Spanish is a pluricentric language spoken within the linguistic continuum with high variation. The understanding of the attitudes towards such variation with regard to its geography (diatopic variation) is key to capacitate its students and speakers as a foreign language to successfully communicate in changing and emerging transnational contexts. The research of linguistic attitudes is a topic that has traditionally been approached in Western contexts, with scholars requiring alternative research environments to provide a richer picture of this construct. China, given its steady growth in the number of Spanish as a foreign language students and its current role in the global, transnational arena, becomes a research environment where the study of linguistic attitudes gain even more relevance. Based on this reality, this study seeks to unveil the attitudes towards diatopic variation and towards the five most widely spoken diatopic varieties of Spanish (i.e., Mexico, Argentina, the United States, Spain, and Colombia) in Chinese students of initial level (n = 95) and their professors (n = 16). In doing so, this study collected data through (1) empirically validated questionnaires on attitudes towards diatopic variation, (2) perceptual dialectology tasks and (3) interviews.
The main findings of this research showed the presence of positive attitudes towards diatopic variation by students and teachers. Such attitudes can be explained in light of their previous sociolinguistic knowledge and their previous experience as learners of a second pluricentric language. Regarding the attitudes toward the most spoken varieties, this study showed that the variety associated with Spain was the best known by the observed students and teachers, and received the categorization of prestige variety by students. Teachers did not show affective or status assessments toward any of the diatopic varieties. Further analysis of these results, based on ethnolinguistic vitality , and the levels of familiarity of students/teachers with each variety, suggests that teaching expansive proposals from initial levels can provide a more inclusive view of the diatopic variation of the Spanish language in class.