Beginning Foreign Language Students’ Motivations and Expectations
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
Dr. Lourdes Sanchez-Lopez
Associate Professor of Spanish and Foreign Language Education, Foreign Languages and Literatures, University of Alabama at Birmingham