Studying Spanish in Texas: an exploration of the attitudes and motivation of Anglos
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Motivation has been widely studied in the field of second language learning as one of the most important predictors of linguistic proficiency. Initial studies suggested that socio-cultural factors such as attitudes toward the target group were strongly associated with a desire to learn and the effort expended in learning the target language. Though a second wave of studies emphasized more individual contributions to learner motivation, there has recently been a return to a more contextualized view of learning and the role that motivation plays within a given social context. The present study examines the specific socio-cultural context of the Southwestern U.S. in which Anglos, the dominant socio-linguistic group, have chosen to study Spanish, a minority language. Analyses address intensity of motivation, attitudes toward Spanish and Spanish speaking populations, and motivational orientations; this study also examines issues of social distance and discusses differences in perception regarding Spain and Mexico based on self-report questionnaires from the participants involved. Results indicate that Anglo learners of Spanish are moderately motivated to learn Spanish; though they responded quite positively on items related to desired fluency, participants do not seem necessarily willing to invest the time and effort required to achieve that fluency. Findings suggest that participants have somewhat neutral attitudes toward the Spanish language and Spanish speakers. Participants seem generally positive about the need for English speakers to understand and appreciate Hispanic culture; they are more reticent, however, on issues of language learning responsibilities. It also appears that participants have slightly more negative perceptions of Mexico than of Spain. In addition, results show that motivational intensity is moderately associated with attitudes, supporting many of the initial studies of motivation in language learning that found that more positive attitudes are associated with higher levels of motivation. Although many participants responded that they were only taking Spanish courses to fulfill the language requirement, they also seemed to recognize that there were other compelling reasons to study Spanish. Participants indicated that the usefulness of Spanish was the most important reason for studying the language and that a desire to have a more personal connection with the target group and culture was the least important reason.