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Global versus Local: Linguistic and Cultural Variation in Study Abroad Programs

Updated: Sep 4, 2018

Federico Damonte

Archeology students from Umbra Institute


The role of language in study abroad is paradoxically central and yet problematic: the pressure from increasing numbers of students and shorter programs make it difficult for language courses to enable students to reach their desired goal of having informal conversations in the language of the host country. In this paper I argue that language courses can be expanded and complemented in simple ways, so as to partially address this large issue. In particular, I propose that the teaching of pragmatics can help students better negotiate common everyday interactions. In turn, pragmatic notions can be framed within the larger phenomenon of linguistic and cultural variation. While this is not a traditional topic in foreign language courses, I argue that familiarity with this notion is a fundamental step in the process of understanding other cultures. I propose that it can be practically and successfully taught in separate courses in English about the target language. All together, these measures have the potential to raise students’ linguistic and cultural awareness, which should be the main goals of language teaching in study abroad.

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