Advisor

John Hellermann

Date of Award

Fall 11-30-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

Department

Applied Linguistics

Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 92 pages)

Subjects

English language -- Study and teaching -- Foreign speakers, Identity (Psychology), Multilingualism

DOI

10.15760/etd.5943

Abstract

Within the population of adult English-language learners in the United States, the largest portion is comprised of Spanish speakers from Mexico and Central and South America. At the same time, Spanish is the second-most commonly spoken language in the U.S., and an increasing presence in U.S. media and culture. This puts English learners from this demographic in a unique position with respect to language and culture acquisition and the experience of working towards their goals within U.S. society at large.

The purpose of this study is to explore motivations and beliefs about language and culture held by a small number English-language learners belonging to this huge, diverse community. Drawing on theory from the fields of second language acquisition and sociolinguistics, a survey eliciting opinions about cultural affiliation and language standards was created and versions in either English or Spanish were distributed to volunteers from this population living in Oregon. Fifty-two surveys were returned. The responses to the surveys were then compared with one another to examine any connections between participant beliefs about language value, cultural affiliation, and learning strategy preferences. Statistical comparisons were also carried out to determine whether certain orientations correlated with one another.

Analysis of the survey responses showed that while affiliation to United States culture was variable, all participants maintained at least a moderate feeling of affiliation to their home countries, despite twenty-seven, or just over half, of them having lived in the U.S. for over ten years. However, all but one of the participants were also interested in learning about U.S. culture and thirty-nine believed in the possibility of being part of more than one culture at a time. Participants were more likely to prefer collaborative strategies for learning about culture, but for learning language they preferred individual strategies, and had a general low estimation of the utility of non-standard forms of language, including non-standard English and Spanglish. A moderate negative correlation (Spearman p=.521) that was statistically significant (p=.001) was found between the degree to which participants had a multicultural affiliation and their beliefs about the importance of knowing non-standard forms of English.

While the participating sample is too small and opportunistic for the findings to be generalizable, from the results of the surveys it can be concluded that: multicultural affiliation is something that can be (and is) experienced to varying degrees by some language learners in this population sample; individual learning strategies seem preferred for learning language; and non-standard English is not considered as valuable as standard English. Additionally, a negative correlation between multicultural affiliation and the perceived importance of knowing non-standard English is suggested. These findings may have implications for language instructors and others who wish to investigate the motivations, priorities, and language beliefs of adult English students from this particular demographic.

Persistent Identifier

http://archives.pdx.edu/ds/psu/23378

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