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Global Engineering and Language Attitudes in the U.S.: A Quandary

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Technical Session

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Jorge Porcel Missouri University of Science & Technology

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Dr. Jorge Porcel is an Associate Professor of Spanish at Missouri University of Science and Technology. He received his Masters and PhD from the University of Pittsburgh (PA) in Hispanic Linguistics. Research interests: sociolinguistics and second language acquisition.
Teachings interests: Spanish phonetics and phonology, Spanish Linguistics, and Hispanic culture and civilization.

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key words: Language attitudes; foreign languages; minorities; diversity and inclusion; global competency; undergraduate engineering; Spanish in the U.S.

Abstract (349 words) Nowadays, engineering is a global field. Engineers are increasingly required to work in teams where cultural and linguistic diversity is becoming prominent. Although the idea of global competency may trigger images of international interactions, the globalization age is also the era of massive diasporas. It’s estimated that by 2025, the college population will be the biggest, most diverse ever (Fry, 2015), and by 2030, these graduates will begin entering the workforce. By 2044, above 50% of Americans are expected to be part of a minority, and by 2060, about 20% of the U.S. population is estimated to be foreign born (Colby and Ortman, 2015). These demographic changes make it clear that the nationalistic framework that has shaped our understanding of national communities needs to be reconsidered in order to foster social cohesion. Teaching Spanish and Latin American culture is not the same as teaching, say, French or German. Students do not only learn about Spanish and Hispanics through glossy textbooks but mainly through the U.S. media where associations with illegality and criminality dominate. In addition to that, many Americans are confronting the anxiety of the changing face of America. In the Spring of 2018, a survey on language attitudes was distributed in a Midwestern engineering school. Four hundred thirty-six undergraduates completed the online questionnaire which, contained sections on attitudes towards the study of foreign languages and cultures in general, and towards Spanish in particular. In addition, the questionnaire contained sections about their instrumental value, integrative orientations in relation to U.S. Hispanics and Latin American cultures, and a final section on attitudes towards global competency and ethnocentrism. Preliminary findings show that participants recognize the instrumental value of Spanish in public and professional life, but this recognition is not a sufficient motivation for them to pursue coursework in these subjects. Similarly, they acknowledge the importance of language and culture as key elements for ethnic integration but seem to perceive the issue in nationalistic, ethnocentric terms. Finally, global competency is not perceived as a priority. The conclusion supports the idea of a missing humanistic component in the education of our engineer undergraduates.

References Colby, Sandra L., & Jennifer M. Ortman. 2015. Projections of the Size and Composition of the U.S. Population: 2014 to 2060. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. CENSUS BUREAU. Accessed: October, 2017. Fry, Richard. 2015. Class of 2025 expected to be the biggest, most diverse ever. Washington, D.C.: Pew Research Center. Accessed: October, 2017.

Porcel, J. (2019, June), Global Engineering and Language Attitudes in the U.S.: A Quandary Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32875

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