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Students of Languages at Community Colleges: Who Studies Which Languages and Why?

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Abstract

Community colleges hold a unique space in postsecondary education and rep- resent a large student population, constituting nearly forty percent of undergraduate enrollments in the United States (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System). Specifically in the realm of language education, one out of every five enrollments in a language course at an institution of higher education is at a community college, and there were nearly 300,000 enrollments for languages other than English (LOTEs) at community colleges in 2016 (Looney and Lusin, Enrollments [2019] 40). Despite the essential role that community colleges play in language education, few studies have focused on language education in this context. Given the volume of language-course enrollments at community colleges and the fact that community colleges provide a context of education distinct from that of four-year colleges, dedicated thought and consideration on how to implement programs and courses of languages other than English at community colleges is crucial (Fechter). The two-year language-education context may differ in important ways from the four-year context. This article explores language education in the two-year context as a distinct entity and, where possible, makes comparisons to the four-year context. In particular, the authors discuss com- monly and less commonly taught languages at two-year compared to four-year insti- tutions; demographics of students who choose to study language at two-year schools and whether such demographics reflect the larger student bodies of two-year institu- tions, including those who do not study language; and the reported motivations of students who choose to study language at two-year schools.

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