Barriers to Language Learning: A study of the retired British community on the Costa del Sol, Spain
Thesis DisciplineEuropean Studies
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Tourism to Spain is a significant part of the Spanish economy especially on the southern coastal areas which attracts a huge number of foreign tourists, in particular, a large number of British. Over the years many have chosen this area as their permanent or semi-permanent home and thus creating pockets of English speaking communities along the coast. This is evidenced by the presence of the many English owned and operated businesses coupled with the fact that there is a high number of Spanish who speak English. On the surface the communities appear to be economically self-supporting and socially independent of their Spanish hosts so perhaps it should be of little surprise that there is a low level of Spanish language uptake in these communities. Quite clearly the “need” has been removed and so the majority of people seem to struggle to string a basic sentence together.
The basis of this thesis is research into the community of British seasonal tourists with particular emphasis on integration through language learning. The target group is a defined demographic of retirees who spend approximately six months over the Northern European winter period in Spain. They still have their own home in the UK and do not call Spain home. Their level of language uptake is very low. Language is a fundamental part of our own social identity and culture and is a significant factor in integration. Therefore in order to understand why there appears to have been little uptake of Spanish language learning by this group, it is important to look at the elements that may have had an influence on their decision making process. Learning another language, particularly for older people, can prove to be challenging if not extremely difficult. Initially the barriers are identified as being age, financial situation, lack of encouragement from spouses or peers and lack of self-confidence.