Taking the Plunge: Experiences of In-country Language Immersion by Working Professionals

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Title: Taking the Plunge: Experiences of In-country Language Immersion by Working Professionals
Author: Gerber, Marjorie Lynne
Advisors: Colleen Wiessner, Committee Member
Monica Rector, Committee Member
Kathryn Moore, Committee Member
Carol Kasworm, Committee Chair
Abstract: Situated in the social constructivist view of learning that an individual learns from social action and interaction, this qualitative study explores ways in which twelve working professionals were influenced by their experiences with in-country language immersion programs. Through semi-structured interviews and a constant comparative interpretation of data, the author delineates a broader understanding of the figural aspects of in-country immersions utilized for the specific purpose of enhancing personal effectiveness in professional careers. The experiences of the 12 working professionals in this study demonstrate that in-country language immersion can facilitate language and cross-cultural learning among motivated, focused adult learners. The effectiveness of such programs rests on several factors. First, the learners are lifted from their daily lives and immersed in an environment where they are forced to communicate and are given the opportunity to concentrate on their learning objectives. Second, they learn not only from formal teachers in the immersion schools, but also from myriad others in the surrounding community and from the setting itself. Third, the authentic setting provides a "living laboratory" in which participants can both improve language ability through relevant practice and also gain valuable insights into the culture through which the language is shaped. Fourth, the progress each individual makes depends on personal and emotional factors and purposeful efforts of the individual learner. Fifth, experiences and encounters provide ongoing motivation to learn and produce changes in the way working professionals interact and see themselves and others. Finally, participants learn more than simply the mechanics of language; the learning during in-country immersion affects the whole person and occurs in three interrelated and recurring phases of isolation, interaction, and integration. The author urges prospective program designers and participants to utilize in-country language immersion as contextual learning that derives its primary benefits from intensity, focus, and environment. A list of guidelines is provided for practitioners and participants to explore the potential of in-country immersions as language and cross-cultural vehicles for working professionals.
Date: 2006-11-07
Degree: EdD
Discipline: Adult and Community College Education
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/3485

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