Benefits of Short-Term Study Abroad Experiences: What Impact Do They Have on Japanese EFL Learners’ Oral Communicative Competence?

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Yoko Sato, Hosei University

This paper reports on some of the findings of the first of a series of descriptive studies that investigates the impact of short-term study abroad experiences on Japanese university EFL learners’ oral communicative competence. The participants were twenty-four second-year Business students, who joined three- to four-month ESL programmes at two US universities. Their oral performance was assessed before and after the programme, using one-to-one, face-to-face interviews conducted by native speaker examiners. The examiners were also asked to rate the affective impact that learner performance had on them. This was to explore the sociolinguistic aspect, which was not adequately covered by the original assessment scales. The results indicate statistically significant improvement in fluency and coherence and in vocabulary, but not in grammar or pronunciation. The affective impact rating also shows a significant improvement. Three case studies were conducted in order to explore the possible reasons for the great individual differences observed.