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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Peer language socialization in an internationalized study abroad context : norms for talking about language Surtees, Victoria


Study abroad (SA) students often expect to have opportunities to interact with peers in the target language during their sojourns. However, while SA students report valuing peer relationships, to date, few studies have explored the role of peer interaction in SA (McGregor, 2016) and even less research has attended to peers’ perceptions of their role in SA students’ language learning (Kinginger, 2017). To address this gap, this qualitative multiple case study investigates peer language socialization at an internationalized English-medium university in Canada. It focuses on how language (e.g., grammar, use, lexis, and pronunciation) and language learning were oriented to in peers’ conversations, and the norms around how such topics were to be managed in informal talk. The focal students were three Japanese undergraduate SA students, each of whom recruited several English-speaking peers with whom they recorded weekly conversations. The data, which included interviews with peers and SA students as well as the recorded conversations, were analyzed using micro-analytic approaches, including membership categorization analysis (Housley & Fitzgerald, 2015; Sacks, 1992) and discursive approaches to stancetaking (Du Bois, 2007; Stevanovic & Peräkylä, 2012). Findings show that SA students had difficulty forming peer relationships, despite their engagement in extracurricular activities. The interview data also reveal that SA students valued peers who were multilingual and had experience with international students, and that peers valued SA students who asked for language help and displayed willingness to improve their English. While peers’ reports in interviews depicted discussions of language as relatively simple interactions, analyses of the peer interaction data demonstrated that SA students and peers required significant linguistic resources and prior knowledge to successfully engage in talk-about-language (Levine, 2009) and that not all SA students’ requests for language help were successful. These findings point to how “doing novice” and “doing expert” may be learned practices and highlight the need to conceive of peers as historical multifaceted individuals who may or may not be willing or able to appropriately “do expert” in interaction with SA students. As such, this study makes a significant contribution to applied linguistics in the areas of SA, peer interaction, and language socialization.

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