Publication Date

Spring 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Hospitality, Recreation and Tourism Management


Randy Virden

Subject Areas

Recreation and tourism


This qualitative, exploratory study sought insight into how language affects the cultural tourism experience in the international tourism context. Data were obtained through semi-structured interviews of 13 student-travelers, who traveled with the San Jose State University's study-abroad programs. The analysis of the data was carried out within a socio-linguistic context using grounded theory methods. Findings indicated that travel motivations and the perception of significance of the language spoken at a destination were intimately connected. Further, the desire on the part of the student-travelers to experience the local culture affected the desire for interaction with the host population, which was in turn affected by the language skills of the tourists as well as the host population. Tourism experience was negatively or positively affected by the level of fluency of the student-travelers in the local language, which was affected by the place that the local language held within their initial travel motivations. Fluency in the local language was regarded as a facilitator of positive experiences, whereas lack of knowledge of the local language created a language barrier that inhibited positive experiences. Length of stay, which was a crucial common factor between all student-travelers, was an overarching factor that influenced the role that language played in the shaping of the tourism experiences of these student-travelers.

Included in

Tourism Commons