Study abroad has been shown to improve students' linguistic and cultural competence, but students who gain their fluency abroad may struggle to adapt to the plethora of regional dialects they encounter in their studies and interactions after they've returned from their study abroad. The researchers of this study posited that learning Spanish in a domestic immersion context may improve a student's flexibility or tolerance for dialectal variation in regard to listening comprehension. Using a detailed survey and multi-dialectal listening assessment, the researchers examined the degree to which Spanish language learners, in this case 183 missionaries, were exposed to a variety of dialects, whether this exposure varied depending on region of study, and whether it affected their ability to comprehend a variety of accents. Significantly higher levels of variation were found in Spain, the U.S., and Canada, possibly due to the higher levels of Hispanic immigration to these regions. A comparison of Spain, the region with the highest average test score, and Mexico, the region with the lowest average test score, showed high practical significance (d=.8), suggesting that high levels of linguistic variation in the region of study may improve listening comprehension of multiple dialects. Pearson correlations between exposure to variation and listening test score were also positive. The researchers believe this is grounds for increased support of immersion programs both domestic and abroad, especially to areas such as Spain with high levels of linguistic diversity.



College and Department

Humanities; Spanish and Portuguese



Date Submitted


Document Type





study abroad, immersion programs, listening comprehension, second language learning, Spanish