Recent scholarship has highlighted the importance of increasing the intellectual viability of lower-level foreign language (FL) study while facilitating connections between academic practice, learners’ lives, and global communities. This article reports on a content-based role-immersion simulation (RIS) designed to incite a critical orientation toward language learning, as 16 postsecondary intermediate Spanish learners adopted alternate identities and took part in a culturally grounded scenario centering on resolving problems related to drug trafficking and violence at the U.S.-Mexico border. Self-reported data from this qualitative study reveal that a majority of participants considered the simulation to approximate an intellectually stimulating real-world immersive encounter; however, some learners approached it as a language-learning exercise. The article elaborates on criteria that contributed to these divergent perceptions and concludes with implications for foreign language curriculum design.
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