Willingness to Communicate: English Language Learners From China in Australian EAP Programs

Willingness to Communicate: English Language Learners From China in Australian EAP Programs

Feifei Han (The University of Sydney, Australia) and Zizhen Wang (Western Sydney University, Australia)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3814-1.ch005

Abstract

This chapter examines factors impacting L2 WTC among Chinese ELLs studying in an EAP program in Australia. Adopting both quantitative and qualitative methods, three questionnaires were used to measure L2 WTC, English learning motivation, and self-rated English proficiency; and semi-structured interviews were used to triangulate and complement questionnaire data. The main results were (1) L2 WTC with friends was higher than L2 WTC with acquaintance and with strangers and (2) L2 WTC with strangers and acquaintances were positively related to integrativeness and attitude toward the learning situation, but not with motivation intensity. L2 WTC with friends did not correlate with any of the scales in the English learning motivation; thus, (3) L2 WTC with strangers and acquaintances but not with friends had positive association with self-rated English proficiency, and (4) factors such as teaching methods, teachers' attitude, learning style, and personality all impacted on L2 WTC. The results are discussed and practical implications are articulated.
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Theoretical Background

Conceptualization of L2 WTC

The concept of WTC was introduced in 1987 in a first language (L1) communication study based on the construct of Burgoon’s (1976) ‘Unwillingness to Communicate’. It is defined as ‘a presumed trait-like predisposition toward communication’ when the opportunity is presented (McCroskey & Richmond, 1987, p. 134). McCroskey and Richmond (1987, 1991) proposed several factors thought to affect L1 WTC, including introversion, self-esteem, communication competence, and communication apprehension.

Introducing WTC construct to L2 learning, MacIntyre and his associates believed that L2 WTC was an important construct in L2 acquisition (MacIntyre & Charos, 1996). L2 WTC was described as ‘a readiness to enter into discourse at a particular time with a particular person or persons, using an L2’ (MacIntyre, Clément, Dörnyei, & Noels, 1998, p. 547). L1 WTC is regarded as a trait-like construct that is relatively stable, because it is closely related to one’s personality (McCroskey & Richmond, 1991), L2 WTC is considered as a state construct, because communication in a L2 involves factors other than one’s personality, such as learners’ language proficiency (MacIntyre, Dörnyei, Clément, & Noels, 1998). For instance, we often observe that a person can be quite talkative in one’s own language, but he/she may keep silent in communications using L2 due to his/her limited language proficiency.

In a seminal work, MacIntyre et al. (1998) conceptualized a heuristic model of L2 WTC, in which WTC is described as a highly complex construct and can be influenced by various factors from linguistic, communicative, social, and psychological aspects of learners’ characteristics, such as personality, communicative competence, intergroup climate, social situation, attitudes, motivation, and self-confidence. The heuristic model synthesizes situational, social, and individual variables ‘in an organic manner’ (Dörnyei & Skehan, 2003, p. 621), and has been adopted as a theoretical framework for most of L2 WTC research.

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