Vigo International Journal of Applied Linguistics VIAL

Maria Juan-Garau (1), Carmen Pérez-Vidal (2): The effect of context and contact on oral performance in students who go on a stay abroad. VIAL. Number 4/2007: 117-134.


The present study is part of a broader developmental study on the effects of a compulsory three-month ‘Stay Abroad’ (SA) period on advanced level university students of translation studies, for whom English is their L3, as they are bilingual in Catalan/Spanish. Its objective is twofold. It seeks to analyse the gains obtained in the SA context in the subjects’ oral proficiency in contrast with the gains obtained in a normal classroom EFL environment as well as the impact of contact during SA on such gains. For that purpose, 12 subjects were administered a pre-test (T1) before formal instruction, a post/pre-test (T2) after formal instruction and prior to the SA, to measure both proficiency after formal instruction and before the SA; a post-test (T3) after the SA, and a delayed post-test (T4) 15 months later, to measure long-term effects. Data were collected by means of a cognitively demanding role-play task. The research looks at improvement in oral linguistic ability through a questionnaire on stay conditions and various indexes of oral performance gains –namely gains in oral fluency, accuracy, and lexical and grammatical complexity, as well as in the use of formulas–. The statistical results and interaction effects show complex relationships between oral proficiency, context of acquisition and language contact.

Keywords: stay abroad, context, contact, SLA, L3 English.

(1) Universidad de Barcelona, Spain.
(2) Universidad Pompeu Fabra, Spain.

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