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Awad, G. (2014).

Motivation, persistence, and cross-cultural awareness: A study of college


students learning foreign languages. Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, 18(4),
97-116.
Introduction
With the rising trend of globalization and no-border economy, it is essential for American
students not only to be knowledgeable of other cultures but to be able to communicate with
people from these cultures as well. The scarcity of research studies exploring the constructs
surrounding college students foreign language learning warrants this study. Revealing these
constructs may further strengthen the foreign language programs which both assert the leadership
role of the United States and sustain its security.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to examine the motivation of college students enrolled in
foreign language classes at a Midwestern university. This study also investigates why some of
students decide to continue studying a foreign language beyond the academic requirement.
Moreover, it examines the influence of foreign language learning on students cross-cultural
awareness.
Research Questions
The author raised two research questions: What constructs influence college students
persistence in foreign language classes beyond the usual requirement? How does completing a
foreign language program influence students cross-cultural awareness?
Theoretical Base
Major theories of motivation studies in learning foreign language include socioeducational model, attribution theory, and the self-determination theory with its categories of

intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Based on the aforementioned theories and cross-cultural
awareness, this study investigated the motivation of foreign language college students and
aspects that spur them to prolong learning the language beyond the program requirements.
The study utilizes the aforementioned theories to determine why college students persist
in learning a foreign language; how students perceive their abilities of learning as related to their
close relationships with peers, instructors, and family members; and how learning foreign
language influence learners cultural awareness of other countries especially those where the
foreign language is spoken.
Method
Participants
Sixteen students were chosen based on instructors nominations to include several foreign
language programs from the Modern Language Department. Four students were selected from
each advanced level of Arabic, Chinese, French, and Spanish courses. Participants included 14
undergraduate and two graduate students with different majors such as international marketing,
political science, business, computer science, communication, English, French, and education.
Pseudonyms were used in this report to protect the confidentiality of the participants.
Data Collection
Qualitative data collection tools were used to examine aspects influencing the motivation
of college foreign language learners. These tools included classroom observations and open
ended interviews with students. Triangulation ensured the trustworthiness of the data. Member
checking and participant feedback were also employed to validate findings.
The primary data source for this study was in-depth interviews with sixteen college
students currently studying foreign languages beyond the requirements of their respective

programs. Before starting the semi-structured interviews, the participants filled a short
demographic survey. Follow up questions were used to clarify certain points and erase the sense
of the uncertainty that came with some vague answers. Several questions were added to the
interview protocols because of unanticipated topics raised by the participants. Each interview
lasted approximately one hour. Secondary data sources were researcher observation of some of
the foreign language classes. Triangulation of the data was based on the use of multiple sources
and member checks.
Taped interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed for patterns or themes. These
were organized into tentative categories and assigned a list of codes. The codes were later
categorized under the list of themes that emerged throughout data collection and analysis
processes. Initial themes not offering pertinent information to topics of persistence, motivation,
and cross-cultural awareness were eliminated. Categorization under finalized list of themes
helped in chunking data into meaningful sections that uncovered various dimensions of the case.
Results
Analysis of the data resulted in revealing several aspects influencing the motivation of
college foreign language learners. These included engagement elements in the foreign language
classrooms as an initial trigger of motivation, family and peer support, the role of the instructor
as a major motivator, instructional immediacy, and early exposure to the foreign language.
Participants shared their desire to know more about the culture of target language they studied
and expressed dissatisfaction about the insufficiency of cultural aspects in the textbooks.
Implications
Fun elements in the foreign language classrooms triggered participants initial motivation
and kept them interested in the content introduced in the classroom. As the participants

expressed how fun in the foreign language classroom has been a motivating element for them to
persist in their study, it is recommended that instructors integrate a certain amount of fun in their
instructional methods to keep students engaged and motivated. However, not all the participants
devalued seriousness. Some of them stressed the importance of seriousness to accomplish their
desired goals. Therefore, a mixture of educational fun activities and serious tasks can be the
right recipe for maintaining student motivation and academic performance at the same time.
Student participants expressed the importance of the support they get from the instructor
and their families to continue their endeavors of mastering the foreign language. Therefore, an
awareness of the influence of such support among instructors can be empowering for the
students. The family role can be influenced through organizing showcase activities where
students can bring a family member and share their learning. During these activities, instructors
can play an important role in raising the awareness of attending family members about their
potential roles in supporting the learners.
The role of the instructor as a major construct influencing students decision to continue
their language study was shared by all study participants. Instructional immediacy was another
motivating aspect that was highlighted in observations and interviews. Instructors choice of the
learning tasks and providing a safe learning environment were also stressed by the participants.
Therefore, creating a friendly relationship with students is highly recommended to keep them
motivated. Designing classroom activities appropriate and relevant to students level and
interests can be another aspect that teachers are advised to utilize.
The content in the curriculum is usually controlled by the instructors as they choose the
textbooks for the courses. However, not all available textbooks are satisfactory for student
participants expectations as lacking interesting activities and the basic language components.

Moreover, participants expressed dissatisfaction about the absence of culture aspects in the
textbooks. Instructors are encouraged to exert a more deliberate effort in choosing the textbooks
that meet the expectations of the students and to design extra material to supplement any
deficiency they find in these textbooks.
Early exposure to the foreign language also showed a great influence on all participants.
However, not all the experience was motivating as three of the participants expressed
dissatisfaction with the limited choice of languages they were offered in high school. Therefore,
more collaboration between the university and the school districts can offer other options for
students to choose from and to start studying the language of their choice at an early age.
Participants shared their desire to know more about the culture beyond the language they
study. They shared that their acquired knowledge about the culture not only changed their
attitude towards the countries of the target language but also influenced their goals behind
studying the foreign language. Field experience activities that require students to reach out to
nearby communities and share their experiences with their classmates can be beneficial in
satisfying that aspiration to keep them motivated.
Evaluation
The limited choice of the participants was the main factor that affected the study results.
The study findings are limited to the student participants selected from those enrolled in the
specific class. Hence, the results could only explain the case of these students and cannot be
generalized to students at other institutions. Future research may target a larger sample or utilize
findings of this study to generate a survey that may yield more generalizable results.
Therefore, lack of sufficient evidence and study sample limits the trustworthiness and
transferability of the findings and result of this study.