University of Sydney
This empirical case study aims at investigating the language learning process of Chinese learners in a Study Abroad (SA) language program, which was held in 2015 at Peking University, China. The participants were undergraduate students from the University of Sydney, Australia. By employing the framework of Social Network theories, this research explores how social networks in SA context help to facilitate students’ Chinese learning and acquisition. Specifically, this study looks into three issues: the types of social networks available to students during the program; the ways in which these social networks contribute to participants’ learning of Chinese; and the implications for program designers and organisers. The findings drawn from data collected by pre and post-program surveys and in-depth interviews illustrate that three types of social networks are most notable and have attracted the researcher’s attention, namely the language partner community, the WeChat mobile community (a mobile APP in China), and other local communities in students’ day-to-day living environments (service places; dorm; transportation; etc.). It is further argued that these observed social networks benefited students’ Chinese learning mainly in terms of creating interaction opportunities with native speakers. Examples and narratives from students’ perspective are elaborated. Suggestions for SA program designers point to the approaches for increasing students’ contact with local communities so as to provide them with more Chinese learning opportunities and better sojourn experience during SA in China.
Chinese Acquisition, Study Abroad, Social Network, Language Socialisation, Interaction