This study examines the social network development of L2 Spanish learners over the course of an academic semester spent studying abroad in Spain. Social network analysis has been utilized widely in sociological research to understand and predict a range of human behaviors, and has also been applied to research in sociolinguistics (Milroy, 1980) and second language acquisition (SLA) (e.g., Baker-Smemoe et al., 2014; Isabelli-García, 2006; Mitchell et al., 2017). The present investigation proposes to utilize this level of analysis to identify patterns in university sojourners’ social experience, to describe the relationship between these patterns and L2 Spanish proficiency development, and to contextualize these findings within the landscape of contemporary U.S. study abroad practice. HASH(0x41e8010) Data for this investigation were collected from 43 L2 Spanish learners who were university students enrolled in various institutions in the U.S., and who spent the spring 2019 academic semester studying abroad in Spain. Students were recruited from six study abroad programs located in four cities in Spain (Granada, Madrid, Sevilla, Toledo). Social network data were collected via a specially designed social network questionnaire, while linguistic data were collected via the administration of two Spanish language proficiency tests, a Diploma de Español como Lengua Extranjera (DELE) exam and an elicited imitation task (EIT) (Ortega, Iwashita, Norris, & Rabie, 1999). Data collection was performed at the beginning and end of the participants’ sojourn in Spain, a period of time lasting approximately 12 weeks. HASH(0x41dc1d8) The results of this study identify four prominent social network patterns exhibited by students during their time abroad, characterized by varying levels of Spanish language use, emotional proximity to contacts, frequency of interaction, contact nationality, and network cohesion. These patterns exert a significant influence on learners’ gains in Spanish proficiency, with the most powerful influences on proficiency gains being the development of Spanish language-dominant social networks with NNS program peers, as well as the development of high numbers of integrated NS/NNS social groups. These findings are discussed in the context of the current state of U.S. study abroad programming.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2020. Major: Hispanic and Luso Literatures, Cultures & Linguistics. Advisors: Mandy Menke, Carol Klee. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 239 pages.
The Social Networks: Characterizing L2 Spanish Proficiency Development in Study Abroad through Social Network Analysis.
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