The purposes of this study were to 1) explore student attitudes toward the English-only environment in an intensive English program, and 2) find factors that either promote or inhibit students' desire to use English in their communication with compatriots in school. Qualitative research methods employed were a) a student questionnaire (with a total of 158 participants), b) semi-structured interviews with students (total 6 participants), and c) four student focus groups (with a total of 62 participants). The study was conducted at the English Language Center (ELC) at Brigham Young University. The participants were students of four native language groups (Spanish, Korean, Portuguese, Chinese) and varied levels of proficiency. The findings indicate that the majority of the students acknowledged the helpfulness of the English-only environment at the ELC, but recognized some factors that prevented them from speaking only English in the school building. These factors were grouped into five categories: sociocultural, linguistic, individual, psychological, and institutional. The sociocultural factors included peer pressure, fear of negative evaluation by compatriots, cultural communication patterns, maintaining friendship with compatriots, and need for cultural bonding. The linguistic factors included low language proficiency, difficulty in understanding teachers' assignments, translating habits, and linguistic differences between English and students' L1. The category of the individual factors consisted of the intensity of motivation and personality type. Lack of confidence, stress from speaking English, and fear of having a different personality when speaking English were categorized as psychological factors. Finally, the institutional category included physical factors (number of students of the same L1 in school/class, distance from the university campus), teacher factors (teachers' ability to motivate students, other teachers' characteristics [being sensitive to students' cultures, understanding students' individual circumstances, the ability to establish a rapport with students]), and curricular and administrative factors (poor enforcement of the English-only rule, weaknesses of speaking classes, lack of activities that promote interaction with students from other countries). This study provides a deep understanding of the reasons why many students speak their native language once they leave the English classroom. Based on these findings, recommendations regarding the development and modification of curricula in order to improve the language-learning environment at English institutions are offered to classroom teachers and program administrators.



College and Department

Humanities; Linguistics and English Language



Date Submitted


Document Type





English-only, L1 use, outside the classroom, intensive English program



Included in

Linguistics Commons