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“Volunteers for language”, Linguistic Integration Programme in Catalan: facts for evaluation, by Joan Solé Camardons, Jonatan Castaño and Agustí Díaz


Attendance at courses

With regard to the relationship between learner type and attendance of Catalan courses, we see a direct relationship between success level and the fact of present attendance of such courses and there is a difference of 9 percentage points with those who have never attended such courses. Those who are ex-students of the courses are situated half way between the two.

Graph 6. Type of learner and attendance at courses

Graph 6. Type of learner and attendance at courses

Number of hours

Of all variables analysed, the number of hours of study devoted to the programme is the most significant. In the case of learners who have done more than 20 hours, 77.5% fall into the “successful” category. While the percentage goes down to 64% among those who have done between 11 and 15 hours. A high degree of correlation can be seen between the number of hours dedicated to the programme and the resulting success achieved.

Graph 7. Total number of hours devoted to the programme and type of learners

Graph 7. Total number of hours devoted to the programme and type of learners

Ability to speak Catalan at the outset.

Those who were able to speak some Catalan at the beginning of the programme were divided into two groups (against a scale of 0 to 10), taking 4.5 as the cut-off point established by segmentation tree 2 (PDF ), which is the point that best discriminates between success and failure. It can be seen that those whose ability scores are in excess of 4.5 are more likely to achieve success, (66.2% do so) than those whose ability scores are less, (only 37.2% do so). This findingpoints up the need for a basic minimum ability to speak Catalan to be able to communicate with the volunteer teacher and thus follow the course properly.

Graph 8. Ability to speak Catalan at the outset

Graph 8. Ability to speak Catalan at the outset

Habitual language

Learners have a higher degree of successwhere they state their usual language(s) to be Catalan and one other, and in part this is due to the fact of having sufficient knowledge of Catalan to be able to follow the programme and sufficiently little Catalan to find it easy to increase their level. Those who least achieve success are those who only speak Spanish; a plausible explanation here is that while they may improve their Catalan, their speech networks typically continue to consist of Spanish speakers and so they do not increase frequency of use.

Graph 9. Knowledge of Catalan at the outset

Graph 9. Knowledge of Catalan at the outset

5. Learners' motivation and observations

In this more qualitative part of the article, an analysis has been made of the contents of personal in-depth interviews with learners. Those interviewed were chosen according to degree of success or failure (according to learner typology, in the terms of this article) with cut-off point at 4.2. Thus an interview with a successful learner and an interview with who had failed were carried out and the content analysed to compare the two. The main findings of this content analysis are given below:

Topic Success interview Success followed by failure interview
Overall evaluation
The programme was a good experience. Programme was a good idea, but certain requirements to be able to follow it properly were missing.
Knew about programme
Knew about programmethrough Catalan courses. Knew about programme through family.

Relationship with teacher

Very good relationship with teacher, have even become friends.

The relationship with the first teacher was worse than with the second, although both were good.
In general, admires the teachers.

General motivations

Learners enrol for the programme above all to improve chances on the job market. Learners enrol for the programme to improve social relations and working conditions.
Individual motivations
Learned Catalan because resident in Catalonia and interest in the language is not so much functional. as stemming from interest in the country and its culture. People who wish to settle in Catalonia learn more Catalan than those who are just “passing through” Catalonia.
Ability to speak Catalan at the outset
Spoke “a little” Catalan at the beginning of the programme. With the first teacher, the learner did not speak Catalan (failure) but did do so with the second (success).
Time devoted to the programme Has done many hours of the programme and continues to be in contact with the teacher, speaking on the phone as friends not as part of the programme (in Catalan). The first time, didn’t organise the time properly or put in enough hours. What is more, because of work commitments, the student could not start studying again until now (time of interview).

Speech network at the outset

This has proved a good opportunity to increase speaking of Catalan, since existing networks were of Spanish speakers. Often, people do not speak to her in Catalan because they perceive she is a foreigner. Helped her to get going on this.

From the beginning has had Catalan-speaking networks. Does not know Spanish, and that made difficult to communicate in the first programme (a failure) since at that point the student spoke neither Spanish nor Catalan.

Social network

Important in that provides the opportunity to meet people and widen one’s circles.
Helps her to integrate.

Important in that it helps in meeting people and widening speech networks.
The student’s motivation is instrumental.

Predisposition in- itially to learning languages

Good predisposition toward learning languages, from beginning. Good predisposition toward learning languages in general.
Ease with which Catalan studied
It is easy to study Catalan but more expensive than the learner would have liked. Finds there is much more in terms of facilities for learning Catalan than Spanish.
A certain minimum knowledge of Catalan is needed, but not more. No need to take a Catalan course before enrolling for the programme. Increase the number of hours, and expect to reach a certain level, changing language pair more often.

6. Factors determining the Programme's success

Adopting a multimethod design for triangulation between techniques (10) we have employed two different orientations (quantitative and qualitative) to obtain knowledge about the same aspect of social reality: the success or failure of the “Volunteers for Language” programme.

 Below, we summarise in table form the factors that condition the success or failure of learners enroled for the programme. The factors that emerge as common to the two methodological approaches (to evaluation) that we used are:

  • A minimum ability to speak Catalan at the outset
  • Minimum number of hours
  • Learner’s work situation

The question of belonging to speech networks or widening existing social networks we have only been able to investigate qualitatively. This aspect has to do with favouring both sociolinguistic success (in terms of learning and use) and success in social integration.

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