In this mixed-methods study, we explore the relationship between American students' Mandarin fluency development and their language use with their host families during a semester. Living with a local family is often considered beneficial for L2 learning. Yet, the quality of interaction and learning outcomes vary greatly. Moreover, little is known about American students' interaction with Chinese host families.
Twenty-five American study abroad students living with Chinese families participated in the project. In this presentation, we focus on two students – one with the most fluency gains ("Adam") and the other with a decreased speech rate over time ("Sam"). Using a case study approach, we find Adam's conversations involved a range of topics beyond food, while Sam almost only talked about food and his language remained simple. Based on our results, we conclude with suggestions on how to better engage students in authentic language use situations such as dinnertime conversations.