31 SES 13 A, Educational Approaches to English as a Foreign Language: Going Beyond the Classroom?
The ability of fluently speaking more than one foreign language is no longer seen as something exceptional that distinguishes us from others but is rather understood as a requirement for achieving higher goals, better jobs, etc. Being able to communicate in English has social, cultural and professional benefits and it has been the focus of many educational studies (Bruton, 2011; Lorenzo, Casal & Moore, 2009; Madrid & Hughes, 2011).
In order to contribute to a better acquisition of English, European governments have addressed the foreign language issue in positive terms as a way to achieve greater social, political and cultural cohesion (Butler, 2009). Hence, supranational organisations like the European Commission have discussed the problem of teaching a foreign language in a multilingual context, recommending new strategies to promote multilingualism. In the context of widespread concern about foreign languages, the European Survey on Language Competences of 2012 (ESLC) acted as a springboard to provide a linguistic competence indicator of progress for improving foreign language learning across Europe.
The results of ESLC led to concerns in countries like Spain, where the results were far away from those initially expected (Morales, 2009). In fact, Spain’s results seemed to indicate that despite the strong presence of English in the school curriculum, the creation and promotion of bilingual schools and the presence of English teaching assistants at school, among others, the efforts had not been sufficient (Bonnet, 2003; European Commission, 2006). Thus, we used the results of the ESLC as a springboard for our research as one of the main findings in that project was based on the exposure to languages outside school and informal language learning opportunities. The report highlighted that “the use of the target language at home, the number of first languages and the exposure to the target language in the living environment is low” (European Commission 2012, p. 67).
The present study aims at investigating how contextual factors affect the way Secondary students of Spain and Greece learn English as a Foreign Language (EFL) as the first ones’ results were poorer than the Greek students. It has been stated that external factors surrounding the learner outside the formal classroom context also have a decisive impact on the acquisition of English (Butler, 2014). The family environment, the activities promoted at home in English, the way parents transmit to their children attitudes, values and knowledge, the way children interact with others, etc., play a crucial role on the students’ learning and so on their academic success (Barton, 2007; Pettito & Dunbar, 2004; Muñoz, Tragant & Torras, 2010). Actually, subsequent studies on everyday literacies showed an evident interest in how this out-of-school learning occurs (Baynham, 2004; Sealey and Carter, 2004).
Numerous studies have shown that a student who is familiarised with English through his/her direct environment, and who makes the most of these opportunities provided by the context, is more likely to get higher grades or to perform better at the target language (Muños, 2014; European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2017; Morales, 2009).
Our research aims are: 1) To analyse the opportunities/activities available to Spanish and Greek learners to learn English out-of-school; 2) To identify possible relationships between the out-of-school EFL practices/activities carried out by the students, their parents and their older siblings; 3) To find similar patterns that may define the way Spanish and Greek students of Secondary Education learn EFL; 4) To examine possible differences in the type of activities these students carry out out-of-school according to the school curriculum (bilingual/monolingual).
This study is based on a quantitative approach and it presents a research carried out in the two European countries mentioned above (Spain and Greece). In both countries, two types of school participated: those that followed a bilingual curriculum (bilingual schools, in which English is the teaching language for several subjects); and those that followed a monolingual curriculum (where English is taught only as a Foreign Language). Hence, the information collected came from a total of 565 students of an ISCED-2 level (last year of Secondary Education). The instrument used for collecting the data was a questionnaire based on activities and EFL learning opportunities available to students outside the school: at home, in their social context, etc. This questionnaire consisted of a total of 35 Likert-scale items referred to the different activities students carry out which contribute to their English learning and to collect information about the frequency of use of this language ‘outside’ the school from the point of view of the learners, their parents, and their siblings. Kendall’s W test was used to measure the agreement among judges in order to get the content validity of the questionnaire. Furthermore, Cronbach’s Alpha was calculated as a measure of reliability of the questionnaire, which showed positive α values in the three parts referred to the learners, their parents and their siblings: α =0,866; α =0,859; and α =0,847. After that, a Non-metric Multidimensional Scaling (PROXSCAL) was also done to check out the validity of the instrument. All the Stress measures were close to 0, and the DAF (Dispersion Accounted For) and the CCT (Tucker’s Coefficient of Congruence) were close to the unit which mean excellent results. The analyses carried out for the purposes of this paper include: a descriptive study of the student’s responses, as well as their parents and siblings, in order to analyse every aspect of the activities they carry out in English in their environment (aim 1); a correlational study using Spearman’s rho correlation coefficient to establish possible relations between the type of activities the students, their parents and their older siblings carry out with regard to EFL (aim 2); a Cluster analysis to identify similar patterns within the non-formal learning contexts of the Spanish and Greek learners (aim 3); and an ANOVA to examine possible differences in the type of activities these students carry out out-of-school according to the school curriculum (bilingual/monolingual) (aim 4).
The results obtained show how Spanish Secondary students do not carry out activities in English outside the school and how little this language is promoted through daily routines within the Spanish homes/families. When analysing the exposure to English and its use within leisure and entertainment activities by Spanish students, there is a predominant low exposure to situations in which English is used, unlike Greek learners. Hence, in the Spanish schools that participated in our study, it could be stated that learning a foreign language seems to be an activity largely restricted to the school, just part of the curriculum. In contrast, the exposure of Greek students appears to be higher than the Spanish learners, both in bilingual and monolingual schools. These results confirm the findings of the ESLC study, which pointed out that Greek students perform better than the Spanish ones. A positive and statistically significant correlation between the students, their parents and their siblings was found in some of their attitudes towards EFL like reading and watching TV in English, communicating in English when travelling abroad, etc. This analysis shows that, in both European countries, the activities carried out within the family does affect the way students learn EFL. Besides, students who attended bilingual schools in Greece and Spain were more likely to learn EFL while doing these activities outside the school. Consequently, it seems that Spanish families do not stimulate the EFL learning as much as the Greek ones, although the way in which learning EFL occurs seems to be a direct consequence of the use of this language that the student makes outside the school.
Barton, D. (2007). Literacy: An Introduction to the Ecology of Written Language. UK: Blackwell Publishing. Baynham, M. (2004). Ethnographies of literacy: Introduction. Language and Education, 18(4), 285-90. Bonnet, G. (ed.) (2003). The assessment of pupils’ skills in English in eight European countries. Paris: Le Réseau européen des responsables de l'évaluation des systèmes éducatifs. Bruton, A. (2001). “Are there differences between CLIL and non-CLIL groups in Andalusia due to CLIL? A reply to Lorenzo, Casal and Moore (2010)”. Applied Linguistics, 32(2), 236-241. Buttler, A. (2009). Languages for social cohesion: the 2004-2007 programme of the ECML. In D. Newby y H. Penz (Eds.), Languages for social cohesion: language education in a multilingual and multicultural Europe (pp. 11-16). Strasbourg: Council of Europe. Butler, Y. G. (2014a). The role of parental socio-economic status in young learners’ English learning: Two cases in East Asia. In J. Enever, E. Lindgren, & S. Ivanov (Eds.), Conference proceedings from Early language learning: Theory and practice 2014 (pp. 36–41). Umeå: Umeå Studies in Language and Literature. European Commission (2006). Special Eurobarometer 243. Europeans and their Languages. European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice (2017). Key data on teaching languages at school in Europe. 2017 edition. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. European Commission SurveyLang (2012). First European Survey on Language Competences: Final Report, Version 2.0. Lorenzo, F., Casal, S., & Moore, P. (2009). The Effects of Content and Language Integrated Learning in European Education: Key Findings from the Andalusian Bilingual Sections Evaluation Project. Applied Linguistics, 31(3), 418-442. Madrid, D. & Hughes, S. (eds). (2011). Studies in Bilingual Education. Switzerland: Peter Lang. Morales, C. (2009). La enseñanza de lenguas extranjeras en la Unión Europea. Educación y futuro, 20, 17-30. Muños, C. (2014). Contrasting Effects of Starting Age and Input on the Oral Performance of Foreign Language Learners. Applied Linguistics, 35(4), 463-482. Muñoz, C. Tragant, E., & Torras, M. R. (2010). Los inicios de la producción oral en lengua extranjera de alumnos de primaria en Europa. ELIA, 10, 11-39. Pettito, L., & Dunbar, K. (2004). New findings from educational neuroscience on bilingual brains, scientific brains and the educated mind. In K. Fischer y T. Katzir (Eds.), Building usable knowledge in mind, brain and education. CUP, 2004. Sealey, A. & Carter, B. (2004). Applied linguistics as social science. London and New York: Continuum.
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