Litera: Journal of Language, Literature and Culture Studies
The influence of socio-cultural representations on the choice of study of foreign language students - Case of the University of Algiers 2 - AlgeriaLydia Guenoune, Hakim Menguellat
Each language carries with it a particular image that is constructed and formed from the perception of the culture related to it. This image of the Other and its culture could influence our attitudes and, therefore, the interest of studying a particular language. This confirmation is, in fact, only the finding made by Castelloti and Moore (2002), which aroused our interest to expand on such a subject of research. Thus, we wanted to understand how students represent the target culture for their language of study. And to what extent can socio-cultural representations determine the choice of a specific foreign language as an object of study at the university? We stipulate that the students would have stereotypical representations about the other culture (in this case about the target country and its inhabitants); and that socio-cultural representations of each foreign language would be at the center of the factors determining the choice to study a particular language. Our descriptive survey, which is part of the scientific field of sociodidactics, is based on the data of written questionnaires submitted to first-year students. The degree of each stream taught in foreign languages at the University of Algiers 2, namely: French, English, German, Spanish and Italian.
L’influence des représentations socioculturelles sur le choix d’étude des étudiants de langues étrangères - Cas de l’Université d’Alger 2 - AlgérieLydia Guenoune, Hakim Menguellat
Chaque langue porte en elle une image particulière qui se construit et se forme à partir de la perception de la culture y afférente. Cette image qu’on a sur l’Autre et sa culture pourrait influencer nos attitudes et donc l’intérêt d’étudier une langue en particulier. Ladite confirmation n’est en fait que le constat qu’ont fait Castelloti et Moore (2002), qui a suscité notre intérêt pour s’étaler sur un tel sujet de recherche. Ainsi, nous avons voulu comprendre comment les étudiants se représentent-ils la culture cible relative à leur langue d’étude ? Et dans quelle mesure les représentations socioculturelles peuvent-elles déterminer le choix d’une langue étrangère spécifique comme objet d’étude à l’université ? Nous stipulons que les étudiants auraient des représentations stéréotypées sur l’autre culture (en l’occurrence sur le pays cible et ses habitants) ; et que les représentations socioculturelles relatives à chaque langue étrangère seraient au centre des facteurs déterminant le choix d’étudier une langue en particulier. Notre enquête, descriptive, relevant du champ scientifique de la sociodidactique, s’appuie sur les données de questionnaires écrits qu’on a soumis aux étudiants de première année Licence de chaque filière dispensée en langues étrangères à l’Université d’Alger 2 à savoir le français, l’anglais, l’allemand, l’espagnol et l’italien.
Our orientations for the present contribution are based on the observation made by Castelloti and Moore (2002) that the choice to learn or even to study a language would depend on the representations existing in a given social group, relative to the Other, its culture and language. In other words, the more the subject constructs a positive mental image of a language and its related culture, the more it expresses the interest of learning that language to the point of being its object of study once at the university. In order to follow the path of our reflections and to verify this hypothesis on our sample, to release the socio-cultural representations of the students is a primordial step. Sociocultural representations are in fact a system of perceptions or mental images that an individual has in relation to a socio-cultural group that does not have the same culture as himself. In other words, who does not necessarily have the same standards, the same values or the same way of life as him. Thus, we asked ourselves, first of all, about the way students think about the target culture that relates to their language of study. Then, we sought to find out to what extent socio-cultural representations can determine the choice of a foreign language as an object of study at the university. We stipulated that students would have stereotypical representations of the culture of the Other; and that socio-cultural representations of each foreign language would be at the center of the factors determining the choice to study a particular language. To verify our hypotheses, a survey was carried out by means of questionnaires administered at the faculty of foreign languages of Algiers 2, with first-year students License of each stream taught namely, French, English, German, Spanish and Italian. The questionnaire is divided into two parts that answer our two hypotheses respectively. The first is a word association activity: it asked to quote in a very limited time the first five (05) words that come to mind when mentioning the name of the country (relative to their language of study) and the inhabitants of this same country. The second instruction aims to determine the criteria for choosing the language of the interviewee (why does he choose to study a particular language?); the latter is called to rate from 1 to 5, in order of importance, some selection criteria that we had selected, based on those proposed by L. Dabène (1997). The results of our research revealed that beyond the variability of the respondents’ representations about the target culture, the latter do not escape the phenomenon of stereotyping, these caricature images, either positive or negative, that we have, as a person or a social group, based on an exaggerated and rigid simplification of real or supposed characteristics. Indeed, by analyzing the responses of the students interviewed, many stereotypes were identified as « blond » or « arrogant » for the French, or the image of Spain was stereotyped by « the holidays » or « Flamenco ». All this tends to confirm our first hypothesis concerning the socio-cultural representations of students. In addition, we were able to observe the impact of these representations on the origin of the choice of the language of study of the students surveyed. Indeed, foreign language students largely choose to study a particular language based on a few criteria of appreciation relating to was is social, cultural, economic, epistemology and emotional. As Dabène (1979) points out, the choice of the language of study is based on a certain number of criteria of appreciation united, according to her, under the name of the « informal status of languages » (Dabène, 1994) composed of a set of strongly stereotyped representations that a community attributes to it. As such, we support the hypothesis that the choice of a language as object of study in the university space would depend heavily on images of the country of origin of the language and its inhabitants.