Factoring in previous study of other foreign languages when designing introductory courses

Magnan, Sally Sieloff
Frantzen, Diana
Worth, Robin
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Thompson & Heinle
A theory of articulation for foreign language (FL) programs must consider factors that differentiate students in courses.This empirical study identifies one factor affecting horizontal and vertical articulation of first-semester French, Spanish, and Italian courses: whether students new to the language of the current class have experience studying another FL at the post-secondary level.This new variable—no other college language (NOCL) versus other college language (OCL)—was used to determine (1) whether NOCL and OCL students differ in anxiety level and plans to continue language study, (2) if anxiety levels differ between OCLs who have studied another Romance language and those who have studied a non-Romance language, and (3) classroom factors that foster comfort. Students completed a questionnaire including the Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale (Horwitz, Horwitz, and Cope 1986), MacIntyre and Gardner Anxiety Subscales (1989, 1994), demographic information, and an open question. Statistical analyses revealed that although neither group was extremely anxious, NOCLs were significantly more anxious than OCLs and NOCLs taking Spanish experienced significantly more anxiety than those taking French and Italian. There were significant differences for NOCLs and OCLs on the Input, Processing, and Output subscales, with significantly higher Input anxiety for Spanish than Italian students and significantly higher Processing anxiety for Spanish than for French or Italian students. No significant difference in anxiety was found between OCLs who had studied a Romance language and those who had studied a non-Romance language.No significant difference was found between NOCLs and OCLs in their plans to continue studying the language. Student-identified sources pointed to the importance of instructors and classmates in creating a comfortable classroom. Interview comments from randomly selected students reinforced these findings. The chapter concludes by suggesting that this new factor be considered part of interdisciplinary articulation:each language, like each discipline a student studies, affects learning other FLs subsequently.
Magnan, S.S., Frantzen, D., Worth, R. (2004). Factoring in previous study of other foreign languages when designing introductory courses. The American Association of University Supervisors, Coordinators and Directors of Foreign Languages Programs (AAUSC), 149-171. http://hdl.handle.net/102015/69615
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