Date of Award

5-1-2012

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Applied Linguistics

First Advisor

Charkova, Krassimira

Abstract

This study examined the attitudes of 40 Saudi students enrolled in an intensive English program at a US university towards the utility of English and their willingness to invest effort in learning it. Altogether, there were six major constructs that were explored in view of participants' professional achievement, personal growth, social contacts, benefit of their country, perceived ease of learning English, and willingness to learn English. These aspects represented the quantitative part of the study and were examined through descriptive and inferential statistics. In addition, this study included two open-ended questions which served as the qualitative part of the study. The two questions aimed to solicit participants' opinions about their main reason to learn English and what they think is the appropriate level for the English language to be introduced in the Saudi educational system. The instrument included a survey of 30 items, consisting of 24 quantitative attitude/opinion questions, two qualitative open-ended questions, and four questions for demographics. The data was analyzed through descriptive, inferential, and content analyses. Overall, the utility of English was positively perceived by the majority of the participants in this study. It was particularly valued as a means for academic and professional advancement of individual Saudi citizens and of their country. Driven by their instrumental goals for personal success and viewing English as a necessity for their country's integration in the world, participants demonstrated high willingness to invest effort to achieve confidence in speaking and using English. Another reason for their willingness was revealed by their overall perceptions of English as an "easy" language to learn. This fact was corroborated by the significant correlation by participants' perceived ease of learning English and their willingness to learn English. In addition, participants expressed strong support for the teaching of English as early as first grade in the Saudi school system. The study's findings contribute to the body of research on instrumental and integrative motivation factors in learning a second language, as in the context of this study with Saudi Arabian learners of English, instrumental motivation was found to be the major driving force in the pursuit of becoming competent users of English.

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