For anyone studying a modern foreign language here in the UK, the year abroad serves as an integral and exciting opportunity to further one’s language ability and become a ‘European citizen’. On return home, we soon establish that everyone has changed in some way as a result of this sojourn; some appear calmer, others more anxious, and some making more linguistic gain than others. This study aims to takes this observation and empirically test it.
Using experience sampling methodology, personality will be measured across a sample of sojourners completing their year abroad in Germany in order to map if (and how) personality fluctuates across the period abroad using the ‘big-five’ model of personality. These changes will be measured both in the short term (i.e. how personality changes across a single day or week) and longitudinally (whereby less frequent measures are taken over a period of months) using Density Distribution modelling. In doing so, it is hoped psycholinguists can begin to establish how the year abroad serves as a crucial life event in the personality development of young adults.
Moreover, linguistic measures will also be taken during the period abroad and together with personality change will be compared to a suitable comparison group using a quasi-experimental study design. Due to the year abroad being compulsory in the UK, an RCT is not possible. By taking these linguistic measures, it is hoped to better understand how personality serves as a key individual difference in linguistic gain. Can changes in a certain trait be attributed to greater or lesser development of linguistic ability? The study aims to be completed in 2020 and it is hoped such finding can improve the quality and effectiveness of workshops for pre-year abroad sojourners.