Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2018

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 07/03/2020

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Second Language Acquisition

First Advisor

Liskin-Gasparro, Judith E.

Second Advisor

Muñoz, Kristine L.

First Committee Member

Otto, Sue E. K.

Second Committee Member

Wesely, Pamela M.

Third Committee Member

Rodríguez-Rodríguez, Ana M.


Part of the seemingly magical nature of study abroad programs is the imagined community of target language speakers that learners will be able to speak to and connect with, and whose culture they will be invited to join. Far too often, however, study abroad sojourners struggle to actually communicate in the second language (L2), therefore hindering their opportunities to connect with native speakers of the language. This phenomenon is especially salient in short-term study abroad programs where students may have little time for meaningful engagement in the complex activities of social, cultural, and linguistic acclimation. These difficulties are magnified when the increasingly popular short-term study abroad program is a "sheltered" or "island" program (Allen, 2010), in which students take classes designed by faculty at their home institution with peers with whom they share a first language.

In response to this situation, this dissertation critically examines the willingness to communicate construct (MacIntyre, Dörnyei, Clément, & Noels, 1998) in the context of a short-term study abroad program in Valladolid, Spain with the goal of understanding why some students eagerly engage with the second language and culture, others do to a lesser degree, and some virtually not at all. This investigation employs a multiple case study approach utilizing ethnographic data collection methods and a sociocultural lens to analyze the construct of willingness to communicate. Data sources include interviews, journals, language contact reports, observations, proficiency assessments, and audio recordings from group activities designed to increase learners' willingness to communicate. Recursive, qualitative analysis of the experiences of three students suggests that experiences, goals, and motivations vary widely across students, and across time, even in just five weeks. Furthermore, analysis suggests that willingness to communicate in a study abroad context does not always align with previous research examining the construct in other settings. Pedagogical and implications for future study abroad program design to foster connections and communication in the target language are also explored.


multiple case study, second language acquisition, Spanish, study abroad, willingness to communicate


xv, 252 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 230-242).


Copyright © 2018 Raychel M. Vasseur

Available for download on Friday, July 03, 2020