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A Ten-Year Chronicle of Student Attitudes Toward Foreign Language in the Elementary School

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Abstract

This article reports the results of 2 studies conducted over a 10-year period that researched student attitudes toward early foreign language learning. These studies are unique because of the long time frame in which the students were followed, and the large data sets collected at the elementary school level. Surveys of students in the Foreign Language in the Elementary Schools (FLES) programs examined the attitudes of all children in 2 school systems in North Carolina: one suburban and one urban. The students studied either French or Spanish. The number of responses to the survey questions ranged from 22,549 to 52,227 for a 4-year period. The results indicated that boys and girls had positive attitudes when responding to 2 questions about enjoyment of their FLES classes and teachers. The girls were positively inclined, and the boys were neutral, in their desire to continue with foreign language study in the next grade. Two items about the use of foreign language outside the school venue and comprehension of foreign language teacher input revealed negative attitudes for both genders.

As a follow-up to the quantitative study, qualitative data about attitudes toward foreign language speakers, foreign cultures, and their own education with respect to foreign language study were gathered through structured interviews. The participants were the same students who had completed the original surveys 10 years earlier. In corroboration of the quantitative data, a qualitative analysis revealed that, for a majority of the students, foreign language study was viewed positively, as were foreign language speakers and their cultures.

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