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Open Access Publications from the University of California

An Activity Theoretical Approach to Social Interaction During Study Abroad

  • Author(s): Shively, Rachel L.
  • et al.

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This case study examines the orientation to social interaction by one study abroad student who spent a semester in Spain. Using an activity theoretical approach, the findings indicate that the student did not only view social interaction with his Spanish host family and a expert-Spanish-speaking age peer as an opportunity for second language (L2) learning, but also had other goals for the interactions such as relationship building and enjoyment. The analysis further highlights changes over time in the focal student’s orientation to L2 learning in social interaction and how his relationships mediated those shifts. Results from the study highlight the dynamic nature of social interaction, the importance of age peers, and the usefulness of activity theory for making links between micro-level interactions and macro-level social structures.

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