Motivation and attitudes towards learning languages in multicultural classrooms

Mercè Bernaus, Anne Marie Masgoret, Robert C. Gardner, Edith Reyes

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53 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigated the effect of the cultural background of immigrant children on affective variables in learning three different languages. Participants were students in secondary multicultural classrooms in Spain. A total of 114 students, aged 12 to 16, answered a questionnaire based on Gardner's Attitude = Motivation Test Battery assessing their attitudes, motivation and anxiety towards learning Catalan, Spanish and English. In addition, the students also completed self-ratings of their language achievement in each of the three languages. The results demonstrated that there were few differences attributable to cultural background. Asian students were lower in instrumental orientation than African students, and had more positive attitudes towards learning the languages than Spanish students. There were many more differences attributable to the language being studied. Overall, affective variables were more positive for both Spanish and English than for Catalan, with little difference between Spanish and English. Cultural background interacted with language studied to influence scores on the measures of parental encouragement and self-ratings of language proficiency. A factor analysis demonstrated that integrative motivation was generally language specific (i.e. three distinct factors were obtained, one for each language), but that orientations, language anxiety and parental encouragement tended to apply generally to the three languages, forming three distinct factors. The results are discussed in terms of the specificity vs generality of some variables to the language being studied, as well as the relative significance of the three languages to the students in this study. © 2004 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-89
JournalInternational Journal of Multilingualism
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004


  • Attitudes
  • Language achievement
  • Language status
  • Motivation
  • Multiculturalism
  • Multilingualism


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