Long-term linguistic gains from study abroad

Research on the long-term effects of SA has mainly been conducted with L2Ls. This research has demonstrated prolonged gains in vocabulary (Pizziconi, 2017), grammar (Howard, 2009; Regan, 2005), writing (Pérez-Vidal & Juan-Garau, 2009; Sasaki, 2011), and some measures of oral fluency (Huensch & Tracy-Ventura, 2017; Llanes, 2012). With regard to Spanish

L2Ls, Ringer-Hilfinger (2012) published the only study known to us investigating the retention of dialectal features after a prolonged period following the sojourn. She investigated the retention of both the production and awareness of the distinction between /0/ and /s/ six months after returning from a semester abroad in Spain. While all four students who completed the delayed posttest demonstrated awareness of the feature, only one out of the four produced it. Furthermore, it was only produced once in more spontaneous speech and five times in read speech. This chapter addresses the retention of geographically variable features by HLLs one year after returning from a semester abroad, a topic not addressed by previous studies. It will provide us with a better image of HLLs’ sociolinguistic competence, and more specifically their ability to style-shift, as it relates to their bidialectal abilities.

Service learning for HLLs

We now turn to SL. While SL typically occurs within the local community, 1SL occurs in a location abroad. Local SL in the US context has resulted in positive outcomes for learners of Spanish (Clifford & Reisinger, 2019; see Salgado-Robles and George, 2019, for a more detailed discussion). The first research published on 1SL focused on the learning of Spanish via the Peace Corps, noting positive effects on the development of Spanish (Guntermann, 1995). Research on 1SL up until Salgado-Robles and George (2019) focused primarily on the outcomes achieved by L2Ls from the United States. These outcomes included increased cultural and linguistic competencies with sojourners in Ecuador (Brown & Purmensky, 2014), improved speaking techniques by participants in Panama City compared to their at-home counterparts in the United States (Cubillos, 2013), increased production of the L2 by learners in an 1SL program compared to learners in regular SA programs (Martinsen, Baker, Dewey, Bown, & Johnson, 2010), and sociolinguistic development in the usage of leísmo and laísmo by participants in an SL program in Spain (Salgado-Robles, 2018).

Overall, this previous research indicates that immersion abroad can be advantageous to producing features that can vary according to geographic region. These studies also demonstrate that HLLs’ experiences abroad are not monolithic, with some adopting regional speech patterns in order to please their interlocutors and feel more at home while abroad and others asserting their identity by not adopting such features. This individual variation regarding the (non-)production of regional features is dependent on many factors, such as the dynamic identity of the learner, proficiency level, and the quantity and quality of contact with speakers who exhibit the geographically variable features under study. SL and increased quality contact with speakers who exhibit geographically variable features while abroad might facilitate the development of awareness and production of geographically variable features. But it remains unclear whether these patterns continue after a prolonged period following immersion. This knowledge would advance our understanding of the style-shifting that HLLs may produce upon returning from their studies abroad. This ability to styleshift, something often overlooked in HLLs’ linguistic profiles, contributes to their linguistic repertoires. We now turn to a brief description and discussion of the feature under investigation.

Feature under study

Castilian Spanish distinguishes between vosotraslvosotros for the familiar second-person plural, used between family and friends, and ustedes for the formal second-person plural, used as a sign of respect or to address older people (Fontanella de Weinberg, 1999). Most Latin American Spanish varieties use ustedes for both the familiar and formal second-person plurals. However, Morgan and Schwenter (2016) indicate that the system is not always uniform or symmetrical, finding that of the dozen Spaniards they interviewed, many used vosotros for both the familiar and formal second-person plurals, opting to never employ ustedes even in situations where they would have used usted with one of the interlocutors in the group. Of the 256 first language Spanish speakers who responded to the online questionnaire in that study, ustedes was still the preferred form for the formal second-person plural, although some uses of vosotros were also found. Furthermore, Spaniards considered ustedes to be used primarily by Latin American Spanish speakers living in Spain. Given the prominence of vosotros in northcentral Spain and what little is known about the linguistic repertoires of HLLs who study abroad, this chapter presents research on the investigation of the long-term effects of SA by examining the production of the second-person plural forms one year after returning home. It is worthwhile to study the retention of vosotros by HLLs who return home to the United States, since many of the HLLs in this study (US-born of Mexican descent) remain in contact with Spaniards, and, as shown in previous studies, some continue to use the regional features they developed while abroad with their Peninsular interlocutors.

Previous studies have shown that both L2Ls and HLLs can adopt this feature (vosotros for second-person plural familiar) to varying degrees. For example, Reynolds-Case (2013) found increased use of vosotros on a written task by intermediate and advanced L2Ls after only four weeks spent in Spain. Ringer-Hilfinger (2012) found a similar increase in the written use of vosotros by beginning L2Ls after 14 weeks abroad. George (2018) found that 29% (7/24) of intermediate and advanced L2Ls increased their oral production of vosotros after six weeks abroad and 33% (8/24) after 12 weeks, with 33% (8/24) never producing vosotros at any time while abroad. Salgado-Robles and George (2019) found that ten HLLs who participated in an SL-enhanced SA program in Spain increased their use of vosotros by 79.99 percentage points (from 2.86% to 82.85%) during a four-month SA

The case of vosotros versus ustedes 39 program, while those in the non-SL-enhanced program increased their use by 36.92 percentage points (from 1.42% to 38.34%).

Research questions

This chapter discusses HLLs’ decision to use a geographically variable feature (vosotros) not found in their home dialect one year after returning home from SA in Spain. The continued use of this feature would indicate the HLLs’ prolonged ability to style-shift between two (or more) dialects, demonstrating an increase in their sociolinguistic competence. The chapter seeks to answer the following research question:

What differences do participants in two distinct SA programs (SL-enhanced and traditional) display in their use of the second-person plural pronominal system (i.e., production of vosotros and ustedes) one year after returning from a semester abroad in Spain, as evidenced in an oral production task?

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