Beginning Foreign Language Students’ Motivations and Expectations

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Many national colleges and universities in the United States have a foreign language (FL) requirement for their general curriculum, which usually translates into large programs. However, other universities do not require foreign language classes for the general curriculum for different reasons, and therefore, these programs are generally smaller. Nevertheless, most of these programs offer a large number of introductory sections in a variety of languages due to public demand. Unfortunately, the number of sections is often times reduced in the second semester, since many of the students decide to not continue studying languages at a higher level. In this presentation, the presenter will describe the results of a research study where a detailed survey was distributed to all beginning foreign language students in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures of a large public research university in the South of the country. The study aimed at finding answers to five main questions: (a) who beginning FL students are, (b) the main reasons that motivate them to take a FL, (c) the main reasons that motivate them to choose a particular language, (d) their expectations from the course, and (e) their desire, at that early stage, to continue studying languages in the future. The results of this study have been critical to find out information about the specific student population and their expectations of the program. Such findings will be pivotal to find new ways to improve FL curricula with the hope of retaining larger numbers of second semester candidates and, ultimately, FL majors.


Keywords: Foreign Language Learning, Foreign Language Education, Motivation, Expectations, Student Retention, Curriculum
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy; Student Learning, Learner Experiences, Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Lourdes Sanchez-Lopez

Associate Professor of Spanish and Foreign Language Education, Foreign Languages and Literatures, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Birmingham, AL, USA

Associate Professor of Spanish and Director of the Spanish for Specific Purposes Certificate program. Her research areas include: Second language acquisition; foreign language pedagogy; Spanish and TESOL; Spanish for specific purposes; Spanish language and culture; linguistics; teaching with technology. These involve receptive processes, oral production, language and culture, bilingualism and biculturalism and action research teaching/learning methodology. She is a co-author of an intermediate textbook and also Student Activity Manual for Houghton Mifflin titled Pueblos (2007). She is also co-author of the Transnational Classroom (TC)©, an innovative teaching methodology concept for foreign language and culture classrooms where through computer technology, peer teaching and learning, and a study abroad program, groups of students in different parts of the world are connected to learn about foreign languages and cultures while enhancing study abroad programs. Sánchez-López has published related articles in various scholarly national and foreign journals such as Hispania, The International Journal of Learning, Dimension, The Grove: Working Papers on English Studies, and Revista de Asociación de Licenciados y Doctores Españoles en Estados Unidos. Sánchez-López currently serves as President of the Alabama chapter of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese.

Ref: L09P0886