Date of Award
Dr. Jason Doroga
Dr. Nancy Hardmann
Dr. Maddie Myers-Burg
In a world where learning a foreign language has never been more accessible than it is right now, many people believe that the endeavor is beyond their capabilities and an unworthy use of their time. In Western civilizations, there has been a serious decrease in true hobby/leisure activities over the last 15 years. With technological innovations like social media that provide endless hours of scrolling, media streaming services such as Netflix, and even regular cable TV, we have access to endless entertainment that decreases the desire to have a hobby. In March 2020, worldwide lockdowns due to Covid-19 kept most people inside their homes, and extreme boredom struck. Many people took the opportunity to learn a new skill purely for their own personal development. In the early stages of the pandemic, people found themselves with abundant access to technology with connections to billions of other people around the world as well as abundant amounts of time. People who previously had limited time for leisure due to their strenuous work or school lives suddenly had an overwhelming amount of time to use, so they turned to the internet to self-educate and learn a new hobby or skill. While there are lengthy lists of the harms that come out of our dependence on technology, in this historical moment, addiction to screens became a saving grace. Inspiration from online social media fed new obsessions with houseplants, jigsaw puzzles, and even the infamous bread baking, creating a lockdown microculture in which hobbies flourished. Some people turned to independent language learning apps like Duolingo, one of the world's leaders in self-taught language learning technology, which saw an exponential spike in usership of 30 million people in the weeks following the lockdowns that began in March 2020 (Blanco 2020). As it is now three years past the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, our society is learning to adapt to life in a post-pandemic world, returning to life as it was before, while also recognizing the necessity for change in certain areas. The evidence from the 2020 Duolingo Language Report shows us that people are interested in language learning as a hobby and that there is the possibility for its coexistence on lists with woodworking, knitting, and cooking. Language learning is emerging as a hobby; it's time that we start to categorize it as such.
This contemporary model of language learning as a hobby is of specific interest to educators and scholars within the field of Second Language Acquisition. Already there is substantial research on students' motivations, methods for teaching and learning, and predicting foreign language success; all these areas of research are usually regarding a traditional classroom setting. Increasing amounts of research have emerged in recent years on language learning outside of the education system. There may appear to be a natural gap between the worlds of "traditional classroom" and "learning as a hobby." It is tempting to place them in opposition - the educators versus the hobbyists. As different as these worlds first appear, Leisure Language Learning (LLL) may be the bridge that is needed to connect the two for mutual benefit in each area.
'Leisure Language Leaming' is a term that will be used throughout this thesis to describe the person who pursues a foreign language out of their own volition rather than out of necessity, to fulfill an educational requirement, or for a job requirement. This person primarily learns the foreign language independently, that is, outside of a classroom setting, and for the primary purpose of pleasure and self-fulfillment, seeking the intrinsic reward of the language learning experience. LLL can be shown to be beneficial for everyone, no matter your experience level, goals, age, education level, place of residence, or occupation. In a world where a hobby is an arguable necessity, language learning deserves a place alongside bread baking, cycling, and reading. Furthermore, foreign language educators ought to be concerned with students' outcomes beyond the classroom, and LLL can inform the way that they prepare students for individual and personal success in a foreign language. This work seeks to provide a complete definition of leisure language learning, discuss applications of this concept in the university-level foreign language classroom, and present a layperson's guide to becoming a leisure language learner.
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Webster, Graca, "Putting the Fun in Foreign Language: Defining and Justifying Leisure Language Learning and the Implications for Foreign Language Educators and Students" (2023). Honors Theses. 904.