Vietnamese International Students’ Out-of-Class Language Learning Experiences While Studying English in Australia
The increasing emphasis on the importance of life-long education has indicated that language learning is no longer restricted to the classroom. Out-of-class learning constitutes an important context for autonomy development (Benson, 2011; Nunan, 1991; Oxford, 2003; Pickard, 1995), identity construction (Chik, 2008; Lai & Gu, 2011), motivation maintenance (Lamb, 2007), and successful language development (Norton Peirce, 1995; Norton & Toohey, 2001). However, despite the fact that language learning is always viewed as a preparation for real-life language uses, much more has been known about classroom-based language teaching and learning than what learners do and feel outside the classroom (Richards, 2015). This implies that out-of-class learning is an essential area of inquiry (Benson, 2011), which calls for more theoretical as well as empirical research (Nunan & Richards, 2015). In the era of globalization when more and more learners pursue an international education, Vietnamese international students are increasing in number worldwide, including in Australia. There has been a growing interest in investigating the experiences of international students; however, it tends to indicate international students as a single group and assume homogeneity. In addition, while the previous studies on second language learning in study abroad have largely focused on formal instruction in higher education, short-term or university exchange programs, inadequate attention was paid to out-of-class contexts of English pathway courses and language learners who recently arrived in the host country (Benson, Chappell & Yates, 2018). To fill the gap, this research explores the out-of-class experiences of a cohort of twelve Vietnamese international students in their early period of arrival in Australia as language learners. A qualitative research design was employed with the use of multiple data methods, including an initial survey, semi-structured in-depth interviews, diaries, artifacts, and researcher’s field notes. Narrative and thematic analysis was adopted as the analytic approaches. Guided by the ecological perspective, the findings reveal insights into the students‟ language learning environments beyond the classroom (e.g. campus, accommodation, workplace, social space, and virtual space) and their perceived opportunities that afforded English language use and learning in the aforementioned settings. It also features how the students exercised agency within the constraints (triggered from language factors, individual issues, psychological and social-cultural factors) to extend access to out-of-class language learning. From the view of poststructuralist theory on identity, the findings also indicate that the participants experienced identity development which included evolvement of self and personal identity, second language identity, socio-cultural and cross-cultural identity. Overall, the study suggests that despite being in the early arrival in the host country while struggling with a number of constraints and experiencing a discrepancy between their conception and the realities, the Vietnamese international students in this research generally expressed positive reflections on the quality of their experiences in the host country. Based on its findings, this study provides useful recommendations on how to improve learners‟ experiences and general implications for international education.