This paper examines the pragmatic development of nine German university students in a study abroad context over the period of one academic year. The investigation focuses on learners' ability to soften the illocutionary force of request utterances by employing a range of external modifiers. Data for the present investigation were elicited at three distinct points of the learners' sojourn in the target language environment: shortly after their arrival, in the middle of their stay and shortly before they returned home to Germany. The data were collected with the help of the Multimedia Elicitation Task (MET) which had been specifically designed for the present study. The MET is a computer based instrument that contains 16 request scenarios. The study examines whether learners varied the use of external modifiers according to the status of their interlocutors and/or the imposition of the request. It also investigates whether their choice of modifiers over time seems to have been influenced by exposure to their L2 in the study abroad context by comparing the data of the German learners of English in England to data collected from 13 German learners of English in Germany with no study abroad experience and also to 15 British English native speakers.