Competing Contributions to Language Making: Learners of Spanish in Berlin
2022-04-13, 09:30–10:00 (Europe/Vienna), Room 2

How do learners of Spanish contribute to the ‘making’ of the language? This paper presents findings from an empirical study conducted in Berlin with different groups of learners in tertiary and adult education: University students aspiring to become teachers of Spanish or studying Spanish for other purposes, university students from other disciplines learning Spanish outside their regular curriculum, and participants of Spanish classes in municipal institutions of adult education (‘Volkshochschulen’). Primarily based on quantitative data gathered through questionnaires, the paper examines the motivations to learn Spanish as expressed in three analytic dimensions: Learners activate affective, instrumental, and mate-rial components of their language attitudes to co-construct the notion of Spanish as a lan-guage they wish to acquire (Krämer 2019).
In their efforts to join the global speech community, learners contribute to shaping the imag-ined entity we call Spanish. They adopt views and attitudes associated with the language, reinforce, reinvent or reject them and thereby influence discourses about the signification of the concept labelled as Spanish. However, the constant process of redefining what consti-tutes a particular language always involves contradictions and competing views.
The competition between particular elements of language attitudes on the three analytical levels will be visible both between the learner groups and on a global scale: Some learners clearly participate in an economized discourse about language as they stress the instrumen-tal and material value they expect to gain from speaking Spanish (see Pomerantz 2002 for similar aspirations reported by learners in the USA). The majority of the learners highlight the affective value of the language which they associate with a particular lifestyle, social contacts or even purely hedonistic objectives. While we can observe such an eminently posi-tive construction of Spanish in other communities around the world (Schneider 2014), it is contested by an opposing discourse, e.g. in the United States, in which Spanish is construct-ed as ‘foreign’, of low economic value or even as threatening to a homogenized cultural model (Fuller 2013). This exclusionary discourse attributes a low value to Spanish on all three analytics levels including the affective component, thus challenging the attitudes and motivations expressed by the learners in Berlin.
The data and their analysis can help us refine the concept of Language Making by including the contributions made by non-speakers or speakers-to-be who add to the notions of a lan-guage constructed by the speech communities themselves.

Panel affiliation

On „foreign language making“: selecting language varieties for educational purposes


Fuller, Janet M. 2013. Spanish speakers in the USA. Bristol et al.: Multilingual Matters.
Krämer, Philipp. 2019. Spanish in Berlin – potentials and perspectives in teaching and tour-ism. In: Theresa Heyd / Ferdinand von Mengden / Britta Schneider (eds.): The Sociolinguis-tic Economy of Berlin. Cosmopolitan Perspectives on Language, Diversity and Social Space. Berlin: De Gruyter. 247-279.
Pomerantz, Anne. 2002. Language ideologies and the production of identities: Spanish as a resource for participation in a multilingual marketplace. In: Multilingua 21. 275-302.
Schneider, Britta. 2014. Salsa, language and transnationalism. Bristol et al.: Multilingual Matters.

Interim professor of linguistics