Language learning: attitude and success

It makes sense that if a language learner has a negative attitude towards their new language, they probably won’t be as successful as they could be.  But what happens when the language you are learning has extremely negative connotations within your own community?

For many Indians living in KwaZulu-Natal, Afrikaans is the ‘language of the oppressor’, and the principal of an Indian school has gone as far as to say that the language is irrelevant for his pupils, and is petitioning for it to be removed as a language option.  He says a lot of his students do very poorly at the language, and they will never use it in their daily lives.

On the other side of the argument, another principal says that his school makes a point of being positive about the language, not referring to ‘the oppressor’, and his students do very well with the language.  (Full article from Times LIVE.)

My own grandmother was unhappy about me learning Japanese as a high school student, because of her association of the language with World War II.  I didn’t have these associations, so I was quite happy to learn the language (and was successful during the semester I studied it).

Can we affect our language success by changing our attitude towards the language itself?  I think it’s a definite possibility!