2022 Gruener Research Travel Award Recipient, Hongni Gou, Second Language Acquisition & Teaching GIDP

The Graduate Interdisciplinary Programs (GIDP) started the Raphael and Jolene Gruener Research Travel Award in 2011. The Grueners have been tireless supporters of interdisciplinary research and education at the University of Arizona. They are also well known for their love of travel. The Gruener Research Travel Award will support awards that fund student research travel, bringing together these two passions of the Grueners.

The award is intended to offset some of the costs associated with international or domestic travel expenses such as airfare, and meals. This is a meritorious award and will be granted on the competitive and innovative content of the statement submitted with the application. Awards are contingent upon the availability of funds. Students are eligible to receive a total of $1,000 per award year. Students may submit only one application per award year during the open application session: mid-February - mid-March.

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Hongni Gou

Hongni is a doctoral candidate in the Second Language Acquisition and Teaching GIDP Program. For the Gruener Research Travel Award, Hongni plans to visit Chongqing, China to perform their research project titled "African Students' L2 Chinese Acquisition in Long-Term Study Abroad (in China): A Pilot Study".

Project Summary

"As a pilot study for my dissertation research, the study aims to explore L2 Chinese learners’ language acquisition in study abroad (SA). While a limited number of studies have shed some light on the various aspects of L2 Chinese learning in this context, most studies have narrowly focused on White American students, leaving other student populations largely under-examined. Besides, most studies predominantly focused on short-term SA programs located in Beijing and Shanghai, the two most internationalized and economically developed cities although other cities have also attracted many international students (especially African students) to pursue higher education in China. Considering the linguistic complexities of different locations in China, this pilot study will be conducted at a university located in Chongqing, a Southwest city in China that has been receiving a rapidly growing body of students from Africa due to the expansion of Sino-African relations. Focusing on the African international student population at this university, the study aims to explore how the study abroad experiences mediate these students’ Chinese language learning. More specifically, in an exploratory manner, this research aims to answer the following questions:

  1.  What are the students’ perceptions of learning the Chinese language and choosing China as a study abroad destination?
  2. How do international students from Africa are socialized into and the social and cultural norms in the host community through learning the Chinese language?
  3. How do their social identities interact with their learning of Chinese?

I consider this travel very critical for doing this study. To best answer these questions, I will conduct an ethnographic study which requires me to do a large amount of fieldwork such as constantly observing how their day-to-day study abroad life shapes their understanding of both the language and culture in the local community, particularly, how the students learn the Chinese language in and out of the classroom settings through formal education and authentic social interactions. Besides, I also plan to conduct in- depth interviews with the students and people in their social networks such as their teachers and friends. All the data collection processes will require my presence on the research site. I also believe that in-person communication will foster a close relationship between me (the primary researcher) and my participants, which will allow me to gain
more insights into the research questions.

Due to the extreme scarcity of existing literature focusing on these questions situated in this context, how the target students learn Chinese as a second language in this particular setting is still largely unknown, which is also why currently the research questions are still quite broad. However, I believe the completion of the pilot study will help me gain a deeper understanding of the research context and thus formulate a more focused research question for my dissertation research that will commence in the Fall of 2022. Therefore, traveling to China and conducting this pilot study may not only fill the above-stated gaps in this line of research but also lay a solid foundation for my dissertation research." - Hongni Gou, SLAT PhD Student, 2022