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Attitudes towards English as a Foreign Language among Italians: A Sociolinguistic Study

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Title: Attitudes towards English as a Foreign Language among Italians: A Sociolinguistic Study
Author(s): Brenzoni, Sofia
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts
Degree program: Master's Programme in Linguistic Diversity and Digital Humanities
Specialisation: General Linguistics
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2023
Abstract:
The present study aims at providing insights into the dynamics of language attitudes in native Italian speakers residing in Italy towards English as a foreign language. In the past decades, English has acquired an international role and has become increasingly important in many areas of life. Nonetheless, the English language proficiency of native Italians appears to fall behind, especially when compared with learners from other European countries. With this in mind, this thesis has two main objectives: 1) Identifying the overall attitudes of native Italian speakers residing in Italy with regard to English, and 2) examining whether there are any meaningful relationships between these language attitudes and specific profile characteristics, i.e., the individuals’ age, gender, region of residence, level of education, residence abroad, and self-reported English language proficiency. For this purpose, the research was carried out within the framework of the discipline of sociolinguistics and a quantitative study was conducted by employing a direct measure strategy. The questionnaire was distributed online across Italy and gathered a total of 470 submissions. The obtained data was subsequently analysed using methods of descriptive statistics and correlation tests. The participants’ answers to the open-ended questions were used as supporting information to the quantitative data. The results of the study revealed that Italian individuals residing in Italy have a mostly favourable orientation towards English as a foreign language. Individuals significantly value the importance of possessing good English language skills nowadays while at the same time showing a sound sense of Italian group identity. The research reports a clear perception of the different roles that Italian and English play within the Italian society. Attitudes to English are mostly favourable regardless of age and, while gender differences are not too strongly marked, women display more positive attitudes towards the language. The research also revealed that individuals who have achieved a higher level of education are more prone to view English in a positive light. The findings showed that the attitudes and opinions towards English as a foreign language among Italians are mostly favourable regardless of the individuals’ regions of residence. Moreover, having had past experiences abroad does not significantly influence the way that individuals perceive English as a foreign language. Finally, individuals who perceive their English language skills to be high also tend to have more favourable attitudes towards it.
Keyword(s): Language attitudes English sociolinguistics Italy attitudes towards English


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