Learning Chinese through Contextualized Language Practices in Study Abroad Residence Halls: Two Case Studies

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19 Scopus citations


A key question about study abroad concerns the relative benefits and qualities of various living arrangements as sites for learning language and culture. A widely shared assumption seems to be that students choosing homestays enjoy more opportunities for engagement in high-quality interactive settings than do those who opt for residence halls. However, research on outcomes has to date produced only weak evidence for a homestay advantage, suggesting a need to understand the nature of language socialization practices in various living situations. While a number of studies have examined the nature of homestay interaction, only a few have focused on language use in residence halls or other settings where students may interact with peers who are expert second language users. Informed by a Vygotskian approach to the study of development, this article examines the specific qualities of contextualized language practices through two case studies of U.S.-based learners of Mandarin in Shanghai and their Chinese roommates. In the first case, a friendly relationship emerged from routine participation in emotionally charged conversational narrative. In the second, both participants' interest in verbal play and humor led to enjoyment as well as profoundly intercultural dialogue. In each case, there is evidence to show that all parties enjoyed opportunities to learn. These findings suggest that residence halls can be very significant contexts for learning in study abroad settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102-121
Number of pages20
JournalAnnual Review of Applied Linguistics
StatePublished - 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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