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The University of Southampton
Languages, Cultures and LinguisticsPart of Humanities

Research project: Languages and social networks abroad (LANG-SNAP)

Currently Active: 

Social networks, target language interaction, and second language acquisition during the year abroad.

Project overview

This longitudinal study of advanced learners of French and Spanish undertaking residence abroad was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (research award number: RES-062-23-2996) and the funded phase ran from May 2011 to October 2013. The project is associated with the AILA Research Network on Study Abroad and Second Language Acquisition.

The specific aims of the project are to document the development of Modern Languages students' knowledge and use of the target language over a 23-month period including a 9-month stay abroad, and to investigate:

  • learners' evolving social networks while abroad
  • factors influencing type and amount of language engagement abroad
  • the kinds of learning opportunities afforded by target language interaction in a year abroad context
  • the relationship between social networking, social interaction and language learning.

Participants were students of Spanish and French, spending their third year (of a four-year degree course) abroad in Spain, Mexico, and France. In all, there were a total of 57 participants (drawn from ERASMUS exchange students, foreign language assistants, and workplace interns). Ten native speakers of each language were also recruited.

During the main fieldwork phase, six data collection cycles were implemented with all participants:1) pretest, 2-4) successive on-site data collection cycles, 5) posttest and 6) delayed posttest. Pre- and posttests took place at the home university, while all other data collection took place abroad. At each cycle, all participants completed a range of language elicitation tasks (spoken and written), plus questionnaires and interviews to document language use and social networking abroad. A subset of 12 case study participants undertook additional activities, including participant observation (shadowing) by members of the research team, and self-recording of authentic interactions with members of their current social network.

During the post-fieldwork phase, a longitudinal corpus of participants’ spoken and written French and Spanish has been created, and is available to view at, together with a full listing of dissemination activities and publications by the project team.


Emeritus Professor Rosamund Mitchell

Laurence Richard

Dr Patricia Romero de Mills

Dr Nicole Tracy-Ventura

Dr Kevin McManus

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