Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Robert C. Lafayette


The trend in foreign language learning reflects a move from "fragmented" language to "whole" language (Rigg 1991). It includes the individual as well as the social aspect of language acquisition; and the integration of language and culture. Student international exchange programs provide the ideal atmosphere for "whole" language learning and the integration of language and culture in total language and cultural immersion. Most research in international student exchange programs described the organization of the program or addressed a particular variable. There is a need for integrative "whole" research rather than "fragmented" research. The method chosen as most appropriate for this research is four ethnographic case studies of second language learning. The following questions were addressed: (a) what were the subjects' motives for participating in the foreign exchange program and for learning English? (b) What were the subjects' perceptions, feelings and attitudes towards Americans? (c) Did these change during their stay in the U.S.A.? (d) How and to what degree did the students develop communicative competence? The subjects are four senior High School foreign exchange students, one each from the Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Spain and Colombia. They were observed during a nine month period. Canale and Swain's (1980) integrative definition was used to study the emergence of communicative competence and its four parameters. The gains in grammatical competence were estimated with (a) T formula repeated-measure statistical design of the English Placement Test of the English Language Institute of the University of Michigan, taken at the beginning and at the end of the program. (b) Comparison of the students' oral interviews and written work used to assess improvement throughout the nine month period. (c) Students' self evaluation of their progress. The other parameters of communicative competence were assessed through methods congruent with ethnographic research. Data were collected through participant observation, interviews, questionnaires, biographies, etc. The method of analysis used included triangulation, constant study and recurring analysis of data in search for patterns, and comparison of notes from different observers.