Assessing the Impact of Short-Term Study Abroad on L2 Learners' Attitudes Towards Spanish
Language attitudes, a multifaceted construct, can be broadly defined as evaluative views of a language and other relevant entities, including its speakers and associated cultures. Language attitudes are influential in second language (L2) acquisition as they relate to language learning motivation and achievement, perseverance in language study, and language learning behavior (Dewaele, 2009; Gardner, 1985; Gardner, Lalonde, & Moorecroft, 1985; Gardner & Lambert, 1972; Gardner, Tremblay, & Masgoret, 1997). It is critical to investigate language attitudes development in different learning contexts, and study abroad in particular, due to the growing popularity of international programs and their increasing institutional support (Chieffo & Griffiths, 2009; Institute of International Education’s Open Doors Report, 2015). The goal of this project thus was to 1) examine the concept of attitudes as they relate to language and L2 learning and subsequently 2) assess the impact of short-term study abroad participation on language attitudes of L2 learners. Based on a review of the literature, it was found that previous analyses of language attitudes of L2 learners were often limited in their scope or they addressed language attitudes along with another concept such as motivation. Therefore, a questionnaire was developed called the Language Attitudes Questionnaire for Language Learners (LAQ-LL) that allowed for more thorough analysis of L2 learners’ attitudes while also isolating the variable of attitudes. The new, empirically validated language attitudes questionnaire comprised three subscales, labeled “Language learning experience”, “Sociocultural appeal”, and “Value of multilingualism”. To assess the impact of short-term study abroad on language attitudes, a pre- and post-program design was used, and participants responded to the LAQ-LL at the beginning and end of their study abroad programs. In addition to the LAQ-LL, the Perceived Influences Questionnaire (PIQ) (adapted from Wright, 1999) was used to explore the influences on language attitudes reported by the students. Open-ended questions were used to elicit language attitudes and gather more details about student experiences during study abroad as expressed in their own words. The results of this study demonstrated that participation in study abroad leads to development of more positive attitudes in relation to “Language learning experience”. Students also ranked study abroad experience as the most positive influence on their language attitudes. Finally, students’ accounts of their experiences showed that during study abroad their self-confidence increased, language skills improved, and they enjoyed applying their skills in real-world situations. These results, showing that study abroad is a context that is conducive to fostering positive affective outcomes, have important implications for L2 learners and teachers as well as those who lead, support, and promote short-term study abroad programs.
Czerwionka, Purdue University.
Linguistics|Foreign language education
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