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Dr. Velliaris shares the benefits of learning a new language

Study Abroad Contexts for Enhanced Foreign Language Learning: Hear From Expert Dr. Donna Velliaris

By Sharlene Oong on Apr 18, 2019
According to a recent Quartz article, more than half of the global population is bilingual; over 3.5 billion people speak more than one language a day. Being multilingual provides many benefits on individual, social, and professional levels, especially when it comes to careers within higher education. Discussion based on the acquisition of a second language (L2), particularly in higher education, often explores the relationship between language learning and the study abroad experience to enhance and advance one’s fluency. Dr. Donna Velliaris, an esteemed IGI Global editor/author of the publications Handbook of Research on Study Abroad Programs and Outbound Mobility, as well as a contributor of 30 IGI Global book chapters, recalls her own life-changing foreign language learning experience. Her 2018 publication titled, Study Abroad Contexts for Enhanced Foreign Language Learning, brings together a series of studies that explore—from varied perspectives—the relationship between language learning and study abroad at the tertiary-level.

Could you tell us more about your publication?

My publication titled, Study Abroad Contexts for Enhanced Foreign Language Learning (2018), comprises ten (10) chapters authored by international scholars from: Australia; China; Ghana; Hong Kong; Japan; Namibia; South Africa; and the United States. The chapters explore the relationship between language learning and the study abroad experience and utilize varied methodological approaches. The focus in this collection is on various aspects of L2 learning, including but not limited to: the acquisition of sociolinguistic competence; the use of communicative strategies; and the advancement of one or more of the language-learning domains i.e., listening, speaking, reading, or writing.

What inspired you to pursue research activities in field of study abroad?

Relocating to Japan in the 1980s as a high school exchange student proved more difficult than I could have ever imagined. My previous life experiences had not prepared me for the completely disparate lifestyle into which I had thrown myself. Suddenly, I had a Japanese mother, a Japanese father, a Japanese school and a Japanese residency. While my host father spoke a touch of English, I was propelled into an environment that had no other familiarity.

The public Japanese senior (Years 10-12) high school I attended had a student population of 3,000. On my first day, I was escorted to the assembly hall and led onto an elevated stage, where I was instructed to deliver my introductory speech in the Japanese language. While the cue cards were written in Romaji (Japanese-English), I had no knowledge of the pronunciation or meaning of the expressions I had been given to read. Looking out onto a sea of perfectly amassed, black-haired pupils, seated in deathly silence and seiza (traditional formal way of sitting in Japan), I delivered those [what felt like] strange words in my new school uniform that, at the time, felt like a fancy-dress costume.

Indeed, everyone has their own unique reasons for wanting to learn another language. Today, with almost three-decades of travelling the world, I have managed to stay sane and safe by attempting to blend in as best as I can, through conversing enough to be able to feed myself and not becoming (outlandishly) lost across a vast number of nations.

What will readers learn from Study Abroad Contexts for Enhanced Foreign Language Learning?

Participation in study abroad will likely increase in the future, and many will opt for short-term HE programs for convenience and practicality. Though programs may be short-term in nature, program designers have many options for structuring their offerings to create the most valuable learning context for students. Even in short-term programs lasting two-months or less, the context of learning will impact the type of interactions that students have in the target language (TL) and their contact with native speakers.

The principal advantage of language-focused HE study abroad programs is immersing oneself in another language and culture with chronological repetition of the TL. In intensive L2 learning, the shortened cycles between classes may equip participants with the benefits of a truly holistic educational experience. Relatedly, students may live with host families, volunteer with local organizations, and explore the language through real-life and enriching excursions. And, wherever one goes, local life is different—from social greetings to going to the grocery store, from making friends to riding the bus—living abroad is both exciting and challenging. In essence, the community becomes an extended classroom that fosters L2 fluency while heightening one’s perception of another culture and its people.

There has been the long-standing belief and often taken-for-granted assumption that study abroad will lead to greater, perhaps even assured, TL proficiency for foreign language learners. Language skills, however, are not merely 'mechanical'; sociocultural and intercultural competence are essential elements of true linguistic proficiency. Thus, the ability to derive profound personal meaning from the nuances of learning a new language involves adopting authentic attitudes and behaviors in one’s interactions with ‘host’ country persons.

What are some of the benefits of your research to the academic community?

Academicians, advanced-level students, cross-cultural trainers, government officials, HE counsellors, international student services, policy makers, program/course developers, and other researchers will find this text useful in furthering their understanding of issues related to foreign language learning in a study abroad context. Significantly, memory improvement, longer attention span, and a reduced risk of age-related cognitive decline, are just a few of the known positive effects of speaking more than one language.

What has your experience publishing with IGI Global been like?

My first chapter publication with IGI Global was 'Getting Personal: An Autoethnographic Study of the Professional Identit(ies) of Lecturers in an Australian Pathway Institution', in the publication Cases on Teacher Identity, Diversity, and Cognition in Higher Education (2014). Over the past five-years, I have found that publishing my research with IGI Global has been a positive experience. IGI Global's staff are helpful and professional, the editorial policies are clear, and feedback from reviewers and editors has improved the quality of my written work. I can confirm that publishing with IGI Global was, and continues to be, very rewarding.
We would like to thank Dr. Velliaris for sharing the benefits of language learning and study abroad programs. We hope the discussion will promote further conversations on the topic. Be sure to view her publications, Study Abroad Contexts for Enhanced Foreign Language Learning and Handbook of Research on Academic Misconduct in Higher Education, and recommend them to your librarian.
Dr. Velliaris's research is available through IGI Global’s InfoSci®-Books, a database of 4,500+ reference books containing nearly 100,000 chapters focusing on emerging research. With an annual subscription (2000-2019) offered as low as US$ 8,580 US$ 6,435* (perpetual purchase for current copyright year (2019) offered as low as US$ 17,500 US$13,125**), this database hosts key features such as full-text PDF and HTML format, no DRM, unlimited simultaneous users, and no embargo of content (research is available months in advance of the print release). Spanning across 350+ topics in 11 core subject areas, including business and management, computer science, education, engineering, social sciences and humanities, and more, this robust research database is ideal for academic and research institutions.

    Additionally, when institutions invest in IGI Global’s InfoSci-Books and /or InfoSci®-Journals (185+ scholarly journals) databases, they can take advantage of IGI Global’s Open Access (OA) Fee Waiver (Offset Model) Initiative. Through this initiative, IGI Global matches the library’s investment with a fund of equal value to go towards subsidizing the OA article processing charges (APCs) for their faculty patrons at that institution when their work is accepted under OA into an IGI Global journal.***


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Find below a sample of related education titles which are also featured in IGI Global’s award-winning InfoSci-Books database and are available for purchase in print and electronic format. Be sure to recommend these titles to your librarian to ensure your institution can acquire the most emerging research. Additionally, for researchers, all of the chapters featured in these publications are available for purchase through IGI Global’s OnDemand feature for as low as US$ 30.



About Dr. Donna Velliaris


Dr. Donna Velliaris  headshotDr. Donna M. Velliaris is currently living and working in Singapore while her two young children attend an international school. A fully qualified [Australia] secondary school educator since 1995, she has a total of 12 officially registered subjects/skills across Grades 8-12. To date, she has taught students from Reception to PhD level and across several continents. Dr. Velliaris holds two Graduate Certificates: (1) Australian Studies; and (2) Religious Education, two Graduate Diplomas: (1) Secondary Education; and (2) Language and Literacy Education, as well as three Master’s degrees: (1) Educational Sociology; (2) Studies of Asia; and (3) Special Education. In 2010, Dr. Velliaris graduated with a PhD in Education focused on the social/educational ecological development of school-aged transnational students in Tokyo, Japan.

Her primary research interests include: human ecology; Third Culture Kids (TCKs); schools as cultural systems; and study abroad. With recent publication of almost 30 book chapters, her titles comprise: Academic reflections: Disciplinary acculturation and the first-year pathway experience in Australia [Garnet]; Conceptualizing four ecological influences on contemporary ‘Third Culture Kids’ [Palgrave Macmillan]; Culturally responsive pathway pedagogues: Respecting the intricacies of student diversity in the classroom [IGI Global]; The other side of the student story: Listening to the voice of the parent [Sense]; and Metaphors for transnational students: A moving experience [Cambridge Scholars].
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of IGI Global.
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