“Open Yourself to the World”: Reasons for Studying Foreign Languages in University
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Canadian universities are constantly promoting the importance of multicultural education. However, the departments that are strongly suited to developing intercultural understanding among students, namely humanities and foreign languages, have experienced steep declines in enrollment over the past decade. Despite the universities’ efforts to market these departments to students, enrollment is still decreasing. In order to address this issue of why fewer students are enrolling in the humanities, language courses in particular, it is important to know why some students do decide to pursue foreign language education. I conducted this study by interviewing students enrolled in seven of Dalhousie University’s ten language courses about their reasons for studying foreign languages and compared their reasons to those presented in Dalhousie’s language program marketing materials. Students study languages for a variety of instrumental/extrinsic and integrative/intrinsic reasons but discuss their integrative/intrinsic reasons most frequently. On the other hand, Dalhousie’s marketing focuses more on instrumental reasons to study foreign language, which does not resonate well with the students. Interestingly, many students are unaware of the various marketing materials, thereby rendering them ineffective regardless of their contents. Students are largely motivated to study foreign languages by integrative experiences, and this is not being represented in the marketing of Dalhousie’s language programs. Fortunately, there are measures that can be taken to encourage integrative motivations and improve the effectiveness of the marketing.