The Academic Second Language (L2) Socialization and Acculturation of International Exchange Students

The Academic Second Language (L2) Socialization and Acculturation of International Exchange Students

B Jane Jackson (The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1607-2.ch004


As internationalization efforts intensify across the globe, the number of higher education (HE) students who are gaining some form of international educational experience is on the rise. A large percentage of study abroad participants are from East Asian nations (Mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Korea, Macau SAR, Taiwan), and most enroll in English language enhancement modules or English-medium content courses during their stay abroad, depending on their level of proficiency. To better meet their needs and ease their adjustment in an unfamiliar academic and social environment, it is imperative for researchers to conduct systematic studies that delve into study abroad experience. This chapter reports on a mixed-method study that investigated the second language socialization and acculturation of international exchange students from a Hong Kong university who took part in a semester-long stay in their host country. The findings have implications for both home and host institutions.
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Background And Literature Review

As this chapter centers on the academic L2 socialization of international exchange students, the literature review covers the following topics: acculturation and L2 socialization, culture confusion, and ‘cultures of learning’, with particular attention paid to L2 study abroad participants.

Acculturation and L2 Socialization

Berry, Poortinga, Breugelmans, Chasiotis and Sam (2011, p. 464) defined acculturation as ‘changes in a cultural group or individuals as a result of contact with another cultural group’. This contact may bring about changes in both parties e.g., study abroad students and host nationals, particularly in individuals who are receptive to novel ideas and ‘ways of being’.

Within the context of border crossings, Berry et al. (2011) depict adaptation as the process whereby newcomers employ strategies to deal with the natural ‘ups and downs’ of acculturation. Some scholars distinguish between psychological adaptation i.e., the nurturing of personal well-being and self-esteem, and sociocultural adaptation i.e., the ability to cope with everyday life in the wider society (Ward, Bochner, & Furnham, 2001). The acculturation process involves varying degrees of discomfort as individuals adjust to the unfamiliar. Acculturative stress may be defined as ‘a negative psychological reaction to the experiences of acculturation, often characterized by anxiety, depression, and a variety of psychosomatic problems’ (Berry et al., 2011, p. 465).

Academic mobility often involves more than one language. Thus, acculturation may include L2 socialization, that is, the process by which newcomers become familiar with the linguistic conventions, sociopragmatic norms e.g., verbal expressions of politeness, cultural scripts e.g., common greetings and responses in social interactions, and other behaviors that are prevalent in the new culture (Duff, 2014; Kinginger, 2017). As border crossers gain exposure to the host environment, they may hone their intercultural communicative competence i.e., their ability to communicate effectively and appropriately in an L2 with individuals who have a different linguistic and cultural background. Individuals who open themselves up to new ideas and practices may develop a sense of belonging in the host environment and experience a broadening of their sense of self. Over time, some may develop a more inclusive and intercultural identity (Jackson 2018; Kim, 2018).

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