In conducting this qualitative study my objective was to answer the following research question: What motivates high school students to enroll in Spanish classes? In addition, I examined these three related questions: 1) How do students decide to continue to study Spanish?; 2) What do students like most and least about their language-learning experience?; and 3) How do students' attitudes about their language-learning experience affect their decision to continue study? In addressing these questions, I investigated the work of noted researchers in the field of foreign language motivation including, R.C Gardner, R. Oxford, J. Shearin, and Z. Dornyei.
The site of my study was a large suburban high school (grades 10-12) with a significant Hispanic population in the Pacific Northwest. The participants in my research were students enrolled in Spanish classes levels 1 through 5. I gathered information by collecting anonymous surveys and conducting informal interviews with students in all levels of Spanish. Care was taken to ensure the privacy of the subjects of my research and all participants have been given pseudonyms in the final study.
Upon careful examination of the data I collected, I noticed trends in the survey and interview responses. Students' reasons for enrolling in Spanish were varied, and could not be traced to one or two single factors. Additionally, it cannot be said that students in the beginning levels of Spanish had completely different motivations than those in the upper levels. In short, what I discovered is that the participants of my research are generally aware that Spanish is becoming an increasingly important language in the United States, and that is why many choose it over a different foreign language. At the same time, they are fulfilling their college admission/graduation requirements and some are fulfilling a personal goal.
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