Macquarie University
01whole.pdf (2.96 MB)

Japanese EFL Learners’ Development of Interactional Competence in the Study Abroad Context

Download (2.96 MB)
posted on 2024-02-15, 03:03 authored by Satoko Nishimura

In Japanese higher education, a notable discrepancy exists between students' participation in English-speaking activities (such as English conversation, interpreter workshops, and business debates) and their ability to effectively articulate thoughts in English. This observation underscores the necessity for English programs at Japanese universities to prioritize communication and provide L2 learners with opportunities to study abroad, a solution central to this research. Tullock and Ortega (2017) emphasize that such overseas experiences expose students to meaningful interaction with native speakers (NSs), offering immersive learning experiences absent in traditional language classrooms. This study addresses the question: What makes a study abroad context unique in terms of English as a foreign language (EFL) learners’ interactional competence (IC) development? Diverging from the conventional view of communicative competence (CC) as a static individual trait, Hall and Pekarek Doehler (2011) highlight IC as a dynamic, context-dependent construct developed through collaborative interactions, crucial for achieving L2 proficiency. The research examines the progression of IC in ten Japanese EFL learners during a five-month study program in the US or Canada, utilizing video recording of informal conversations, post-conversation interviews, and diary entries. These materials are analyzed using conversation analysis (CA) techniques to identify changes in interactional (e.g., turn-taking, repair) and linguistic resources (e.g., grammar, vocabulary), aiming to provide empirical evidence on the developmental changes in learners’ IC and assess the efficacy of study abroad programs in enhancing language competence. The findings reveal nuanced insights into the language learning experiences of Japanese L2 learners. Participants naturally acquired turn-taking mechanisms, such as transitional overlaps, and engaged in other-initiated repair (OIR), especially with unfamiliar lexical items. This underscores the dynamic nature of language learning, where interactional resources are crucial for assimilating linguistic knowledge. The study also notes the impact of speaker groups and interpersonal relations on Japanese L2 learners’ language use, with these factors contributing to evaluation inconsistencies and challenging the notion of linear progress in English acquisition. Qualitative thematic analyses of interviews and journals provide deeper insights into participants’ personal experiences and the complexity of their language learning journeys. Factors such as their relationship with interlocutors and communication difficulties underscore the multifaceted subjective elements influencing language learning. The study also emphasizes the significant roles of both interactional and linguistic resources in the joint construction of meaning in language learning. Linguistic resources are not solely based on the formal aspects of language but also require adaptation of speech and actions for mutual understanding. The progression in these resources was found to be uneven, and simply interacting with NSs was insufficient for efficient development of IC. Data from interviews and journals suggest that the quality of participation in conversations is a more important factor in the development of L2 learners’ IC. Notably, despite participants feeling that their oral proficiency improved through conversations, their self-evaluations were not consistently supported by the results of the CA. This discrepancy offers a new perspective in the study of language learning during study abroad and underscores the importance of further investigation to understand the complexities of this phenomenon. Despite similar backgrounds, the individual study abroad experiences of the participants led to diverse developments in L2 IC. The study’s results did not show consistent progress over time. Nevertheless, the research revealed several key insights. The most important finding is that, even if the qualitative development of participants’ interactions did not progress over time, consistent language learning occurred during interactions with NSs. Learning was observed in four domains: morphosyntactic and particularly lexical, turn-taking, repair, and recipient design. A further significant insight is the conceptualization of IC not as a static trait, but as a co-constructed entity, emphasizing that the development of L2 IC is a complex, dynamic, non-linear, and socially situated process. Significantly, although participants demonstrated enhancement in certain aspects of linguistic resources, such improvement was not always mirrored in the progression of interactional resources, underscoring the complex interplay between these two facets.


Table of Contents

CHAPTER ONE Introduction to the Study -- CHAPTER TWO Literature Review -- CHAPTER THREE Methodology -- CHAPTER FOUR Developing Interactional Resources of Turn-taking -- CHAPTER FIVE Developing Linguistic Resources of Grammar in Repair -- CHAPTER SIX Summary, Conclusions, and Implications – References -- Appendices

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Doctor of Philosophy

Department, Centre or School

Department of Linguistics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Mehdi Riazi

Additional Supervisor 1

Scott Barnes

Additional Supervisor 2

Adam Smith


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:




268 pages

Usage metrics

    Macquarie University Theses


    Ref. manager