College of Education Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

6-2004

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

College of Education, Doctoral Program

First Advisor

Harrigan, Margaret M.

Second Advisor

Suleiman, Layla

Third Advisor

Zecker, Liliana B.

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between learning a foreign language in elementary school and students' future educational and career choices. Adult alumni of two urban public magnet schools were surveyed about Foreign Language in Elementary School (FLES) experiences, about high school and college foreign language learning experiences, and about their employment experience. The data from the alumni of a foreign language magnet school (FLES) were analyzed with respect to the relationship between the amount and types of elementary foreign language learning experiences on subsequent academic and occupational choices, as well as in comparison to respondents from a demographically and geographically proximate magnet school (non-FLES) where the focus was on math and science, and a foreign language was not available. The same survey, with forced-choice and open-ended questions, was administered to both the FLES and the non-FLES groups. Six FLES participants were also interviewed to reflect upon their own foreign language education and to consider its relevance to their school, work, travel and life experiences. Common themes that emerged were the appreciation of different cultures and the acknowledgement of intangible benefits that accrued to foreign language learners. The analysis of the results revealed a small statistical difference with regard to more advanced foreign language study and greater career impact for FLES participants than for non-FLES respondents. The FLES participants' interviews illustrated the positive effect that elementary foreign language learning has had on their citizenship in a multilingual, multicultural, global society.

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