Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Measuring the Impact of Instruction in Intercultural Communication on Secondary Spanish Learners' Attitudes and Motivation

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Measuring the Impact of Instruction in Intercultural Communication on Secondary Spanish Learners' Attitudes and Motivation

Article excerpt


Researchers have reported conflicting data concerning students' motivation to learn foreign languages and their attitudes toward foreign language study in the United States. On the one hand, Rivers, Robinson, Harwood, and Brecht (2013) reported wide-spread grassroots support for the study of languages other than English: In a 2008 nationwide survey, 80% of adult respondents agreed or strongly agreed "that children in the United States should learn a second language fluently before they finish high school" (p. 333). On the other hand, scholars have also suggested that contextual factors may work to reduce students' motivation to study languages other than English; such factors may include perceived geographical isolation and a sense of cultural and/or linguistic superiority (Acheson, 2004), the global rise of English as a lingua franca (Anderson, 2000; Gass & Selinker, 2001; Mantle-Bromley, 1997), English-only movements (Wiley, 2004), the persistence of language-based discriminatory practices (Lippi-Green, 2012), the widespread acceptability of mock Spanish1 (Hill, 2008), and the sensitive history and politics of immigration in the United States (Fishman, 2004; Lippi-Green, 2012).

While several studies have investigated learners' self-reported attitudes toward languages and language learning at the elementary level (Cort^es, 2002) and at the postsecondary level (Cochran, McCallum, & Bell, 2010; Martin, 2009), few studies have investigated the impact of an intercultural communication (ICC) curriculum on secondary learners' attitudes toward, and motivation for, language study. The study reported here utilized an experimental repeated-measures design to compare the motivation and attitudes toward languages and cultures of two control groups with data obtained from a treatment group for whom the standard Spanish language curriculum was supplemented with activities that addressed the practices, products, and perspectives of culture and that emphasized the development of intercultural competence.

Review of Literature

Researchers in the field of foreign and second language pedagogy have long argued that language and culture are intricately connected (Cl^ement, 1986; Deuroornyei & Cl^ement, 2001; Kramsch, 1991; Lambert, 1991). Scholars such as Kramsch (1993) have suggested that it is difficult, if not impossible, to understand the complexities of another culture without understanding its language(s), and that it is equally problematic to try mastering a language abstracted from the culture(s) in which it is used: "Culture in language learning is not an expendable fifth skill. It is always in the background,rightfrom dayone...makingevident the limitations of [students'] hard-won communicative competence" (p. 1). In addition, this understanding of the interconnectedness of language and culture has encouraged the development of instructor resources, strategies, and approaches for bridging the gap between language and culture in the classroom (Byram & Grundy, 2003; Heusinkveld, 1997; Valdes, 1986). Morgan and Cain (2000) provided an excellent example of one such praxis-oriented text.

So as to better understand the relationship between language and culture, a number of researchers have investigated the connection2 between students' attitudes toward cultures associated with the language studied and the success of the language acquisition process (Gardner & Lambert, 1972; Gass & Selinker, 2001; Huguet, 2006; Skehan, 1989). For example, Gardner (1991) claimed that even for students who exhibited many critical features that have been deemed to support language learning, including language aptitude, age, and extent or type of input and instructor, "if you didn't like the other language community, you could never really learn their language" (p. 43).

Gardner and Lambert (1972) specified two different, complementary, and not mutually exclusive motivational orientations to language study: instrumental and integrative. …

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