Contributions of Initial Proficiency and Language Use to Second-Language Development during Study Abroad

Behavioral and Event-Related Potential Evidence

Authored by: Mandy Faretta-Stutenberg , Kara Morgan-Short

The Routledge Handbook of Study Abroad Research and Practice

Print publication date:  June  2018
Online publication date:  June  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138192393
eBook ISBN: 9781315639970
Adobe ISBN:


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Study abroad (SA) experiences are widely considered to be beneficial to second-language (L2) development. Investigations into learner outcomes, however, reveal significant variability in terms of which aspects of L2 abilities improve (e.g., fluency, accuracy, efficiency of processing) and in terms of who improves, with some learners experiencing greater gains than others. Two factors that may lead to differential levels of development among learners during SA are predeparture proficiency and amount of L2 use while abroad. Despite a number of studies that have examined these factors, there is a lack of consensus around their relative importance to L2 development in SA. The present longitudinal study examines the role of these factors in behavioral development, as assessed with judgment and production tasks, and examines whether these factors also play a role in the development of L2 processing signatures, as assessed with event-related potentials (ERPs) derived from learners’ electroencephalogram (EEG; Luck, 2012). In order to understand the processing elements of the study, it is important to note the following definitions: EEG is the signal from electrical potentials continuously produced by the human brain, which can be detected and recorded using electrodes placed near the scalp. ERPs are a measure of online cognitive processing derived from an amplified EEG signal that reflect the average processing signal time-locked to a particular cognitive event (e.g., processing words or grammar). In general, the study presented in this chapter aims to contribute behavioral and neurocognitive evidence regarding the development of L2 Spanish grammatical gender agreement during SA by examining relationships with predeparture proficiency and L2 use.

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