Second Language Learning Motivations of Research Proposal

Excerpt from Research Proposal :

The acculturation model developed by Schumann (1978) consists of a taxonomy of variables that were developed based on the concept that both social (group) and affective (individual) variables are the primary causative variables as shown in Table __ below. In this regard, the term "acculturation" is used to refer to the learner's positive identification with, and hence social and psychological integration with, the target language group. For instance, Schumann notes that, "[T]he learner will acquire the second language only to the degree that he acculturates" (1978, p. 29).

Table

Taxonomy of variables influencing second-language acquisition

Variable

Examples

Social Factors

Dominance; Nondominance; Subordination; Assimilation; Acculturation; Preservation; Enclosure; Cohesiveness; Size; Attitude; Intended Length of Residence in Target Language Area.

Affective Factors

Language Shock; Culture Shock; Motivation; Ego-permeability.

Personality Factors

Tolerance for Ambiguity; Sensitivity to Rejection; Introversion/Extroversion; Self-esteem.

Cognitive Factors

Cognitive Development; Cognitive Processes; Imitation; Analogy; Generalization; Rote memorization; Cognitive Style; Field Dependence; Category Width; Cognitive Interference; Monitoring.

Biological Factors

Lateralization; Transfer; Infrasystems.

Aptitude Factors

Modern Language Aptitude; IQ; Strephosymbolia.

Personal Factors

Nesting Patterns; Transition Anxiety; Reaction to Teaching Methods; Choice of Learning Strategies.

Input Factors

Frequency; Salience; Complexity; Type of Interlocutor.

Instructional Factors

Goals; Teacher; Method; Text; Duration; Intesity.

Source: Schumann (1986), p. 380

Sociologists such as Geert Hofstede have been studying the effects of cross-cultural differences between countries, and his analysis of cultural dimensions for Canada and China make it clear that there are some similarities in terms of the masculinity dimension but some rather significant differences between these two countries in terms of the other four dimensions as shown in Figure __ below (see Appendix a for complete descriptions of these five cultural dimensions).

Figure __. Comparison of Geert Hofstede's Five Cultural Dimensions for Canada and China

Key:

PDI:

Power Distance Index

IDV:

Individualism

MAS:

Masculinity

UAI:

Uncertainty Avoidance Index

LTO:

Long-Term Orientation

Source: Hofstede (2010) at http://www.geert-hofstede.com/hofstede_dimensions.php? culture1=14&culture2=18#compare

Clearly, there are some wide gaps between China and Canada in terms of cultural factors, but this does not necessarily mean that the adverse effects of acculturation will be as powerful in Canada as in other countries where multiculturalism is not as prominent or where the political and social environment is not as welcoming to different cultures. In Canada, at least, there is widespread acceptance and toleration for other cultures that may provide a great deal of incentive for non-heritage Chinese language learners to interact with heritage speakers as well as add to their chances of using their Chinese language skills in the workplace or in their personal lives. This point is made by Morrison (2009) who notes that, "A major factor in acculturation is also the host culture and its politics. In Canada, an integrationist perspective (simultaneously maintaining ethnic and civic identities) has become legislated into the multiculturalism policy" (p. 151).

One of the fundamental aspects of Gardner's research (1985) concerned what he termed "integrative motivation" (which parallels self-concept: external, above); this type of motivation can be summarized as being the desire to learn the target language based on positive feelings for the community to which that language belongs. According to Reynolds (1991), the notion of the integrative motive as originally proposed by Gardner and Lambert (1972) was viewed as being comprised of a spectrum of attitudes and motivation that affected an individual's desire to learn a second language. In this regard, three broad categories have been proposed as follows:

1. Integrativeness: This was viewed as involving attitudes toward the second language community as well as other groups. In the context of English Canadians learning French, the concept of integrativeness was assessed in terms of three measures: Attitudes toward French Canadians, Degree of Integrative Orientation, and Interest in Foreign Languages.

2. Attitudes toward the learning situation: This category involved attitudes toward the learning situation as measured in terms of Evaluation of the French Course and Evaluation of the French Teacher.

3. Motivation: The final component of the three categories concerned motivation. It was assessed in terms of the effort expended in learning French (Motivational Intensity), Desire to Learn French, and Attitudes toward Learning French. In this representation, integrativeness and attitudes toward the learning situation were viewed as determinants of motivation, while motivation was considered to be the major determinant of second language achievement. (Language aptitude was also seen as an important determinant, of course.) Other measures were considered during the earlier research as potential means of assessing these and/or other motivational aspects, but the preceding eight measures were the ones that ultimately became the central ones (Gardner, 1985).

As noted above, when combined with the interest one has towards language learning and integration into new communities in general and the desire to integrate into the specific community in question, integral motivation forms what Gardner called integrativeness. This, in turn, can be summarized as being one's general aptitude towards learning the target language in the new community in which you find yourself. Other factors do play a part, such as one's attitude toward specific and general learning situations, and factors paralleled to instrumental motivation (as also noted above), but they are all secondary to integral motivation.

Schumann's acculturation model (1978) was an early effort to identify the relevant factors that were involved in determining whether or not groups of learners, primarily ethnic minorities, have more of a propensity to learn the language of the majority population compared to others. From an educator's perspective, the first step involved in delivering second language instruction that would be effective is to determine what is motivating them to pursue a demanding course of instruction. According to Schumann (2004), "Any theory of second language requires the specification of a mechanism to account for the acquisition and development of second language (L2) knowledge and skills" (p. 1). To this end, Schumann expanded on previous research concerning the development of pidgin and interlanguage to develop two important concepts, (a) social distance and (b) psychological distance; these two concepts were used in an attempt to explain the internal barriers minority groups have that prevent their full integration, or acculturation, into dominant language and cultural communities. This viewpoint means that to the extent that the social and psychological distances are too great between the subordinate and dominant language and cultural groups will likely be the extent to which progress to full fluency in the L2 will not occur for members of the minority. The factors that Schumann identified as being mostly responsible for social distance and psychological distance are:

1. Attitudes toward social dominance / resistance;

2. Desires for assimilation / preservation;

3. Enclosure (isolation);

4. Cohesiveness of the minority group;

5. Size of the minority group; and,

6. Other individual factors such as intended length of residence.

The important point for the purposes of this analysis, though, is that, in contrast to the wider sociological viewpoints that are used to define and describe the concept of identity, the variables identified by Schumann concentrate on the obstacles to assimilation that result from minority groupings; however, the constraints caused by the dominant language and cultural groups are not considered in Schumann's acculturation model.

Although it has not been met with universal acceptance, Gardner and Schumann have still had a great deal of influence on second language education over the years. In fact, Ellis (1985) has described the acculturation model as being among the seven most significant second language acquisition theories and the concepts of motivation and acculturation have been frequently cited with regards to various theories concerning the so-called "good language learner" (Naimen, Frohlich, Stern & Todesco, 1978) and learner strategies (Oxford, 1990). Their work has also been important in SLE curriculum development (Brown, 2000). It is interesting to note that Gardner is still active academically and has just co-written a major 'meta-analysis' of his contribution to the field (Masgoret & Gardner, 2003). As noted above, not everyone is of a like mind when it comes to Gardner and Schumann's constructs about second language acquisition. For instance, Dornyei notes that Schumann's model has come under fire as of late, a development he terms an educational shift. This shift is due to the greater emphasis being placed on the educational application of acculturation. Likewise, Larsen-Freeman and Long (1991) have also criticized Schumann for being unclear as to the importance attached to the various variables in his model. This factor, they contend, makes the model unusable for classroom teachers. Despite these criticisms, the acculturation and motivation concepts introduced and refined by Gardner and Schumann and others have played a key role in the debate over how to best achieve successful academic outcomes in second language classrooms. A recent study by Lynch (2008) notes that, "Since its inception some three decades ago, the field of heritage language teaching has generally been pitched within a politics of difference. Scholars have emphasized important differences between heritage language learners and second language (L2) learners, laying the groundwork for a line of research and advocacy that has rightly emphasized the need for separate…

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