Investigating EFL Adult Learners Behavioral and Emotional Attitudes towards Learning Speaking

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1 International Research Journal of Applied and Basic Sciences 2014 Available online at ISSN X / Vol, 8 (12): Science Explorer Publications Investigating EFL Adult Learners Behavioral and Emotional Attitudes towards Learning Speaking Hoda Ghaitasi, Akbar Azizifar, Habib Gowhary Department of English Language Teaching, Ilam Branch, Islamic Azad University, Ilam, Iran Corresponding Author: Dr.Akbar Azizifar ABSTRACT: Learning a language is influenced by a variety of factors. One of the most important of which are the learner s attitude toward the target language. Behavioral and emotional attitudes are two kinds of the attitudes. Also speaking skill in English as a second or foreign language is an important skill which is affected by some individuals characteristics of learners such as attitude. The aim of this study is to investigate behavioral and emotional attitudes toward learning speaking. To this end, a questionnaire was used which focused on the attitudes towards learning speaking in terms of emotional and behavioral aspects. This study took place at state university in Ilam, Iran.The participants were EFL students, both male and female, with the mean age of 20. At the end of the study, the collected data analyzed by using SPSS. The results showed that these participants have negative behavioral attitude towards speaking skill while they have high positive emotional attitude. Key Words: EFL Learner, Speaking Skill, Behavioral Attitude, Emotional Attitude INTRODUCTION Attitudes towards language are extensively studied phenomenon in sociolinguistics. It is the attitude towards language that appears to be important in the restoration, preservation, decay or death in the life of the language (Baker, 1992). Attitude has been a subject of research interest among the sociolinguists and social scientists over the years and they have done significant contributions. The findings of different attitude studies state that attitudes vary from favorably to unfavorably or vice versa in language learning and acquisition, choice and use of language in different domains and thus, surveys of attitudes provide social indicators of changing beliefs about language and the chances of success in language policy implementation. Attitude has been studied from various perspectives with reference to a number of languages in a variety of settings such as attitude towards mother tongue ; attitude towards a second or foreign language ; attitude towards national language ; attitude towards variety of languages ; attitude towards language in education policy ; relationship between attitudes and motivation, the relationship between attitudes and learning strategies ; the relationship between attitudes and level of achievement and so on. The wide-spread use of English as an international language makes it highly important even in foreign language contexts. In the learning process, affective variables have become an important issue. Considering the significance of this area, Noels, Pelletier, and Vallerand (2000) agree, "In fact, affective variables, such as attitude, orientations, anxiety, and motivation, have been shown to be at least as important as language aptitude for predicting L2 achievement" (p. 35). Oxford (1996) asserts that the affective side of the learners is the most influential aspect in language learning success or failure. Based on the works of some researchers including Dornyei (1990), Ehrman (1996), Gardner (1980), Maclntyre and Charos (1996), seven areas have been defined for affective factors encompassing acculturation, ego, personality, emotion, beliefs, attitude, and motivation. Among these variables, attitude is studied in this research. The concept of learners attitudes has been the focus of attention in explanation and investigation of human behavior offered by social psychologists. Attitude is usually defined as a disposition or tendency to respond positively or negatively towards a certain thing such as an idea, object, person, or situation. Students have positive or negative attitudes towards the language they want to learn or the people who speak it. According to some researchers, learning a language is closely related to the attitudes towards languages (Starks and Paltridge, 1996). Karahan (2007, p. 84) states that positive language attitudes let learner have positive orientation towards learning English. As such, attitudes may play a very crucial role in

2 language learning as they can influence students success or failure in their learning. On the other hand, Gardner (1980) explains that different social contexts may influence the outcomes of studies related to attitudes towards language learning. In his view, the effects of attitude might be much stronger in a context where there is much more of an opportunity for contact between learners and target language speakers than in a foreign language context where learners are not in a close contact with the target cultures and beliefs. Statement of the Problem According to Biyaem (1997), learners face many obstacles in English language learning, for instance, inadequately equipped classrooms and educational technology. When students speak English in the classroom they are lack confidence to speak probably because of the effect from their mother tongue, particular in pronunciation. They also lack of opportunity to use English in their daily lives.some EFL Iranian learners may not use English skills effectively, specially listening and speaking.moreover Punthamsen(2007) found that most of students do not want to learn English because they find the subject matter boring and also teaching methodology in the classroom is not interesting. As Prapphal (2003) stresses that technology is a good instruction to help students communicate, although it cannot be replaced by a good language teacher. Research questions and Hypotheses The research seeks to answer the following question: Which types of attitudes EFL adult learners have towards speaking (in terms of behavioral and emotional aspects of attitude)? Hence, the addressed hypothesis is: EFL Ilam university students attitudes (behavioral and emotional) have no effect on learning speaking. Review of Literature Attitudes have been explored by many researchers in different parts of the world. A group of researchers (Latif, Fadzil, Bahroom, Mohammad, San, 2011) conducted a research to determine the relationship between various socio-psychological variables like attitude, motivation, anxiety and instrumental orientation on performance in English as a second language. The results indicated that all of the four variables were significantly correlated with learners' performance in the English course conducted at Open University of Malaysia. Chalak and Kassaian (2010) investigated motivation and attitude of Iranian undergraduate EFL students towards learning English. The research focused on the motivation orientations of the students and their attitudes towards the target language and its community. A group of 108 students majoring in English Translation in Isfahan, Iran was surveyed using Attitude, Motivation Test Battery (AMTB). The results revealed that these Iranian nonnative speakers of English learned the language for both instrumental and 'integrative' reasons and their attitudes towards the target language community and its members were generally found to be highly positive. Banya and Chea (1997) found that students with positive beliefs about foreign language learning tended to have stronger motivation hold favorable attitude and higher motivational intensity, use more strategies, are less anxious, have better language achievement and are more proficient. Yang s (1999) study on Taiwanese students concluded as beliefs about language learning can affect the use of strategies; learning strategies may also influence learners beliefs about language learning. Peacock (2001) investigated the beliefs of 146 undergraduate trainee teachers in a three-year study in Hong Kong and found a positive association between their beliefs on vocabulary and grammar and proficiency. METHODOLOGY Population The population of this experimental study was EFL adult learners, the students at state university of Ilam, Iran. Total number of the participants in this study was 70, both male and female. The number of participants were25 and 45 male and female, respectively.their selection was quiet randomly. In this study EFL learner involves the following features: *an individual who is above the age of 18. *an individual who studies at courses organized by a university. Instrument 2301

3 The measuring instrument in this research is a questionnaire. This questionnaire focused on the attitudes of EFL adult learners towards learning speaking skill. The items were partly adapted from the attitude questionnaire test employed in a study by Boonrangsri et al (2004). Other items were taken from Attitude and Motivation Test Battery (AMTB) designed by Gardner (1985).On the whole there were 30 items concerning language attitudes in terms of: behavioral and emotional aspects of attitude. 15 items of this questionnaire related to behavioral aspects of attitude, 15 items related to emotional one. The items are both positive and negative. The items were put in a 5-point Linkert scale.the numerical values of 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 were assigned to Strongly agree, Agree, Neither agree nor disagree and Strongly disagree, respectively. Procedure Data collection took place at state university of Ilam, Iran.As mentioned earlier, learner attitude questionnaire was used. The total number of 70 questionnaires was handed to the participants. The participants were required to answer all the items of the questionnaire honestly, giving their own perceptions about their attitudes towards learning speaking skill in terms of behavioral and emotional aspect of attitudes. At the end for the statistical analysis of the data SPSS was used. Data Analysis Students Attitudes towards Learning Speaking Table1. Participants Attitudes towards Learning Speaking Number Min Max Mean Standard Deviation Variance /37 0/331 0/110 Results of descriptive analysis show that the overall mean score of students attitudes is (3/37) (SD=0/331). According to this mean, positive or negative attitude of participants towards learning speaking were determined. If the obtained mean scores are lower than this mean, it s a negative attitude item and if obtained mean scores are higher than this mean it s a positive one. This Table determines the participants attitudes towards learning speaking in general. Table 2.Descriptive Statistic of Behavioral aspects of Participants Speaking Attitude Items of Behavioral aspect of speaking attitudes N Min Max Mean SD varianc e 1 Speaking English anywhere makes me feel worried /149 1/321 2 Studying English helps me to have good relationships with friends /006 1/012 3 I like to give opinions during English lessons /943 0/889 4 I am able to make myself pay attention during studying English /014 1/029 5 When I hear a student in my class speaking English well, I like to practice speaking with him/her /957 0/016 6 Studying English makes me have more confidence in expressing myself /880 0/775 7 Studying English helps me to improve my personality /161 1/349 8 I put off my English homework as much as possible /967 0/936 9 I am not relaxed whenever I have to speak in my English class /973 0/ I feel embarrassed to speak English in front of other students /186 1/ I like to practice English the way native speakers do /274 1/ I wish I could have many English speaking friends /072 1/ When I miss the class, I never ask my friends or teachers for the homework on what has been taught /007 1/014 I do not feel enthusiastic to come to class when the English is being 14 thought /133 1/284 I do not pay any attention when my English teacher is explaining the 15 lesson /982 0/965 Behavioral Mean =3/133 As shown in Table2, the behavioral aspect of attitude towards learning speaking represents the lowest mean score (3/133). That is, the participants have negative behavioral attitude and whenever they have to speak in English class in front of others they feel not relaxed. One of the behavioral items of the questionnaire such as I wish I have many English speaking friends obtained the score rank (M=5, SD =1/072), that is, it is the highest mean score, some participants they put off their English homework as much as possible, and feel embarrassed to speak. They do not enthusiastic to come to English class and do not pay any attention when English teacher is explaining the lesson.thus they show negative behavior attitudes in the English classes. 2302

4 Table 3.Descriotive Statistic of Emotional Aspect of Participants Speaking Attitude Items of Emotional aspect of speaking attitude N Min Max Mean SD Variance 1 I feel proud when studying English language /196 1/430 2 I feel excited when I communicate in English with others /935 0/875 3 I don t get anxious when I have to answer a question in my English class /059 1/121 4 Studying foreign languages like English is enjoyable /892 0/795 5 To be inquisitive makes me study English well /059 1/21 6 Studying English makes me have good emotions (feelings) /059 1/21 7 I prefer studying in my mother tongue rather than any other foreign language /257 1/580 8 I enjoy doing activities in English /053 1/110 9 I do not like studying English /5 1/081 1/ I wish I could speak English fluently /211 1/ I am interested in studying English /858 0/ Studying English subject makes me feel more confident /166 1/ To be honest, I really have little interest in my English class /154 1/ Knowing English is an important goal in my life /663 0/ I look forward to the time I spend in English class /922 0/851 Emotional Mean = 3/566 As shown in the Table 4, the emotional aspect represents the highest mean score of attitudes towards learning speaking skill (M= 3/566). According to some of the emotional items of the questionnaire used in this study they feel proud when studying English language, feel excited when communicating in English with others.for them studying foreign languages like English is enjoyable. They enjoy doing English activities.their wish is that they could speak English fluently.these participants are interested in studying English and feel more confidence when studying English subjects.in their opinion knowing English is an important goal in their life. These participants who were agreed with these items have positive emotional attitudes towards learning speaking.it is clear that positive attitude can improve participants English learning. Also participants with positive emotional attitudes will become successful language learners. DISCUSSION Learners attitude is one of the most important characteristics that can affect the process of language learning. So, a positive attitude should be the umbrella of language learning and can promote all language skills. EFL teachers should respect and think about students feelings, beliefs and behaviors before the cognitive abilities. In this study the effect of this factor on learning speaking among Ilam university students were investigated. The results showed that language learning process is influenced by students attitude. Thus it can be conclude that the learners attitudes have important effects on learners success or failure in the process of language learning, which means positive attitudes of learners can guarantee successful language learning, while negative one delay or block the language learning process and learners fail in learning. In the present study Ilam university students attitudes in terms of behavioral and emotional aspects were investigated. Data analysis results showed that the participants have negative behavioral attitude towards learning speaking while they have high positive emotional attitudes towards this skill. Therefore it can state with confidence that positive attitudes can enhance language learning and negative one has bad effects on learning and therefore delay or block it. Learner s attitudes towards learning a language or towards a language skill can be positive or negative.. According to most of the research about attitude and based on the findings of this study it is so clear that language learners positive attitudes can help them to progress in the process but negative attitudes are obstacles for language learning. So it is a good recommendation to find the ways to decrease negative attitudes and to change them to positive one. CONCLUSION Attitude is considered as one of the most important components of language learning. In this study the attitude of EFL adult learners in terms of behavioral and emotional aspects in state university of Ilam were investigated. Findings of this study revealed that participants in this research have high positive emotional attitudes towards speaking skill while they have negative behavioral attitude towards this skill.it is so clear that learners 2303

5 positive attitude can promote language learning while negative attitude can block the process of language learning.therefore according to the findings of this study those participants with positive emotional attitude will become successful language learners and can improve their speaking skill. On the other hand those learners with negative behavioral attitude will not success in language learning and can t improve their speaking. The respondents obvious negative behavioral attitude towards English may lead to conclude that they are not well aware of the importance of English and learn it as a compulsory subject. So, a positive attitude should be the umbrella of language learning. EFL teachers should respect and think about students feelings, beliefs and behaviors before the cognitive abilities. Finally it is hoped that the attitude of Iranian students towards English language learning could be improved specially at universities. Also it is hoped that the present study may encourage further research in the area of EFL learners attitudes towards English language learning. REFERENCES Banya K, Chea M Beliefs about foreign language learning: A study of beliefs of teachers and students cross cultural settings. Paper presented at the 31st Annual Meeting of the Speakers of Other Languages, Florida. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED411691). Biyaem S Learner Training: Changing roles for a Changing World, Educational Innovation for Sustainable Development. 3rd UNESCO- ACEID International Conference, Bangkok. Boonrangsri K, Chuaymankhong D, Rermyindee N, Vongchittpinyo N.2004.The Attitude towards English Language Learning of the Students in Vocational Certificate Level under Curriculum in A Case Study of Ayutthaya Technical College studied by Naresuan University, Thailand. Chalak and Kassaian.2010.Motivation and attitudes of Iranian undergraduate EFL studenttowards learning English, GEMA Online, Journal of Language Studies, 10(2) (2010), Dornyei Z Conceptualizing motivation in foreign-language learning. Language Learning, 40(1), Ehrman M An Exploration of Adult language Learner Motivation, Self- Efficacy, and Anxiety. In R. L. Oxford (Ed.), Learning motivations: pathways to the new center (pp ). Honolulu: University of Hawaii: Second language Teaching and Curriculum Center. Gardner (1985 Gardner, R. C. (1985). Social psychology and second language learning: The role of attitudes and motivation.london: Edward Arnold Publishers. Gardner R On the validity of affective variables in second language acquisition: conceptual, contextual and statistical consideration. Language Learning, 30, Joiner EG The older foreign language learner: A challenge for colleges and universities. NJ: Prentice-Hall. Karahan F Language attitudes of Turkish students towards the English language and its use in Turkish context. Journal of Arts and Sciences Say, 7 May, Knowles M The adult learner: a neglected species. Houston: Gulf Publishing Company. Latif LA, Fadzil M, Bahroom R, Mohammad W, San NM The role of motivation, attitude, anxiety and instrumental orientation in influencing learners' performance in English as a second language in OUM. Global Conference on Learning and Technology. Melbourne, Australia: Global learn Asia Pacific. Retrieved from Maclntyre PD, Charos C Personality, attitudes, and affect as predicators of second language communication. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 15(1), Noels KA, Pelletier LG, Vallerand RJ Why are you learning a second language? Motivational orietation and self-determination theory. Language Learning, 50, Oxford R Language learning strategies around the world: Cross-cultural perspectives. Hawaii, Manoa: Second Language Teaching & Curriculum Center. Peacock M Pre-service ESL Teachers' Beliefs about Second Language Learning: ALongitudinal Study. System. (29): Prapphal K English proficiency of Thai learners and directions of English teaching and learning in Thailand. Journal of English Language Studies, 1(1), Punthumasen P International Program for Teacher Education: An Approach to Tackling Problems of English Education in Thailand. The 11th UNESCO-APEID international conference. Retrieved from Yang ND The relationship between EFL learners beliefs and learning strategy use. System, 27 (4),

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