Sociocultural connections, language learning anxiety, and communities of practice: insights and perceptions of the adult online Spanish learner
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This dissertation investigated the perceptions and experiences of online adult language learners in higher education. This was a qualitative study of thirteen women enrolled in online Spanish courses at two south-central Texas institutions of higher education. Three findings emerged. Given the participants’ awareness of the social nature of language and their collective appreciation that language must be practiced orally to be acquired, they took responsibility for their learning by creating their own communities of practice with native Spanish speakers at work and at home. They bore the primary responsibility for their learning and shaped their acquisition contexts to include Spanish experts from their offline communities. This allowed the students to contextualize and personalize their new language knowledge and embody multiple learning roles. Language learning anxiety for these students was not located in the actual online learning tasks, but instead centered on socioculturally constructed understandings about language and their own personal and cultural connections to Spanish. The participants’ revealed the importance they place on demonstrating respect for culture through correct and precise language use. But instead of resulting in a barrier to their learning, the anxiety they experienced may have acted as an impetus in their continued Spanish study. Their insights into the sociocultural influences on language in formal and informal acquisition practices deepen our current understanding of foreign language affect and language learning anxiety. Finally, an in-depth analysis was done on the subgroup of participants identified as heritage language learners. Their belief in the cultural metanarrative of the “proper Tejana” led this group of south-central Texas women to reject the Texas-Spanish dialect, Tex-Mex. The need to acquire proper Spanish and to live linguistically and culturally in two distinct worlds of English and Spanish significantly affected their acquisition processes. The findings offer insights into Spanish learners’ perceptions of online language learning, their affective experiences learning Spanish as an adult, and the sociocultural connections they make to the Spanish language. The implications for future pedagogical design, online and off, are presented.
Coryell, Joellen Elizabeth (2007). Sociocultural connections, language learning anxiety, and communities of practice: insights and perceptions of the adult online Spanish learner. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from