Motivational state and process within the sociolinguistic context : an Anglo-French comparative study of school pupils learning foreign languages
The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of the socio-cultural environment upon the motivation school children have to learn foreign languages. Motivation was therefore considered from a sociolinguistic, rather than from a psycholinguistic perspective, giving primary importance to contextual, as opposed to personal factors. In order to examine the degree of relationship between motivational intensity and the contextual factors of parental attitudes, amount of foreign language exposure and the employment related value of foreign language learning (FLL), data obtained from school children living in two distinct sociolinguistic environments (Mulhouse, France and Walsall, England) were compared and contrasted. A structured sample drawn from pupils attending schools in Mulhouse and Walsall supplied the data base for this research. The main thrust of the study was quantitative in approach, involving the distribution of almost 1000 questionnaires to pupils in both towns. This was followed up by the use of qualitative methods, in the form of in-depth interviews with an individually matched sample of over 50 French/English pupils. The findings of the study indicate that FLL orientations, attitudes and motivation vary considerably between the two sociolinguistic environments. Levels of motivation were generally higher in the French sample than in the English one. Desire to learn foreign languages and a commitment to expend effort in order to fulfil this desire were key components of this motivation. The study also found evidence to suggest that the importance accorded to FLL by the socio-cultural context, communicated to the child through the socialisation agents of the family, the mass media and prospective employers, is of key importance in FLL motivation.