Don’t forget about us : African-American collegiate students’ newfound perspectives on foreign language motivation, foreign language anxiety, and their beliefs about foreign language learning




Gatlin, Nicholas Sherrod

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This study investigates African-American college students’ beliefs about foreign language learning, foreign language anxiety, motivations for language learning, and the extent to which the racial composition of a campus environment plays a role in those factors. 571 students across four universities completed three survey instruments: modified versions of the Beliefs About Language Learning Inventory (Horwitz, 1986), the Academic Motivation Scale (Vallerand et al., 1992) respectively, the Foreign Language Classroom Academic Scale (Horwitz et al., 1986), and three open-ended questions on being African-American and learning a foreign language. Findings noted that one of three motivation factors for language learning was significantly different for campus environment. Post-hoc analyses indicated that participants at HBCUs were less likely to be the least motivated by short-term extrinsic goals for learning a foreign language than those at a PWI. African-American participants reported higher levels of foreign language anxiety than mixed groups of participants in previous studies and there were no significant differences in foreign language anxiety regarding campus environment and gender; but, there were significant differences for academic classification and the individual universities. Two of three motivation factors correlated with foreign language anxiety. Long Term Intrinsic: Discovery and Satisfaction—had a positive relationship with anxiety only at Predominantly White Institutions (PWI), whereas, Short Term Extrinsic: Minimal Investment had a negative relationship with foreign language anxiety at both PWIs and HBCUs, This factor also had the highest relationship with anxiety. The beliefs analysis indicated that African-American college students across campus environments displayed more similarities in their beliefs about foreign language learning than differences. Findings also noted few differences when compared to prior studies with other language learner groups. The belief category “African-American Expectations,” noted that African-Americans strongly believe that they are capable of learning a foreign language, and that learning a foreign language would benefit them in the future. The open-ended questions provided a wide range of perspectives to several of the beliefs about language learning, as well as motivation and anxiety from African-American college students. One major theme that emerged from the analysis focused on pressures African-American students face in the foreign language classroom.



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