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CONTEXT OF LEARNING AND SECOND LANGUAGE FLUENCY IN FRENCH: Comparing Regular Classroom, Study Abroad, and Intensive Domestic Immersion Programs

  • Barbara F. Freed (a1), Norman Segalowitz (a2) and Dan P. Dewey (a3)

We compared the acquisition of various dimensions of fluency by 28 students of French studying in three different learning contexts: formal language classrooms in an at home (AH) institution, an intensive summer immersion (IM) program, and a study abroad (SA) setting. For the purpose of oral data collection, students participated in oral interviews (similar to the Oral Proficiency Interview) at the beginning and the end of the semester and provided information regarding language use and interactions. Analyses included comparisons of gain scores as a function of the learning context and as a function of the time reported using French outside of class. The main findings that reached statistical significance include: (a) The IM group made significant gains in oral performance in terms of the total number of words spoken, in length of the longest turn, in rate of speech, and in speech fluidity based on a composite of fluidity measures. When compared to the AH group, the SA group made statistically significant gains only in terms of speech fluidity but fewer gains than the IM group. The AH group made no significant gains. (b) The IM students reported that they spoke and wrote French significantly more hours per week than the other two groups. The SA group reported using English more than French (although the difference was not statistically significant) and reported using significantly more English in out-of-class activities than the IM group. (c) Multiple regression analyses revealed that reported hours per week spent writing outside of class was significantly associated with oral fluidity gains.Appreciation is expressed to a number of organizations and individuals without whom this project would not have been brought to completion. Contributions of funding, technical support and expertise, or both are acknowledged from: ACTFL (Elvira Spender and Robert Vicars); Carnegie Mellon University (The Office of the President and Bonnie Youngs in the Department of Modern Languages); The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada; Concordia University (International Initiatives Research Program, Office of the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science); Concordia University (Randall Halter, Eric Buisson, Christine Brassard, Eowyn Crisfield, Nilmini de Silva, Sarah Frenkiel, and Heather Wilcox); Middlebury College (Clara Yu, Michael Katz, Beth Karnes, Kara Gennarelli, Paula Schwartz, Carol Rifelj, Jean-Claude Redonnet, Guy Spielmann, Beverly Keim, Anna Sun, and Alex Chapin). The authors also thank Nicole Lazar for her helpful statistical advice.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence to: Barbara F. Freed, Department of Modern Languages, 160 Baker Hall, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213; e-mail:
Or address correspondence to: Norman Segalowitz, Psychology Department, Concordia University, 7141 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal QC, Canada H4B 1R6; e-mail:
Or address correspondence to: Dan P. Dewey, Department of Instruction and Learning, University of Pittsburgh, W. W. Posvar Hall, Pittsburgh, PA 15260; e-mail:
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Studies in Second Language Acquisition
  • ISSN: 0272-2631
  • EISSN: 1470-1545
  • URL: /core/journals/studies-in-second-language-acquisition
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