Study abroad and the second language acquisition of tense and aspect in French: Is longer better?

Duperron, Lucile
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Thompson & Heinle
Recent research in the study abroad context (SA) has focused on the sociocognitive factors affecting second language (L2) development compared to the foreign language classroom environment (FLC). However, the effect of SA on the acquisition of complex linguistic features that resist instruction requires further examination. Furthermore, research on the impact of SA duration remains scarce. In response, this study examines the L2 French acquisition of tense and aspect in order to shed light on the interaction between learning contexts and the development of interlanguage.Twenty-two college students who enrolled in a one-year French SA program received a pretest on the contrastive use and interpretation of the imparfait and passé composé. Participants assigned to the Semester group received a posttest five months later (n = 10).Those assigned to the Year group received it 10 months later (n = 12).The test design operationalized the Aspect Hypothesis, which predicts the leading role of lexical aspect in tense assignment.All participants received the opportunity to use the passé composé and the imparfait with each of the four Vendler lexical categories of verbs, state, activity, accomplishment, and achievement in a cloze test (n = 48).Their interpretation of the imparfait versus the passé composé was also measured by an aspectual judgment test (n = 16). It was hypothesized that the Year group, because it received more input and output opportunities, would be more advanced than its Semester counterpart with regard to the overall use and interpretation of passé composé and imparfait across lexical categories of verbs. This hypothesis was not fully supported because participants were found to make statistically significant progress between Month 0 and Month 5 rather than later. Implications for SA and language program articulation as well as pedagogical treatments of tense and aspect are discussed.
Duperron, L. (2006). Study abroad and the second language acquisition of tense and aspect in French: Is longer better? The American Association of University Supervisors, Coordinators and Directors of Foreign Languages Programs (AAUSC), 45-71.
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