Young learners' perspectives on English learning experiences: Variations in motivations and attitudes in Chilean primary school

by María-Jesús Inostroza (University of Concepción, Chile)


The long-time assumption on the younger the better has influenced policy changes in primary educational curriculum (Barahona, 2016; Enever, 2019; Garton et al., 2013; Sayer, 2018). In Chile, after eight years of implementation of a suggested Curriculum for early primary education (Barahona, 2016), little is known about the learning conditions (Inostroza A., 2015, 2018b; Toledo-Sandoval, 2020), and less is known about children's learning experiences (Inostroza A., 2018a; Tabalí, 2020).

Motivation refers to a factor that provides the impetus to start, and later continue, learning a foreign language (FL), Its study as part of second language learning has been identified in the literature with well-stablished models (Gardner, 1985; Dörnyei & Ushioda, 2009); however, in the last decade, it has been clearly defined that in early language learning (ELL), motivation is a particular phenomenon (Li et al., 2018; Mihaljević Djigunović & Nikolov, 2019) that needs to respond to an eclectic perspective that combines variables from the traditional models (Fenyvesi, 2020), as well as consider the learning conditions and the adults involved in the children’s language experience.

Attitudes refer to feeling about the FL, the learning situation, its speakers, among other aspects of the FL (Fenyvesi, 2020). In ELL it has been characterized as one of the individual learner differences that changes over time and affects learning behaviour and achievements (Lopriore & Mihaljević, 2011; Mihaljević Djigunović, 2012).

This talk presents the findings of a study that examines the motivations and attitudes towards learning English of Chilean young learners from 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th grade of a state-run primary school. The data collected from a questionnaire is analysed through descriptive and inferential statistics, and regression analysis.

Based on previous international studies, it is expected that younger learners’ attitudes towards the language are positive and that their motivation is highly influenced by adults around them, and that these are opposite from older learners in the sample. It is also expected that children’s learning conditions are also a factor of influence. Finally, these study findings would support the importance of considering children’s voices in evaluating the implementation of new educational policies.



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