The Impact Of Studying Abroad On Second Language Education Essay

The number of students studying abroad is gradually increasing in Korea and it is believed that studying abroad contexts facilitates learners’ language proficiency. In Korea, On the other hand, Immersion programs are applied to achieve an expected goal: communicative competence and cultural understanding. However, immersion programs have been facing difficulties and limitations. This paper investigates about effects of studying abroad and certain elements that benefit learners’ SLA, and compare studying abroad context and immersion programs in EFL in order to suggest the alternative immersion program which compensates a limitation of existing immersion programs. Analysis and comparison of two different contexts is based on research of already proven articles and journals. The result of the study can be summarized as follows: First, studying abroad has effects on learners’ oral proficiency, fluency and learners’ attitude toward English. These effects are due to certain elements of studying abroad: a quantity and quality of input and output and diverse cultural contacts. Second, the result shows that a limitation of immersion programs in Korea is caused by participants’ homogenous language and cultural backgrounds. In order to solve this problem, this paper suggests to creating mixed language and cultural contexts where English emerges naturally as a common language.

â… . Intro

During past decades, the goal of Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) has been revised to emphasize a communicative competence and a cultural understanding (Park, 2006). As the goal has shifted, the recommended teaching method has been changed from grammar translation to content based teaching. According to these changes, English immersion programs have emerged in Korean recently as a solution for problems of existing English language teaching. An approach to teaching methodology of Immersion program contrasts with the conventional grammar-based teaching. In immersion, second language teaching is embedded in a rich and meaningful communicative context. In Korea, various types of immersion programs have been started led by the government. Immersion programs have been applied in some of private schools and international schools in terms of a partial immersion program, and English villages were built in order to offer students a real-life like environment. In addition to that, some universities are suggesting a variety of immersion English camp programs which focus on the students’ communicative competency.

However, despite of all these efforts of government and individuals, problems still exist. Park (2006) discussed about these problems in her journal. She stated that, in the EFL environment like Korea, opportunity to use real-life English outside of classroom is limited, and this has been an obstacle to achieve the expected goals. She also claimed a problem in a classroom that teachers do not feel competent and confident enough to apply a communicative approach to teaching in their own classes which make it even more difficult for students to achieve communicative competence. As a result, an increasing number of students are going abroad to be in a better environment according to the belief that study abroad is the most effective way for second language acquisition. This resulted in an enormous amount of outflow of money and makes another social stratum called the “English divide” (Park, 2006).

This paper will investigate the alternative to existing immersion programs by analyzing their strengths and weaknesses compared to the study abroad context. For that process, the effect of the studying abroad on second language acquisition will be analyzed, and the effect elements that influence students’ language acquisition will also be examined. By analyzing and comparing two different learning conditions, this paper will investigate the way to maximize the effect of immersion programs in EFL context.

According to research, the belief of the studying abroad turned out to be true. Most of students who studied in study abroad context show development in their language acquisition. Especially improvement of oral fluency and communication skill is noticeable compared to students who studied in a home country context and positive changes of students’ attitude toward English are another significant improvement. These improvements were due to a two characteristics of the study abroad context: the amount of comprehensible input and output made through negotiation for communication and quality and quantity of the culture contact. These characteristics could be applied to Korean immersion programs which are deficient in producing meaningful output and an opportunity to experience diverse cultures.

This paper would be meaningful to students preparing to study abroad and also can serve to the education institute in the target country to understand coming foreign students. The comparison of study abroad and study in home country would suggest to Korean English education system and students who are studying in Korea to supplement the weaknesses of current education.

â…¡. Study abroad Research

1. A background of study abroad

1) Present situation of study abroad in Korea

According to the belief that studying abroad is the best way for language acquisition, the number of students who are going abroad for studying English is increasing every year. The number of Korean students studying abroad was only 149,933 in 2001 but after 9years later in 2010, the number increased to 68% which is 251,887 in number (Jung & Yun, 2011). This is the graph that shows the number of study abroad students.

the number of study abroad students by year, (Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, 2010).

In 2010, targeted study abroad countries were mainly 5 countries: United States 29.8%, China 25.5%, Japan 11.1%, Canada 6% and New Zealand 4.4% (Jung & Yun, 2011). This result shows that 40% of targeted countries are English speaking countries. In 2011, among the number of studying abroad student, over 95% were university students; 37.5% among them were going abroad for a degree while the other 62.5% were learning the language itself (Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, 2010).

2) Background theory of study abroad

There are some background theories about the effect of studying abroad. Many believe studying abroad has positive effects based on the assumption that student’s exposure to the rich target language will benefit their language acquisition (Segalowitz et al., 2004). This assumption is based on Krashen’s input theory which claims that comprehensible input is the most important fact for SLA, and this is typical of most of the theories regarding studying abroad and language contact. In addition to the input theory, Swain (1985) insisted that output condition is as important as input condition for SLA. Ellis (1995) also argued that language development will not occur if the learners do not have opportunity to produce the second language because they will not recognize their improficiency unless they produce target language (cited in Park, 2007, p 11). The last theory regarding a relationship between SLA and study abroad is interaction theory which emphasizes that occurred negotiation between learner and interlocutors for communication is a necessary condition for L2 learning. Longcope (2003) stated at his disssertation that, “Negotiation allows for either the learner’s interlocutor to make the input comprehensible or for the leaner to modify her output” (Longcope, 2003, p 29). These theories support the idea that studying abroad has positive effect on SLA.

2. Effects of study abroad

1) Case study

Lots of articles investigated about studying abroad effects on various aspects of SLA. Some articles examined the relationship between study abroad and the language proficiency according to evaluation tests and some other articles studied about effects of study abroad on students’ attitude toward English. Longcope (2003) investigated the actual improvement of language proficiency of students who studied abroad compared to students who studied at a home country. This paper examined 7 Japanese university students while they were in a pre-study abroad context, the study abroad context and the post-study abroad context compared them to 12 other colleagues who studied in their home country. The result indicated that studying abroad affects learners’ fluency. However, it is not necessarily related to an improvement of their grammatical accuracy or syntactic complexity.

The relationship between studying abroad and students’ language proficiency is also studied in the journal article of Segalowitz, Freed, Collentine, Lafford, Lazar, Diaz-Campos (2004). Segalowitz et al, (2004) investigate the acquisition of Spanish of 40 students who use English as their L1. They consisted of two groups: one is a studying abroad group and the other is an at home group. They were compared to each other group about oral proficiency/fluency, grammatical abilities/vocabulary, pronunciations and communication strategies. The results indicate that there are meaningful differences in oral proficiency, fluency and discourse ability between two groups; the study abroad group had made greater gains in oral fluency and narrative discourse ability. However, it turned out that there are no meaningful differences in grammatical abilities and vocabulary and pronunciation between two groups according to the result. It stated that the gains are appeared to be related to the degree of the opportunities that students had to speak with native speaker of Spanish. (Segalowitz et al., 2004)

Other research studied about another effect of studying abroad: Positive changes of attitude toward English. Park (2007) studied about the effects of study abroad program on second language acquisition and the attitude toward English. For the study, 100 Korean students who studied abroad and 100 Korean students who studied in a home country were interviewed with 37 questions each. According to the survey, students who studied abroad showed more positive responses to using English than students who stayed in home country. Also, the students who studied abroad answered more positively to a question asking about their own English proficiency. It also turned out that studying abroad affected the post-study attitude positively even after they came back to their home country. With these results, Park (2007) stated that the studying abroad program can affect the student’s attitude toward English positively and encourages them to have higher self-confidence about English. Jung and Yun (2011) also investigated about how the short-term language study abroad affects students’ self-regulated learning ability and a learning satisfaction.They interviewed 160 students that consist of 82 study abroad students and 78 home country study students from 5 different universities. The results show that study abroad has an effect on students’ self-regulated learning ability and on a language learning ability. Jung and Yun (2011) concluded that the students who studied abroad were comparatively more motivated than those who studied in home country and study abroad students showed the higher degree of language learning satisfaction.

2) Effects of study abroad according to case studies

According to case studies, effects of studying abroad can be organized into two significant improvements of students’ SLA. First, research shows that study abroad has an effect on learners’ oral fluency and discourse ability compared to a study at home context. Segalowitz et al (2004) stated, “These results help to explain why it is commonly believed that students who go abroad make greater progress than their peers at home – quite simply they sound better” (p. 14). Second, another significant effect of study abroad shown in research is that the experience of abroad cultures benefit students’ attitude toward English positively. Jung and Yun (2011) said that this benefit results in increasing interest and decreasing anxiety of English. However, besides the development of oral fluency and discourse ability, there are no significant improvements in other areas of language proficiency such as a grammar accuracy and pronunciation gains. In the grammar area, for example, gains of students who stayed at home country turned out to be higher than those of study abroad students (Segalowitz et al., 2004).

3. Effect elements of study abroad to SLA

1) Meaningful interactions through negotiation

There are several differences between EFL and studying abroad contexts that suggest certain elements of the study abroad contexts facilitate SLA. Longcope (2003) stated that, the important difference between EFL context and study abroad context is the amount of contact with English according to the interview of subjects (Longcope, 2003). In addition to that, Segalowitz, et al (2004) also declared that the improvement of discourse ability correlates with the amount of time of using target language outside of classroom. However, they also pointed out that not only the amount of contact with English, but also the quality of contact with English, is vital for SLA. Longcope (2003) said that: “on an interaction-by-interaction basis, the study abroad context provided a better opportunity to receive input made comprehensible, to be encouraged to produce comprehensible output, and to negotiate for meaning with their interlocutor” (p. 155). The qualified contact which facilitates SLA was made by negotiation between interlocutors and students according to McMeekin (2006). McMeekin (2006) declared that: “modification and restructuring involved in negotiation a) make input comprehensible for the learner, b) provide opportunities for learners to actively modify their output, and c) focus learners’ attention on form by providing learner with positive and negative evidence” (p. 180). McMeekin (2006) also found out that negotiation occurs more frequently outside of classroom than inside of classroom. The quantity and quality of contact with English in natural situation with interlocutors is considered to be an effect element of Study Abroad for SLA.

2) Motivation acquired by cultural contact

According to research mentioned above, Study Abroad students showed positive changes in attitude toward English and were motivated in learning English. Jung and Yun (2011) declared that Study Abroad students shows higher interest and more attraction to English (Jung & Yun, 2011). Clement and Kruidnier (1983) investigated about motivations for SLA and certified motivations into 4 categories: instrumental motivation, motivation for a trip, motivation for friendship, motivation for acquiring knowledge and understanding (cited in Park, 2007, p. 16). According to a theory of motivations and research about study abroad subjects, it is assumed that contact with diverse culture through Study Abroad affects students’ SLA positively by motivating them for learning target language. This is especially important to Korean students because Koreans do not have a lot of opportunity to contact diverse cultures in a home country.

â…¢. English immersion program in Korea

1. Immersion program and application of it in Korea

1) The theoretical background of Immersion program

According to a Brown (2000), the first immersion programs were developed to provide Canada’s majority-group English-speaking students with opportunities to learn Canada’s other official language (cited in Ko, 2010, p 17). Since that time, immersion programs have been adopted in many different areas of North America, and after 1970, when one of an elementary school of America adopted immersion programs to teach Spanish as a second language, Immersion program is devised to adopt diverse target languages such as German, French and Chinese(Ko, 2010). Brown (2000) also stated that the goal of program is not a grammatical perfection, but meaningful communication of academic accomplishment and of increasing competence in using the second language for communicative purposes (cited in Jang, 2010, p 17).

2. Immersion programs in Korea

1) Applying immersion programs in Korea

In Korea, Immersion programs are a relatively new concept which emerged recently. Since then, various types of immersion programs have been applied in Korea. One type of immersion programs in Korea is applied in private schools and international schools led by a government. It started with Young-hoon elementary school and Seoul Jung-dong middle school (Jang, 2006) and the increasing number of schools are applying immersion program after that. However, it is difficult for schools to apply the program effectively because of limited number of teachers and lack of agreed education policy about immersion program (Min, 2008). Secondly, English camp has become a growing format of immersion program. Since most English camps are organized by private institutes, English camp programs are diverse in terms of their subjects, duration and the major activities. However, there are common elements of these programs according to Park (2006): “First, all the programs were developed by universities; second, their primary goal was to develop the participants’ English commucative skills and confidence; and third, all the participants were Korean learners taught by native English-speaking instructors” (p. 95). Third type of immersion programs is ‘English Village’ or ‘English Town’ which look like a little European village or town that has imitated buildings such as immigration office, city hall, book store and cafeteria and so on. The goal of this program is to offer a real-life like experience to students. However, there are strong skepticisms about these programs. Krashen (2006) said: “villages are not real” and “the buildings are simulations” and, “there have been no formal evaluations of the English villages” (cited in Park, 2006, p 97). Park (2006), also stated the doubt about it, saying: “having Korean learners interact with native English speakers who dominantly take an superior role may limit the rage and scope of the Korean learners’ learning experiences” and “interacting with their classmates or other participants who are all Korean-dominant speakers in English can make their English interaction somewhat artificial, unauthentic, and not meaningful” (p. 97-98). However, despite of skepticisms, these immersion programs are burgeoning gradually as an alternative to an old English education.

2) Limitation of applying Immersion program in EFL environment

Immersion program has been applied in Korea with various formats in order to facilitate learners’ language proficiency. The success of the program depends on diverse facts such as the level of an understanding and commitment of people who are related to programs. Park (2006) pointed out that the most of all the problems, the biggest problem is that all participants of immersion programs, except the native instructor perhaps, are sharing the same language and same cultural backgrounds. Because of the fact, the ‘English only’ rule in immersion programs can be artificial to student and it is hard for instructors to control the class and encourage students to keep using English only. As a result, a real negotiation in English rarely happens among students and hard to produce meaningful input and output based on real contexts. This artificial and pressured environment also makes it difficult to motivate students through diverse cultural contacts.

â…¤. Conclusion and suggestion

This paper investigated about effects and effect elements of studying abroad in order to compare them with immersion programs in Korea. According to research, there are two dominant effects of studying abroad: first one is the development of students’ oral fluency, proficiency and discourse ability (Segalowitz et al., 2004; Longcope, 2003; Tanake & Ellis, 2003). Second one is positive changes of learners’ attitude toward English which benefit students’ learning efficiency (Park, 2007; Jung & Yun, 2011; Dufon & Churcill, 2006). These effects are caused by several elements of studying abroad context. In studying abroad context, students tends to get more amount of input and output which are modified and restructured by negotiation with interlocutor compared to home study students. These input and output, which are produced through negotiation, offer students comprehensible input and push them to produce comprehensible output naturally (McMeekin, 2006). However, in immersion programs in EFL context, the amount of input and output is insufficient compared to studying abroad context. In addition to that, the environment of immersion program is artificial to produce comprehensible input and output through negotiation because most of participants share the same language backgrounds. According to that, real negotiations rarely happen between students and interlocutors or students and students (Park, 2006). The second element of studying aboard context which benefits students’ attitude toward English is diverse cultural contacts. Cultural contacts encourage students’ motivation for learning English and affect students’ learning satisfaction (Jung & yun, 2011; Park, 2007). On the other hand, in Korean immersion program, opportunities for cultural contacts are lack as most of participants share the same cultural background.

Compared to elements of study abroad context which facilitate SLA, the major shortcomings of Korean immersion programs caused by an environment in which most participants share the homogeneous language and cultural backgrounds. This context drags the efficiency of language learning of students (Park, 2006). However, only a few discussions have been made about this problem. Park (2006) suggested a solution about this problem of Korean immersion programs saying: “One of the most realistic and feasible ways of resolving these problems is to create a mixed language and cultural contexts or environment where English emerges naturally as a common language with little or no inequality or dependency among the speakers” (p. 98). Park (2006) argued that this can be possible by bringing students who have different language and cultural backgrounds and have the similar experience of target language learning. In order to suggest a model of an effective short-term immersion program, two-week program was developed for Korean and Japanese students. The effects of Korea-Japan immersion camp were found to be positive; by creating an environment, which needs English as a communication tool, using English became “very natural and meaningful, generating joy and happiness without being intimidated” and it also affected “the students’ attitude toward English, English communicative skills and motivation for further studies in English and other languages and cultures” (Park, 2006, p. 112).

There are no studies conducted about immersion programs for international students. However, as the number of exchange students is increasing in Korean universities, there seems a lot of possibility to create a mixed language and cultural context programs, not only for short-term, but also for long-term. I hope this research offer a possibility of effective immersion programs which can alternate the studying abroad and present opportunities to more students.

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