Puerto Rican college students' educational and social attitudes toward English as a Second Language

Diana Perez-Birmingham, Fordham University


This study was intended to generate data on the accumulated attitudes of first-year English as a second language (ESL) university students. Both quantitative and qualitative measures were used to collect the data. An adapted and translated version of the Attitude Motivation Test Battery (AMTB) was used, as well as an open-ended interview schedule based on the constructs used in that battery. The research sample for the questionnaires consisted of 100 students selected at random. The criteria were: (a) age 17-20, (b) College Board Entrance in English below 399, (c) enrolled in English 101, (d) attendance in public schools in Puerto Rico, (e) never having lived in the United States. Ten students were chosen from the 100 who answered the questionnaires to be interviewed. Using composite scores of the AMTB, the five lowest scorers and the five highest scorers were identified and interviewed. One purpose of the study was to assess the relationship between the variables measured by the AMTB: attitude toward North Americans, attitudes toward Americans compared to Puerto Ricans, attitude toward learning English, integrative and instrumental orientations, English class anxiety, parental encouragement, motivational intensity: desire to learn English, evaluation of English teachers and of English courses (grades 1-6, 7-12), achievement in English, and self-rated proficiency. The interview investigated emerging patterns among limited English proficient (LEP) students who seem to have negative attitudes toward English as a second language as compared to LEP students who have positive attitudes as measured by the AMTB. The major differences between high and low scorers interviewed were in their attitude toward learning English, motivational intensity, and self-rated proficiency. Attitude toward learning English and motivational intensity correlated significantly to these LEP students' present achievement in college. Low and high scorers on the AMTB (all LEP students) responded similarly toward English teachers and courses, attitude toward North Americans, motivational orientation (instrumental and integrative), and parental encouragement. The interview data did not seem to reveal a relationship between these variables and those LEP students' attitude toward learning English, but statistically significant correlations were found. Inconsistencies between interview data and the statistical findings might be attributable to the fact that the questionnaire provided alternatives whereas the interview questions allowed the students to respond in their own terms.

Subject Area

Language arts|Language|Bilingual education|Multicultural education

Recommended Citation

Perez-Birmingham, Diana, "Puerto Rican college students' educational and social attitudes toward English as a Second Language" (1992). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9304509.