Student Beliefs about their Foreign Language Instructors: A Look at the Native Speaker/Non-Native Speaker Issue

by Ferguson, Angela.

Abstract (Summary)
Research on student attitudes and motivation is extensive (Schumann, 1978; Gardner, 1989). Student beliefs, although less researched, have also been studied (Woods, 1996). Student beliefs towards their instructor’s native language could have an influence on their language study by impacting their language learning attitudes and motivation. While the native speaker (NS)/non-native speaker (NNS) distinction has been widely discussed in the English as a Second Language (ESL1) context worldwide (Medgyes, 1992; Phillipson, 1992; Canagarajah, 1999), research pertaining to the foreign language (FL) teaching context in the United States is nearly nonexistent. This study contributes to the body of knowledge concerning the NS/NNS instructor dichotomy by focusing on the NNS FL teacher in the United States. The goal of the investigation is to learn about the belief systems of American2 university students about what they believe are the general advantages and characteristics of NS and NNS instructors, as well as if they believe NS or NNS instructors are better instructors of specific areas of language study. Their preference for NS or NNS instructors is also examined. General relationships between the student characteristics of 1) being a Spanish major or minor and 2) having an interest to live in a Spanish-speaking country and 1) NS/NNS instructor superiority belief and 2) preference for NS or NNS instructors are also explored. The instructors’ beliefs about language learning are compared to those 1 “ESL” will be used to denote both ESL and EFL situations. Any instance in which “EFL” is used specifies EFL teaching from ESL instruction. 2 “American student” is used to distinguish students born and raised in the United States and does not include international students temporally studying in the United States. 15 of their students. Classroom observations were completed to provide a descriptive component of the teachers’ comportment in the classroom. Data were collected through questionnaires administered to NS and NNS Spanish instructors and students enrolled in first or second-year Spanish courses at the University of Arizona; interviews with Spanish instructors and students; and classroom observations. The data were analyzed and general findings emerged related to students’ beliefs of NS or NNS instructors. Data show that a majority of students do not believe NS or NNS are better overall and also do not have a general preference but rather have beliefs about what should be included in the language classroom. Implications for FL programs, instructors, students, teacher development, and future studies are provided. 16
Bibliographical Information:


School:The University of Arizona

School Location:USA - Arizona

Source Type:Master's Thesis



Date of Publication:

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