What languages do undergraduates study, and why?

Mary Hudgens Henderson, Miho Nagai, Weidong Zhang


Language attitudes and motivations are among the most important factors in language acquisition that condition the language learning outcomes. College students enrolled in first-semester and second-semester courses of Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish at a Midwest American university completed a survey eliciting instrumental motivations, integrative motivations, and language attitudes. The purpose of this study was to examine the perceptions the learners of that language(s) held and how their language attitudes and motivations correlate with specific world languages. There was strong interest in using Chinese and Spanish for careers, while participants in Japanese were more interested in using the language for personal enjoyment. American-raised participants take Spanish and Asian-raised students take Chinese and Japanese for much the same reasons, in that they perceive the languages to be easy. Implications for world language programs recruitment are discussed, along with what world language educators can do to take advantage of these pre-existing attitudes and motivations to deliver high quality instruction beyond simply grammar.


Chinese; Japanese; language attitudes; motivations; Spanish

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/plsa.v5i1.4704

Copyright (c) 2020 Mary Hudgens Henderson, Miho Nagai, Weidong Zhang

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Donate to the Open-Access Fund of the LSA

Linguistic Society of America

Advancing the Scientific Study of Language since 1924

ISSN (online): 2473-8689

This publication is made available for free to readers and with no charge to authors thanks in part to your continuing LSA membership and your donations to the open access fund.