Learning to say 'you' in German: The acquisition of sociolinguistic competence in a study abroad context

Research output: Contributions to collected editions/worksChapterpeer-review


Learning to say ‘you’ in a foreign language may seem a rather straightforward and tedious task to the layperson. Many foreign language learners, however, know differently. Indeed, depending on the language in question, mastery of the address system of alanguage may represent a source of considerable difficulty. Time spent in the target speech community would appear to represent an ideal opportunity to acquire sociolinguistic competence in aspects of the second language (L2) such as the address system, given the accessibility of authentic input and the potentially extensive opportunities to use the target language. However, in the light ofa dearth of interlanguage sociolinguistic and – until recently – study abroad research, it is hardly surprisingly that little is known of the acquisition of L2 sociolinguistic competence during a sojourn in the target speech community.2 This is especially so forthe case of German as a foreign language. The present study reports on an investigation designed to address this need for interlanguage research in L2 sociolinguistics. Specifically, the study concerns a longitudinal report of the development of the L2 sociolinguistic competence of 33 Irish learners of German in their use of the address system over ten months (termed ‘a year abroad’ in an Anglo-Saxon context) spent studying in Germany.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLanguage Learners in Study Abroad Contexts
EditorsMargaret A. DuFon, Eton Churchill
Number of pages30
Place of PublicationClevedon
PublisherMultilingual Matters
Publication date18.01.2006
ISBN (Print)1-85359-851-8, 1-85359-852-6, 9781853598517
ISBN (Electronic)9781853598531
Publication statusPublished - 18.01.2006
Externally publishedYes