Studying Abroad: Increasing Second Language Acquisition
This essay seeks to examine the study abroad experience and its effects on second language acquisition. It is separated into four sections, each containing findings from research-based publications, as well as discussions of how these findings can be reflected in the foreign language classroom. The first section, "Learners and Learning," discusses cognitive development in terms of language acquisition. First, Jean Piaget's theory of adaptation is compared to Krashen's Input Hypothesis and applied to the language learning process. Second, Lev Vygotsky's theory of social construction is related to the foreign language classroom to identify to role of the teacher. In the second section, "Learning Environment," the natural learning environment is compared to the formal classroom environment to assess its ability to meet the learners' needs. In this discussion, two downsides to the natural learning environment are identified: students are insecure with their inferior presentation of self and students are exposed to inequitable relations of power that prevent them from entering safe, social networks. This creates a high affective filter for students, which leads to a discussion of how to lower the affective filter in the classroom in order to promote a learning environment that is conducive to language acquisition. The next section, "Curriculum and Instructional Strategies," describes the value of comprehensible input in terms of a subject-matter based classroom and authentic texts. The fourth section of this paper, "Assessment," details authentic assessment in both the study abroad experience and the classroom. The final section, "Implications," calls for some improvements of the study abroad experience and offers a brief summary of this paper.