Spanish Dialectal Variation in the Foreign Language Classroom: Students' Attitudes, Instructors' Beliefs and Teaching Practices, and Treatment of Variation in Textbooks

  • Author / Creator
    Monerris Oliveras, Laura
  • Communicative competence is a key concept in the field of foreign/second language (FL/L2) teaching and learning. In fact, the development of the learner’s communicative competence is one of the essential goals of FL/L2 teaching. In Bachman’s model (1990) of Communicative Language Ability, sociolinguistic competence is one of the elements of language competence, which includes the sensitivity to differences in dialects and varieties, among other abilities. Thus, the treatment of regional varieties in L2/FL classes is needed for learners to be able to reach a high level of communicative competence.
    Most of the studies about the treatment of Spanish dialectal or local varieties and the attitudes towards them have been conducted in the U.S., where there is a large number of Spanish native speakers (e.g. Achugar & Pessoa, 2009). Therefore, conducting this type of research in a different context is needed. While in the U.S. there is still “the implementation of educational policies and language ideologies that promote monolingualism” (Achugar & Pessoa, 2009, p. 200), which seems to endorse conflicting and negative attitudes towards the Spanish language, in Canada multilingualism and multiculturalism are promoted instead. Moreover, Spanish-English bilingual communities are not widespread in Canada, making contact with real speakers and regional varieties a challenge for Spanish FL students.
    Due to the scarce research in contexts other than the U.S., this dissertation investigates the issue of dialectal variation in Canadian university Spanish FL classes from different perspectives. The dissertation consists of three independent studies that look at students’ attitudes towards Spanish varieties, instructors' beliefs and their reported teaching practices in regard to dialects, and how the pedagogical materials used in Spanish FL classes address dialectal variation. The findings suggest that attitudes towards regional varieties tend to positively increase when learners have travelled abroad. Instructors do recognize the lack of exposure to dialects in FL classes, but their lack of explicit sociolinguistic knowledge may hinder their ability to deal with the topic adequately in class. Pedagogical materials do provide some information about dialectal characteristics, but such information is limited and at times overly general, and is rarely part of the core content, resulting in a lack of exposure to dialectal features.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2015
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.