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Abstract

This study explores the ways first-, second-, and third-year college students (n=352) perceived their likely attainment of 19 morpho-syntactic, phonological, pragmatic, and lexical features of German. Analyses further differentiated perceptions by the learner variables of year of enrollment, gender, achievement, motivation for language study, focus in class, experience with native speakers, and travel abroad. Results indicate experiential variables, particularly achievement and authentic experiences, to be of primary importance in shaping learners’ expectations. Grammatical features, especially nominal morphology, subjunctive, and passive were considered particularly difficult to attain, and more advanced learners were overall more optimistic than their less experienced peers. Learners’ belief in their eventual ability to use language in a socially appropriate manner was associated with actual or desired authentic experiences. The study concludes with a discussion of how learners’ imaginings of their future, more proficient selves can benefit from connections with a language-using community.