Experiential Learning in Second Language Contexts

This month we published Creating Experiential Learning Opportunities for Language Learners edited by Melanie Bloom and Carolyn Gascoigne. In this post the editors explain what inspired them to put the book together.

The idea for Creating Experiential Learning Opportunities for Language Learners grew out of the frustration we both experienced when we researched supporting articles and publications for the internship and externship programming we were designing for second language learners. In developing our own programming in this area, we were expecting that we would be able to find models or ideas from which to work, but instead we found a paucity of information. At the same time, Melanie was conducting research on the research on students’ development in intercultural sensitivity in the study abroad context and stumbled across an article on students’ development of cross-cultural adaptability an international internship (Batey & Lupi, 2012). This connected the work she was conducting in the study abroad setting with potential models of internship programming, which served as the impetus for the volume.

In our initial discussions about the structure of the volume, we determined that focusing only on professional engagement opportunities might be too limiting and might steer the volume’s focus to Spanish as a second language in the United States. As our intention was to offer a selection of research and models of domestic projects for a range of second language learners and contexts, we decided to broaden the scope of the volume to include community-based service learning activities, professional engagement activities and a variety of other unique engagement contexts. This allowed us to invite contributors from different language teaching contexts and explore new directions in experiential learning on which few publications have been produced.

As we sent out invitations to contributors, we tried to strike a balance between authors who are widely known in the field of experiential learning in second language contexts and scholars who have begun to contribute to the field more recently. This allowed us to capture many different voices and also present a wide-range of contexts from which our readership could learn. To this end, we were able to provide both an historical backdrop for experiential language learning, as well as examples of different applications, and lessons learned, across various languages and course types.

Our hope is that this volume is able to begin to fill the hole in the literature that we found as we started to develop internship and externship programming at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Readers passionate about creating meaningful language learning opportunities and preparing their students for professional life beyond the classroom will find inspiration and ideas for moving forward. In addition, we hope teacher scholars working with second language students in experiential learning contexts will see this volume as an invitation to continue the scholarly conversation and be encouraged to publish their own work.

For more information about this book, please see our website

Study Abroad and its Extension beyond Language Study

This summer sees the publication of Developing Interactional Competence in a Japanese Study Abroad Context, the latest work by Naoko Taguchi.  In this post, Naoko introduces us to the key themes of her work and what led to her interest in the topic.

“What skills and abilities do you think are important when living in Japan?”

I asked this question to the participants in my study in this book. Instead of answering speaking, listening, or vocabulary knowledge, one student said “singing.” He continued:

“They [Japanese people] do karaoke all the time, and I feel awkward when I just listen to others in karaoke. In China, people play mahjong, but not here. I like to learn how to sing in Japanese. It’s a little weird to sing old songs. They always sing new pop music.”

This episode summarizes what studying abroad really means. It extends far beyond the language study. It involves learning a new cultural practice and participating in it in a manner shared among local members. Through this socialization into a shared practice, language improves as a byproduct.

I have been teaching Japanese language and culture for over a decade, and I often wonder how students learn materials that are not in the textbooks. Obviously what teachers can provide is limited in time and scope, so I have been curious about the nature of independent, incidental learning occurring in a naturalistic setting. A study abroad context is naturally a prime venue to investigate this question, and this research monograph is the outcome.

cover TaguchiDICJ9781783093731This book describes the development of two linguistic features – style shifting and incomplete sentences at turn-taking – among 18 international students during their semester in Japan. These linguistic features do not appear in most Japanese textbooks as learning objectives, but they are indeed critical linguistic resources for interaction in Japanese. Japanese speakers use plain and polite forms skillfully to project social meanings of formality, affect, and hierarchy. They shift between these forms corresponding to the changing course of interaction. They often leave a sentence incomplete and prompt the listener to complete the unfinished turn, which is a feature of interactive turn construction.

These linguistic features indeed developed during a semester abroad among the participants in this study, and the development was grounded in their socialization into the local community. The community consists of a variety of domains of practice, each of which involves distinct settings, goals, memberships, and participant structures. By participating in these diverse communities, the participants learned patterns of speech that are contingent in context. Frequent style-shifting at dinner conversations in homestay, fast-paced, highly interactive talk with a same-age-peer, and participation in the senior-junior relationship in club activities served as venues where speech styles, incomplete sentences, and collaborative turn constructions are constantly observed and practiced. The critical skills while abroad could be summarized as one’s abilities in seeking these opportunities for practice and committing to them as venues for their linguistic and cultural growth.

You can find more information about Naoko Taguchi’s book on our website here.  This work joins our other titles on Japanese learners and study abroad – do search our website for more books on these and similar topics.