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Abstract

In accordance with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, goals for foreign language learning include communities, communication, comparisons, connections, and cultures. Each teaching goal is interlinked and serves an essential component in language development. However, culture has been largely limited by stereotypical biases, which misrepresent the culture studied, and the native culture's sociological roles and perceptions of that target culture. The experiments and theories of Vygotsky (1934; 1956), and Leontyev (1978) indicate that second language learning can reconstruct self-identity and redevelop behaviors appropriate to the second language's respective culture. Personal investment and openness to a foreign language encourage learning beyond classroom objectives while xenophobia limits it. To encourage meaningful culture and content application, cross-cultural programs such as Connecting Classrooms and study abroad opportunities deepen students' investment in language learning. With these cultural theories as a critical perspective, this study analyzes a group of 67 student Canvas Web posting responses from Beginning Russian Language classes in the Fall 2011 and 2012 semesters, which asked students why they chose to learn Russian. Responses were then analyzed to determine how often culture/history, degree requirements, and other factors played a role in language choice. Students' study abroad journals from Summer 2013 were also analyzed. Together, these cultural tools were evaluated to determine how they enhanced language learning and the pedagogical field.

KEYWORDS: foreign language learning, Russian, socio-cultural theory

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