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Attitudes to reading among modern language undergraduates: results of a Subject Centre survey Angela Gallagher and Alison Dickens.

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Presentation on theme: "Attitudes to reading among modern language undergraduates: results of a Subject Centre survey Angela Gallagher and Alison Dickens."— Presentation transcript:

1 Attitudes to reading among modern language undergraduates: results of a Subject Centre survey Angela Gallagher and Alison Dickens

2 Project Aims –To obtain a snapshot of students’ perceptions of reading on modern language degree programmes: Attitudes to L1 reading Attitudes to L2 reading (and to different genres) Prior experience of L2 reading Perceptions of L2 competence and L2 reading competence Perceptions of the purpose of reading in L2 –Rationale Request from the Subject Centre Special Interest Group on Literature and Culture

3 Methodology –Research conducted during academic year –Literature Review –Identification of relevant theoretical frameworks –Design of questionnaire to obtain quantitative and qualitative data –Piloting –Consultation –Distribution and completion of revised questionnaire

4 Questionnaire returns 601 questionnaires 7 UK universities 4 Russell Group (60% of questionnaires) 2 pre-1992 (19%) 1 post-1992 (21%)

5 Questionnaire returns: respondents Gender –444 females (73.88%) –157 males (26.12%) Students L1 –English L1 reported by 514 students (85.5%) –25 other L1s Ab initio vs. experienced learners –443 had prior knowledge of L2 –150 had no prior knowledge of L2

6 Questionnaire returns: respondents Languages Spanish % German % French % Italian528.7% Portuguese254.2% Chinese233.8% Arabic152.5% Russian40.6%

7 Questionnaire returns: respondents Year of study Year % Year % Year % Year % Other20.3%

8 Attitudes to L1 Reading Attitudes to L1 reading were mostly positive –84% enjoy fiction –65% enjoy non-fiction –79% agreed that reading is important to them –80% like books that make them think –72% have favourite subjects they like to read about –72% read to find out information –84% can lose track of time if reading something interesting –66% like to talk to friends about what they’re reading –66% have had experience of talking to people about literature

9 Attitudes to L1 Reading Attitudes to academic reading in L1 were more ambiguous –29% agreed that they don’t like academic reading –33% neither agreed nor disagreed –38% disagreed A small proportion of students seemed negative about all L1 reading surveyed (5- 8%)

10 L2 Reading: Perceptions of L2 competence Perceptions of L2 competence –302 (50%) students agreed that they are good at L2; –13% disagreed –255 (42%) agreed that they have a good L2 vocabulary –22% disagreed –308 (51%) agreed that they have a good knowledge of target language countries –17% disagreed –Significant numbers of neither agree nor disagree responses

11 Perceptions of L2 competence: differences between year 1 and year 4

12 Perceptions of L2 competence I have a good L2 vocabulary – ab initio vs. experienced Y4Ab initioexperien ced agree38%63% Neither agree nor disagree 35%27% disagree24%9% Y1Ab initioexperien ced agree18%37% Neither agree nor disagree 38%41% disagree41%19%

13 Perceptions of L2 reading competence –248 students (41%) agreed that they are doing well in L2 reading. –173 (29%) agreed that they can read quickly in L2 –436 (73%) agreed that they find L2 reading difficult because they don’t know enough about the culture –Most students (82%) agreed that it is important to them to be a good reader in L2

14 Perceptions of L2 reading competence Differences between students in Years 1 and 4 –31% of year 1 students agreed that they are doing well in L2 reading –56% of year 4 students agreed that they are doing well –18% of year 1s agreed that they can read quickly –44% of year 4s agreed they can read quickly Differences between ab initio and experienced students were less significant in reading

15 L2 reading habits –225 students (37%) agreed that they often read in L2 outside class –284 students (47%) agreed that they don’t get enough practice at reading L2. –24% of year 1 students agreed that they often read outside class –54% of year 4 students agreed that they often read outside class

16 Purposes of L2 reading –A majority of students (60%) read in L2 to learn new information about culture –A large majority (77%) agreed that reading in L2 will make them a more knowledgeable person –Almost all (97%) agreed that reading in L2 is a good way of improving language skills

17 Attitudes to L2 reading –A majority of students agreed that they enjoy L2 reading (62%) –60% agreed that they would be willing to read literature even if not compulsory –Year 4 students were more likely to enjoy L2 reading than year 1s –Year 4 students were much more likely to agree to read literature if not compulsory

18 Attitudes to reading different genres in L2: I want to be able to read … in L2

19

20 Open Questions: Why are you studying languages at university? –Enjoyment: 266 –Employability: 80 –Learning: 76 –Interest: 74 –Culture: 64 –Fluency: 53 –Mobility/travel: 41 –Desire for L2: 34 –Previous success: 24 –Importance: 22 –Communication: 21

21 Previous Experience of L2 Reading Literature: 155 A-level: 141 Newspapers and magazines: 139 None: 120 Not much: 87

22 Previous Experience of L2 Reading What students said: “fairly broad - I had read literature previously as well as newspapers etc.” (y4 Spanish) “I didn't read much in Spanish. I would memorise quotes from class and use those in exams. I never read a book in Spanish before university” (y4 Spanish) “nil -I read a pizza menu once” (y1 Italian) “Portuguese GCSE + A-level entailed reading both literary and non-literary texts with varying levels of difficulty -had also read two novels in Portuguese voluntarily” (y4 Portuguese) “not much experience - studied one play and one novel but not in great detail” (Lorca, Gomez) (y3 Spanish)

23 I find the texts I am given to read in …L2 are –Interesting: 169 –Difficult: 148 –Challenging: 87 –Manageable: 56 –Boring: 53 –Varied: 39 –Useful: 35 –OK: 27 –Nil response: 24 –Enjoyable: 19 –Good for language skills: 19

24 I find the texts I am given to read in.. are…: what students said: “interesting and enjoyable as they are often very different from English texts that have been read and provide me with a lot of information about Spanish culture” (y3, Spanish) “interesting, but could be more geared towards issues that would appeal more to students” (y2 French) “given to us to expand our vocab, our knowledge of whatever the text is about -interesting and thought provoking as well” (y1 Spanish) “Varied. It depends on the subject of the text as to how interesting/easy to read they are” (y4 Spanish) “extremely challenging but enjoyable” (y2 French) “usually quite difficult but worth the time and effort” (y1 German)

25 I find the texts I am given to read in.. are…. What students said “good for my learning, but not always interesting” (y1 German) “sometimes very unrelated to anything-have little use after the lesson is over” (y2 French) “out of my depth and very hard” (y1 Spanish) “sad or morbid in content, difficult in language” (y1 German)

26 I find the texts I am given to read in.. L2 are.. Y1Y2Y4 interesting20%26%35% difficult28%26%19%

27 I think that reading literature in … is… –Useful: 155 –Difficult: 135 –Good for language skills: 93 –Interesting: 81 –Enjoyable: 62 –Important: 53 –Boring: 41 –Challenging: 40 –Good for culture: 36 –Nil response: 27 –Rewarding: 15 –A good idea: 12

28 I think that reading literature in … is…: what students said “the best way to improve vocab and general comprehension” (y4 Spanish) “essential for learning and keeping up language skills and vocabulary” (y4 Spanish) “ a good way to practise comprehension, learn etc” (y1 Italian) “ an excellent way to improve my Spanish and discover literature I wouldn’t have been able to read if I hadn’t learnt Spanish (y3 Spanish)

29 I think that reading literature in … is…: what students said –“near impossible” (y1 Chinese) –“hard work but if I persevere it is very rewarding” (y4 Spanish) –“not for me” (y1 Russian) –“boring but more interesting than English literature (y1 Spanish) –“ a bit pretentious but more of a challenge than reading in English” (y 3 French) –“ a waste of time and resources” (y 1 French) –“ not something I would do for enjoyment” (y4 German)

30 I think that reading literature in … is…:what students said enjoyable when it is just reading – not analysing and pulling the text apart – why did X happen? What does Y represent?” (y4 Spanish) “interesting as long as I don’t have to write essays or do exams on it” (y2 German) “interesting – it opens up another world of literature which often differs from our own” (y4 German) interesting and I find the language more beautiful than English” (y1 French) “really enjoyable – you feel good you are able to read in a language other than English (y1 Spanish)

31 I think that reading literature in … is.. Y1Y2Y4 useful21%25%31% difficult25%26%13%

32 What makes a text in.. difficult for you? Vocabulary: 408 Grammar: 130 Subject matter: 57 Sentence length: 34 Outdated language: 25 Style: 20

33 If you are having difficulty understanding a text in …, what do you do in order to understand it better? –Look in dictionary: 427 –Re-read: 101 –Ask others: 75 –Read translation: 44 –Break up text: 36 –Research: 25 –Work out gist: 19 –Translate: 18

34 If you are having difficulty understanding a text in …, what do you do in order to understand it better? –All year groups were equally likely to look up vocabulary in a dictionary –Year 1 students were more likely to: Ask others for help Use a translation Translate the text –Year 4 students were more likely to: Re-read the text Break up the text Research the subject

35 Conclusions 1.Clear sense of progression in feelings of competence over the course of the degree 2.Ab initio students remain less confident in year 4 3.Some evidence of more positive attitudes to L2 reading in year 4 but this may depend on the genre 4.A tendency to view reading literature instrumentally, as a means of improving language skills


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