Academic journal article International Journal of English Studies

Length of Stay Abroad: Effects of Time on the Speech Act of Requesting

Academic journal article International Journal of English Studies

Length of Stay Abroad: Effects of Time on the Speech Act of Requesting

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

By means of a discourse completion test (DCT) and a discourse elicitation test (DET) this study investigates the awareness and production of requests and request act modifiers of 104 nonnative speakers of English from 31 nationalities during different lengths of stay in the UK. The paper first of all provides a brief overview of studies that deal with pragmatic development and periods abroad and then, describes the data collection procedure and methodology employed. Results show that the early stages of a stay abroad are decisive in developing an awareness of pragmatic infelicities. With respect to production of requests, our results do not show statistically significant differences, suggesting that length of stay does not affect request act use. There is also evidence that learners in the study abroad context increase their pragmatic repertoire of internal and external modifiers at later stages of their stay in the UK.

KEYWORDS: Length of stay abroad, requests, request modifiers, English nonnative speakers.

RESUMEN

Mediante un cuestionario de producción y otro de evaluación del discurso, este estudio investiga la percepción y la producción de peticiones y de sus elementos de mitigación entre 104 hablantes no nativos de inglés, de 31 nacionalidades durante diferentes períodos de estancia en el Reino Unido. En primer lugar se describen algunos estudios que tratan sobre el desarrollo pragmático y periodos en el extranjero y a continuación, se presenta la metodología empleada. Los resultados muestran que los primeros meses de una estancia en el extranjero son decisivos en el desarrollo de la conciencia pragmática. Con respecto a la producción de las peticiones, los resultados no mostraron diferencias estadísticas significativas, lo que sugiere que la duración de la estancia no afecta el uso de las mismas. Por último, hay evidencia de que los alumnos que han pasado más tiempo en el extranjero, concretamente en contextos como el nuestro, aumentan su repertorio pragmático en cuanto a los elementos de mitigación tanto internos como externos.

PALABRAS CLAVE: Duración de estancias en el extranjero, peticiones, modificadores de las peticiones, hablantes no nativos de inglés.

1. INTRODUCTION

It has long been assumed that the combination of immersion in the native speech community and formal classroom learning creates the best environment for learning a second language. The power of this assumption is such that there is a popular belief shared by students and teachers, parents, administrators and funding bodies, that students who spend a period abroad are those who will ultimately become the most proficient in the use of their language of specialization (Freed, 1998). For this reason, an increasing number of students have taken part in study abroad programs recently. The diversity of study abroad programs these days is representative of the rising number of students (be these undergraduates or postgraduates) and professionals that are experiencing these stays abroad. For instance, students involved in studying modern languages in the UK have to spend some time abroad as a compulsory part of their degree (their third year has to be spent in another country in most cases).

When the European Union was created in 1993 its main objective was to facilitate citizens' mobility between EU member states. Its cooperation in the field of education is represented by the SOCRATES programme, adopted in 1995. SOCRATES incorporates ERASMUS - originally the European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students (see Coleman, 1998). It is one of the best known exchange programs in Europe, 1.5 million students from 31 different universities have benefited of an ERASMUS study period abroad to date, and the numbers rise every year (European Union Education Archives, May 20081). These data suggests that the experience of living abroad has become increasingly appealing and more viable, to the European community at least. …

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