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Social networks, language learning and language school student sojourners: a qualitative study

By Pi-Chu Wu


This thesis investigates individual language school student sojourners’ learning experiences in the UK. It takes into account the importance of learners learning through interaction with others in the target language community and recognises how learners’ social networks affect their language learning and use.\ud There are many studies about students who study abroad for academic purposes and immigrant learners, but not many relating to individual language learners in private language schools. In order to fill this gap, this study focused on individual language school learners. With the intention of understanding how the social networks and language learning interact over time as part of their sojourner experience, I utilised different theoretical frameworks that have been applied to other groups of language learners and concluded that these frameworks are also applicable to private language school students.\ud I recognised that in order to understand my participants’ learning experiences I needed to interact with them and also observe how they interacted with their social world. Therefore, formal interviews (semi-structured) and informal interviews (informal group meeting or chat) were the main methods for my study together with observation of interaction in various situations.\ud This study identified the expectations that learners had with regard to the target language community, host families and native speakers’ attitudes towards foreign students, and the realisation that these expectations were higher than what was actually encountered. It also identified the steps the individual language learners took to overcome these disappointments and how they reconstructed their relationships with the target language and community respectively.\ud In contrast with many previous studies which only focused on learning from native speakers, my study recognised that learners sometimes can have more interpersonal contact with their fellow students than native speakers. And consequently they benefit more from these contacts, in terms of language learning, than from native speakers. This thesis also helps language learners and language educators recognise basic theoretical frameworks which could help them evaluate the benefits and problems related to learning through interpersonal contact. And with this understanding learners will be able to facilitate their autonomous learning in the target language community

Topics: LB, PE
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