Student Attitudes Toward Foreign Language Study at Historically and Predominantly Black Institutions


  • James J. Davis (Ph.D., University of Maryland) is Associate Professor of Spanish and Foreign Language Education at Howard University, Washington, D.C.

  • Paul L. Markham (Ph.D., Ohio State University) is Associate Professor of Second Language Education at the University of Kansas, Lawrence.


ABSTRACT The purpose of the study was to assess the attitudes of first- and second-year foreign language students enrolled at historically and predominantly Black colleges and universities. Specifically, the researchers assessed student attitudes regarding foreign language study in general and attitudes toward the linguistic and cultural component of foreign language instruction. A secondary purpose of the study was to gather information from foreign language faculty and administrators concerning the current status of foreign language programs at the cooperating institutions. A total of 53, or 70% of the 76 targeted institutions, participated in the study in its entirety. Fifty-seven (75 %) of the administrators, 50 (60%) of the language faculty, and 810 (67%) of the students responded to the survey. Compared with earlier studies assessing African-American student attitudes toward foreign language study, the results revealed that the student respondents in this study perceived foreign language study as being less threatening to their own cultural identity, and they demonstrated greater awareness of the career benefits of foreign language study. On the minus side, many students expressed considerable dissatisfaction with the limited development of speaking ability, the lack of emphasis on cultural information, particularly conferring the Black experience in the target language culture, the limited amount of attention given to addressing individual students' needs and learning styles, and the restricted amount of time allowed for mastering the new language material. The article concludes with several recommendations for improving the status of foreign language education at Black colleges and universities.