representation of ideas, feelings, and concepts among people. Language is used by people as a channel through which they represent ideas, concepts, and feelings in culture. Therefore, the construction of meanings must be based on the representation done through language.
Culture is another concept that is closely related to language, and it has been defined in different ways by various people. Culture involves all that has been developed or established in society. It also gives a reflection of some of the best ideas and thoughts established by people to determine their way of life. Cultural systems include the exchange and productions of meaning among people of similar social groups or societies. The exchange and production of meanings are well fostered through language (Hall, 1997). The primary concern of culture is to aid in the production as well as in the exchange of meanings. In simple terms, it involves the process of ‘giving and taking’ of meanings between people or groups of people. Individuals who share similar culture have the ability to interpret things in nearly the same manner. Also, they can express their thoughts and feelings in ways that can be easily understood by one another. The idea of having shared meanings does not mean that there is a similar cultural system (Kramsch, 1998). Various societies and nations have different cultural systems and practices. Therefore, people provide different meanings to things depending on their locality. Culture influences the social behavior of people of various societies (Hall, 1997). In addition, the participants in particular cultural systems use language to provide meanings to different objects or to provide their ideas and opinions about various things in the society.
Culture gives us a unique identity through the significant meanings that people make out of their cultural systems (Kramsch, 1998). It is the meanings produced by culture and language that gives a unique identity and provides a real identity of people. Meanings are constantly produced from the social interactions across various groups of people, thereby giving a distinct identity. Another way through which meaning is produced is through the use of language to express ourselves in everyday life. The meanings produced from the various cultural systems also assist in determining the conduct and practices of people in society. Members who belong to the same cultural system have a similar language through which they create or produce similar meanings, ideas, feelings, and thoughts that give them a unique or distinct identity in the global society. However, despite the unique identities as a result of similar cultural systems and languages, there is a need for people to acquire more than one language, and to understand other cultures (Kramsch, 1998). The study abroad program has much significance to people as they learn second languages and acquisition of new cultures.
Study abroad programs and language gain
The study abroad programs have become more popular today. These programs are considered to be one of the most significant ways through which individuals can effectively learn second languages. Through studying abroad, people obtain enhanced types or levels of language input, experiences and also creates more avenues of social interactions among people. The study abroad programs can be either short-term or long-term. However, any of the two is significant in the acquisition of another language. The study abroad program is viewed as one of the easiest ways through which students and any other person can learn other languages apart from their native languages. Studying abroad is an educational program that allows students to pursue their opportunities in education by visiting other countries that are not their own. Today, most students in the United States take short-term educational courses in other countries. On the other hand, most foreign students pursue long and full educational courses in the United States. Within the past few years, there has been a decline in the number of students who further their studies in foreign countries. The study abroad programs have been made available to students in various countries of the world because of the significant roles the programs play. Through the study abroad programs, students are motivated, gain more interactive skills and also acquire or learn new languages in the foreign countries they visit (DeKeyser, 2007). These programs include interactions of the students in other opportunities, exchange of languages and cultural systems. The continued interactions attributed to the study abroad programs are a contributing factor to the language gain. Students can choose from a variety of the range of the opportunities of the study abroad programs. The programs are differentiated by cost, language, program sponsor, program model, the degree of interactions and many other factors (Lianes & Munoz, 2009). Also, the study abroad programs are grouped based on program model, program sponsor and the duration of the programs. Language learning or gain is greatly influenced by the study abroad programs.
Enhancing Language Learning in Study Abroad
The recent research studies show that the language learning gained through the study abroad programs follow the trends that are applied in linguistics literature. Much effort has been focused on the significance that study abroad programs have on language learning or acquisition. The study abroad programs enhance every possible aspect of abilities we can acquire in language. On the contrary, there are also individual differences among those who study abroad regarding the manner and speed through which they gain language. In light to that, there are students who register high levels of proficiency in language acquisition as compared to others. The difference in the rates of proficiency in language gain may occur due to amount of time and commitment taken by a student to learn new languages (Goodman, 2009). There are many reasons why studying abroad is significant in learning other languages.
First of all, through studying abroad, an individual can gain the language competencies. A one to one contact or interactions with the natives of the second language enables the learner to develop that competence on the dynamics of the language being learned. The competency is developed because the learner is in a new environment where the language is spoken in the right way by those who own it. By studying abroad, an individual does not only learn the spoken language but also he or she has the ability and potential to learn on the written one. This is because the individual comes into contact with those who speak the language. Through this, the student or learner gains a complete acquisition of the language competencies. Also, studying abroad offers a motivating environment to those learning the second language (Lianes & Munoz, 2009). For example, in the learning environment, there are additional advantages like learning instantly and being corrected incase an individual makes errors while learning the new language. Students who spend enough time abroad learn the best ways to which the language is applied in different situations so that they do not apply it in the wrong ways.
The next benefit of studying abroad is that learners do acquire the correct fluency of the second language being learned. Fluency increases the grammatical ability of the learners knowing the new language. Through the abroad studies, an individual has the capability to gain grammatical competencies as compared to the learners being taught the second language within their home locality. Individuals who learn new languages through the abroad study programs in comparison to home-based ones have the advantage of learning complex syntax of the languages (Goodman, 2009). The language syntax learned to guide them on the best ways through which they can develop sentences with the correct grammatical structures. Therefore, the study abroad participants possess an expanded and autonomous language skills and competency in the use of the grammatical system of the language being taught. More significant advantages of the study abroad programs are evident through the social interactions of the study abroad participants. The participants of the study abroad programs are often engaged in a variety of settings of communication where there are purposes and intentions that vary. This result in the acquisition of a language that is consequential in nature. This leads to the enhancement of the repertoires of communication among the students that are in the learning process of acquiring a new language. Also, through the abroad studies, the participants gain pragmatic, discourse and sociolinguistic abilities that make them more competent than the participants of classroom learning. An investigation that was done on the sociolinguistic competencies among the study abroad participants and classroom learning indicates that the abroad studies have more advantages on sociolinguistic abilities (Kimura, 2007). Despite the classroom learning being useful in the acquisition of the categorical features of the language being learned, the study abroad program is more advantageous because it provides exposure to the participants. Moreover, through the study abroad programs, the participants do not only gain theoretical knowledge about the language but also achieves the right way through which the language is applied in daily communications across various cultural systems. On the whole, the acquisition of the sociolinguistic competence is a driving factor towards the acquisition and proper learning of the second language. In true sense, it imparts true use or application to the participants or the users. Furthermore, the study abroad program is known to be the context that is optimum for a person to learn a second language. Its importance has been greatly felt by participants who have engaged in it.
Through the study abroad programs, the participants do not face the difficulty in learning to speak the second language in the most appropriate manner. Learners get to know the various forms of speaking different words of the new language. The learners acquire a deeper understanding of the various forms and the mix of the second language so that they acquire the suitable ways of expressing themselves both nationally and internationally through the second language. Another significant focus is that through studying abroad, students develop good social interactive abilities that they use in the presentation of speech in second languages (Lianes & Munoz, 2009). These involve the deep knowledge gained by students so that that they learn the proper ways of doing things with words that are of other languages apart from the native languages. Through developing the best ways to use words, the proficiency of the participants regarding the acquisition of new language is increased. Also, studying abroad improves the accuracy of finding the meanings of words and knowing where to apply them during communication (Goodman, 2009). This is on the contrary to the scenario whereby learners are taught in classrooms within their home countries. Most of the teaching exercise covers the theory part of the language learning, unlike in abroad studying, where the participants are taught how best they can use the language skills of the second language they have been taught. The learners become more accurate and careful on how they speak the language they have learned so that they avoid the common mistakes that may arise. With the increased acquisition of the accurate use of language, the participants gain the best ways of speaking the second languages just like the original users. Moreover, they are likely to undergo less confusion on the use of the language, and if they do, they have the capability to carry out consultations because they are in proximity with the native users of the second language.
The use of language is an essential part of every cultural group in the world. It is because a language is an important tool in communication and therefore it means that, if people from the same community are not able to speak the same language, then it will not be possible for them to communicate effectively with each other. Language, therefore, helps in fostering communication between people. Since every community has got their language for communication, it, thus, becomes part of their culture (Hall, 1997). By studying a foreign language abroad, the student will be able to learn the respective culture of the native speakers of the foreign language. Based on this, learning abroad enables people to see things from various points of view. This is to mean that studying abroad is also beneficial in the development of intercultural understanding among people in the world. Every culture is characterized by different languages. Again, language is the medium through which people communicate to one another. Hall (1997) argues that it uses representational diagrams that vary from one culture to another to pass information in the form of shared meanings. The abroad study programs are used by people to learn about various cultural practices in the global world. Moreover, each culture has different languages; therefore people learn other languages that are characterized by different cultural practices and beliefs (Kramsch, 1998). Graves (2008) postulates that studying abroad has a close relationship with the different cultural systems that exist in the world. Through the studies done abroad, people learn the original language from the native speakers. In addition, learners familiarize themselves with the ways through which language being learned is used colloquially to accomplish the daily tasks and activities that are of various cultural systems. In general, by attending the study abroad programs, a person gains the ability to acquire the basic skills of written, spoken and visual communications made through various languages. In understanding the culture of various people, social interactions are improved among the learners (Hall, 1997). Also, the participants can learn to appreciate the culture and the language of others in the society. The enhanced socio-cultural interactions make the society to be a global village where people can interact freely. The participants also gain increased competence, clarity, and efficiency in the use of the second languages that are learned in foreign countries through the study abroad programs. Knowing other cultures and other languages also increase how individuals view the society that is complex in nature.
During the translation of a language from one form to another, the original language is likely to lose some of its meaning. The reason is that some sentences and words lack their actual equivalence in the other languages to convey the same meaning as they are in the original language. By learning the language abroad in an environment that is mainly composed of the native speakers of the second language, a student will, therefore, be able to convey the actual meanings of some of the terms as it is put out in the foreign language. Studying the foreign languages abroad, therefore, gives the learner an experience to with the native speakers and thus they might not learn from the altered meanings of words from the foreign language (Amuzie & Winke, 2009). In other words, the participants acquire the advantage of learning the original language and using the words in the right context as it is required by the native speakers. Words of the second language do not undergo decay of the original meaning. Thus, by studying abroad, participants develop the capability of using the language in its right context and at the right time and using the right meanings of the words (DeKeyser, 2007). Through the abroad study programs, the learners develop the interest of learning the language because of the close interactions with the native speakers of the second language. The learning of language through a firsthand experience with the native speakers of the language also makes one feel confidence as they speak for they are assured of corrections, and therefore through such confidence the learner will, therefore, be able to improve on his fluency while using the language. Such a direct experience with the native speakers of the language also enables the learners to acquire other skills that are associated with the use of the language e.g. writing skills and others and thus making them be well diversified regarding the specific language application (Lianes & Munoz, 2009). The diversification further makes the learners to have a broader knowledge about the second language. Furthermore, they can further extend the knowledge acquired to others so that the skills to be learned by others too.
Learning of the language abroad also exposes an individual to a different social setting to that which they are used to in their home environments. Studying abroad, therefore, gives the learners an opportunity to interact with the other people while using their language (Kinginger, 2011). Through such interactions, the learners will, therefore, be able to appreciate the new cultures without developing the feeling of superiority or inferiority in comparison to his native language (Kramsch, 1998). Through such interactions, the learner will also be able to develop his or her socialization skills through the use of language (Kramsch, 1998). The acceptance of other cultures in the world enables people to accept others the way they are, appreciate their language and how they operate. Also, since it requires constant practice for one to be able to effectively communicate in a foreign language, studying abroad will, therefore, give the learner an opportunity to practice the use of the language. It is because, all the people around them shall be speaking in that language, unlike the home setup where only a few people might be in a position to understand the same language. The constant communication with the native speakers of the foreign language, therefore, gives the learner an opportunity to have adequate practice in the use of the language and thus fastening his rate of learning. The constant application of the language is thus useful in the determination of the direction of the learning process (Kramsch, 1998).
Studying a foreign language abroad fastens the rate at which one learns the new language because the environment is endowed with all the factors or conditions that can aid in facilitating the learning of the language. Some of these factors are the native speakers, the ability to be corrected, practice opportunity among others. The learners will be able to improve in their personal development in various sectors that are essential to them (Amuzie & Winke, 2009). For example, through the foreign language, they will be able to improve their listening and speaking skills, speech delivery skills, confidence and many others. To add, the new environment exposes the learners to excellent and wonderful experts that have enhanced teaching skills or abilities (Goodman, 2009). The study abroad programs give the participants the mandate to determine or know the way forward or the direction associated with their learning. For instance, regarding direction, the students are likely to know about what will be the outcomes of the entire learning process, if whether they will acquire the necessary skills and information to make them have the competence, fluency, and accuracy of the second language being learned. Knowing the direction is very significant because the learners intend to achieve the goals and objectives of fully getting to learn about the language that will enable them in improving their interactions in the global society (Lianes & Munoz, 2009).
Additionally, the abroad study programs have great impacts on the language learning strategies. The impacts are realized on the basis of whether the abroad programs are short-term or long-term. Language learning strategies are defined as specific plans, steps, actions and techniques that are used by learners to enhance the progress of development of skills they require in learning the second language. The language learning strategies are important because the success of the language being learned is dependent upon how that particular language has utilized the language learning strategies based on certain specific conditions. During the learning of the second language, it is evident that the ability of the learners to become more proficient is dependent on the number of the language learning strategies they use. In general, there are two basic classifications of the language learning strategies. These include the direct strategies and the indirect language learning strategies (Kimura, 2007). There are further smaller categories of the language learning strategies of the two basic classifications. The direct language learning strategies include the compensation, cognitive and memory strategies (Kimura, 2007). Memory strategies are used for the receiving and storage of information through linking of mental pictures, the review and use of actions among others. The cognitive strategies are used to manipulate and change the target language to be learned and practiced. They are also used for receiving, sending, and analyzing information. The third one is the compensation strategy which is used to overcome some of the limitations that are experienced during writing and speaking of the language. On the second category, the indirect language learning strategies involve the affective, social and metacognitive strategies. The affective strategies lower anxiety encourages participants and controls the emotional temperatures of the learners so that they engage in an effective process of learning the second language. The metacognitive strategies involve the arrangements, plans, and evaluations of the learning strategies so as to realize the significant ones that are likely to improve the acquisition of the second language (Kimura, 2007). Thirdly, the social strategies involve making inquiries by asking questions and cooperating with other people so as to achieve a smooth communication. The abroad study programs have an impact on the language learning strategies. Having short-term studies in the abroad has positive influence or impacts on the language learning strategies. The examinations performed by Kimura (2007) reveal the change in the language learning strategies within a period of three weeks abroad study program in New Zealand. It involved the use of the Strategy Inventory Language Learning (SILL). The results that came out showed that those who participated used more of the language learning strategies as compared to those who did not. Moreover, the strategies were not only used once but were kept for some time and used by others that came later; therefore, it had a lasting impact. Also, it was realized that most participants used compensation strategies as compared to memory and affective. In short, this study indicates that having short-term study abroad has a positive influence on the language learning strategies regarding the length of the impacts and the various strategies that are used to learn the new language (Kimura, 2007). Therefore, it is true that even a study period of a short period influences the students to acquire various language learning strategies so that they can boost the speed by which they learn the second language. Again, the language learning strategies create additional opportunities for the learners to become more proficient and accurate on the use of the language being learned.
Learning the second language in foreign countries is beneficial because it promotes cultural awareness and competency among the learners or the participants. This is because the current global system is highly characterized by increased multiethnic and multicultural systems. Studying abroad, therefore, provides an individual with an insight into learning other cultural dynamics and also in building the skills of cultural competencies of individuals (Lianes & Munoz, 2009). Abroad studies give an individual the opportunity to experience the involvement of other cultures with the foreign language. Also, they learn the cultural information of others by knowing how best it is expressed in the foreign language. Learning the second language of another cultural system also influence the interaction of the students and the teachers in knowing how effective they can learn and apply the language they are learning (DeKeyser, 2007). Also, the positive identification with the foreign culture forms the basis of the learning and understanding of the second language. The language is understood in its best and intended cultural context by the learners. Learners of the foreign language in a foreign country become more tolerant of the differences that exist among people as a result of the various cultural systems. A new language is learned well within its original environment where it is spoken. If it is learned in a new environment, the information is likely to be distorted, and thus the learners are not in a position to attain the proficiency and competency required for the language (Kinginger, 2011). Through studying abroad, students gain more advantages than those learning in the classroom context in their native countries. The students acquire various skills, for example, those of listening, oral fluency, accuracy, comprehension among others. These skills are gained because of the many opportunities that are presented in the new environment. The language teachings and learning provisions are enhanced within the learning environment.
Another significance of the study abroad program is realized on language identities and language learning. The research done regarding identity emphasizes on the effects of the factors of identity like the opportunities of language learning and the extrovert or introvert nature of the participants. Also, language learning has been closely associated with the personal identity of participants. Through the abroad studies, students gain an increased potential in knowing the second language, they also attain the advantage of being active in speaking and also learning on further usage of the second language (Amuzie & Winke, 2009). Moreover, where there are equitable relations of power of social interactions, the learners can construct the identities of their second language learning. Through this, they learn more about the pragmatics or the linguistic analysis of the second language (Kinginger, 2011). It is also evident that the longer an individual stays abroad, the more he or she acquires additional knowledge and other advantages of knowing the second language. Social relationships are enhanced, and through the close interaction of the participants, there is improved the construction of the second language identities by the students. More significant advantages of the study abroad programs are evident through the social interactions of the study abroad participants. The participants of the study abroad programs are often engaged in a variety of settings of communication where there are purposes and intentions that vary (Goodman, 2009). This result in the acquisition of a language that is consequential in nature. This leads to the enhancement of the repertoires of communication among the students that are in the learning process of acquiring a new language. Also, through the abroad studies, the participants gain pragmatic, discourse and sociolinguistic abilities that make them more competent than the participants of classroom learning. An investigation that was done on the sociolinguistic competencies among the study abroad participants and classroom learning indicates that the abroad studies have more advantages on sociolinguistic abilities (Lianes & Munoz, 2009). Despite the classroom learning being useful in the acquisition of the categorical features of the language being learned, the study abroad program is more advantageous because it provides exposure to the participants. Besides, through the study abroad programs, the participants do not only gain theoretical knowledge about the language but also achieves the right way through which the language is applied in daily communications across various cultural systems. On the whole, the acquisition of the sociolinguistic competence is a driving factor towards the acquisition and proper learning of the second language. By studying abroad, an individual does not only learn the spoken language, but also he or she has the ability and potential to learn on the written one (Amuzie & Winke, 2009). This is because the individual comes into contact with those who speak the language. Through this, the student or learner gains a complete acquisition of the language competencies. Also, studying abroad offers a motivating environment to those learning the second language. For example, in the learning environment, there are additional advantages such as learning in close association with the natives of the second language as well as understanding the cultural diversity that exists. All in all, studying abroad increases the accuracy, proficiency, competencies of learning the second language among the learners.
The abroad study programs have become common in today’s world and especially in influencing the learning of the second language among many people. Significantly, it is good to note that language is a binding factor across various cultural systems because it is the medium through which human beings communicate effectively. Because of the diverse cultures, people communicate through many languages. Language is the medium through which human beings can conduct the social constructs of their lives. It is used to foster the ideas, feelings, and thoughts of people in the society. Again, it provides the social identity of individuals in various societies that are characterized by different cultures. Culture and language give people a distinct cultural identity. Based on the significance of language, many people, today engage in studying abroad so that they learn more on second languages. This has great significance, for instance, it enhances the social interactions among individuals. The study abroad programs are considered to be the best strategy through which people learn a new language. Through studying abroad, individuals attain improved language competencies, fluency, and accuracy in the language. Also, the grammatical competencies are improved among the participants. The abroad learning environment has motivating conditions that enable the learners to develop the quest of learning the second language. The abroad studies enable individuals to learn how to appreciate the cultural system and languages of others, therefore increasing the social interactions amongst people. Moreover, individuals can know how best to use the words based on their original meanings because of the exposure to the new social settings of the learning environment. Studying abroad enables people to familiarize themselves with many language learning strategies that improve their ability or potential to learn the new languages. Through it, language and cultural identity are achieved among many people. Finally, learning other languages in the abroad environment is very important to every individual who intends to effectively learn the second language.
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