A hallmark of advanced language competence is the ability to understand the social meaning of linguistic variation in a range of different sociopragmatic contexts. Study abroad (SA) is commonly believed to complement or even to complete classroom foreign language learning in this domain. It is assumed that study abroad participants are socialized into language use, developing metacognitive awareness of linguistic variability and linking linguistic and pragmatic features of the languages they are learning. Research on SA participants’ performance in relation to variable sociopragmatic features suggests that, while these learners may develop awareness of these features they tend to avoid use of forms perceived as non-standard or informal. Performance data alone are therefore insufficient to assess learners’ knowledge in this domain. In this chapter, we present case studies of three undergraduates who studied in France during the spring semester of 2003. A Language Awareness Interview was designed and administered prior to the participants’ departure and at the end of their sojourn. Participants were asked to comment on their knowledge of variable uses of French within several domains, of which two are reviewed here: Colloquial phrases and pronouns of address. Findings suggest that learners develop awareness of sociopragmatic variability over the course of 15 weeks abroad, but that corresponding performance is related both to issues of identity and to the learners’ history of participation and socialization in French-speaking contexts as documented in narrative data.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Social Sciences