Center forLanguage Acquisition

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Social networks, target language interaction, and second language acquisition during the year abroad: A longitudinal study​
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Social networks, target language interaction, and second language acquisition during the year abroad: A longitudinal study​


  • Rosamond Mitchell (Principal Investigator, Southampton)
  • Laurence Richard (Southampton)
  • Patricia Romero de Mills (Southampton)
  • Nicole Tracy-Ventura (South Florida)
  • Kevin McManus

Funding Agency: Economic and Social Research Council

Funding Award Amount: £418,790

Project Duration: 2011-2013

Project Description:

Residence abroad is a significant dimension of contemporary higher education, and most students experience linguistic, personal and professional benefits. However students make varied progress in languages, and the causes of this variation are not well understood.

The specific aims of the LANGSNAP project were to document the development of advanced level students’ knowledge and use of L2 French or L2 Spanish over a 21-month period including a 9-month stay abroad, and to make the resulting learner corpora available freely to the international research community. In addition the LANGSNAP team set out to investigate:

  • The longitudinal acquisition of French and Spanish during residence abroad;
  • learners’ evolving social networks while abroad;
  • factors influencing type and amount of language engagement abroad;
  • the kinds of learning opportunities afforded by target language interaction in a year abroad context;
  • the relationships between social networking, social interaction and language learning.

The project tracked 56 university students of languages spending the third year of their 4-year degree programme in France, Spain or Mexico. Some attended university, while others taught English, or undertook workplace internships. So as to document participants’ learning of French and Spanish before, during and after the stay abroad, plus their language use patterns and evolving social networks, a specially developed suite of language tasks, questionnaires and interviews was administered on 6 occasions, here called Pre-Test; Visits 1, 2 and 3; and Post-Tests 1 and 2. Ten native speakers of French and Spanish also completed the full range of language tasks for comparative purposes.

The project found that all participants accessed rich target language input while abroad, and their language skills developed well in general, though with some (expected) variation between individuals. Their personal confidence and problem solving skills also increased. However, despite making academic and professional connections, many did not make close local friends, especially when living with other international students. The pervasiveness of English in international higher education was evident, with all students leading bilingual lives to varying degrees, and sometimes struggling to speak French or Spanish rather than English. The easy availability of virtual media meant frequent contact with home social networks, so that any straightforward home/abroad distinction was outdated. Ongoing LANGSNAP research is showing how these social factors influenced the language learning of individuals in complex ways.


Mitchell, R.F., Tracy-Ventura, N., & McManus, K. (2017). Anglophone students abroad: Identity, social relationships and language learning. New York: Routledge

Huensch, A., & Tracy-Ventura, N. (2017, in press). Understanding L2 fluency behavior: The effects of individual differences in L1 fluency, cross-linguistic differences, and proficiency over time. Applied Psycholinguistics.

Huensch, A., & Tracy-Ventura, N. (2017, in press) L2 utterance fluency development before, during, and after residence abroad: A multidimensional investigation. The Modern Language Journal.

Mitchell, R.F. (2015). The development of social relations during residence abroad. Inovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 9, 22-33

Mitchell, R.F., Tracy-Ventura, N., & McManus, K. (Eds.) (2015). Social interaction, identity and language learning during residence abroad. EUROSLA Monographs series

Tracy-Ventura, N., Dewaele, J.M., Köylü, Z., & McManus, K. (2016). Personality changes after the ‘Year Abroad’? A mixed-methods study. Study Abroad Research in Second Language Acquisition and International Education, 1(1), 107-126

McManus, K. & Mitchell, R.F. (2015). Subjunctive use and development in L2 French: A longitudinal study. Language, Interaction and Acquisition,6(1), 42-73

McManus, K., Mitchell, R.F., & Tracy-Ventura, N. (2014). Understanding insertion and integration in a study abroad context: The case of English-speaking sojourners in France. Revue française de linguistique appliquée,14(2), 97-116

Tracy-Ventura, N., Mitchell, R., & McManus, K. (2016). The LANGSNAP longitudinal corpus: Design and use. In Alonso-Ramos, M. (Ed.). Spanish Learner Corpus Research: Current trends and future perspectives (pp 117-142). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Mitchell, R.F., McManus, K., & Tracy-Ventura, N. (2015). ‘Placement type and language learning during residence abroad’. In Mitchell, R.F., Tracy-Ventura, N., & McManus, K. (Eds.). Social interaction, identity and language learning during residence abroad (pp 115-138). Eurosla Monographs series.

McManus, K., Tracy-Ventura, N., Mitchell, R.F., Richard, L., & Romero de Mills, P. (2014). Exploring the acquisition of the French subjunctive: local syntactic context or oral proficiency? In Leclercq, P., Hilton, H., & Edmonds, A. (Eds.). Measuring L2 Proficiency: Perspectives from SLA (pp 167-190)Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Tracy-Ventura, N., McManus, K., Norris, J.M., & Ortega, L. (2014). “Repeat as much as you can”: Elicited imitation as a measure of oral proficiency in L2 French. In Leclercq, P., Hilton, H., & Edmonds, A. (Eds.). Measuring L2 Proficiency: Perspectives from SLA (pp 143-166)Bristol: Multilingual Matters.