The Affective Factors and English Language Attainment of Arab EFL Learners

Article excerpt

Abstract: The intent of the study was to investigate the motivational effects on English learning for English as a foreign language (EFL) grade 12 students in public schools in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). To achieve this intent, 363 students' scores on the Common English Proficiency Assessment (CEPA) were related to the students' state of satisfaction, willingness to communicate with people from other cultures, integrative orientation, instrumental orientation, extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation, and willingness to spend time learning English as measured by a self-report questionnaire. The study showed that there were significant positive correlations (p<.05) between English language achievement and willingness to communicate with people from other cultures, integrative orientation, intrinsic motivation, and willingness to spend time on learning English. However, there was a significant negative correlation (p<.05) between language attainment and extrinsic motivation.

Introduction

Some language learners are more successful in learning a foreign language than others even if they are given the same opportunities. For years, researchers have investigated various factors that may contribute to this phenomenon including methods of instruction, age, aptitude, intelligence, learning strategy use, and affective variables with varied results. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of affective factors on English learning for prospective college students in grade 12 in United Arab Emirates (UAE) public schools. This study was motivated by a desire to understand the attitudinal and motivational variables of Emirati students studying EFL as the ability to effectively use English is becoming paramount for college study in the UAE.

The Study Explored the Following Research Question

To what degree does the state of satisfaction, willingness to communicate with people from other cultures, integrative orientation, instrumental orientation, extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation, and willingness to spend time on learning English affect prospective UAE college students' English language acquisition?

This study further explores various assumptions about the effects of attitudinal variables on EFL learners and enriches the body of knowledge by investigating these variables on Emirati EFL students on which little, if any, research has been done. The results of this study can assist language instructors in understanding what attitudes to foster to help learners better achieve language attainment. In addition, the study provides essential information to curriculum developers and educational administrators about vital social and psychological aspects of language learning to be included in materials, classrooms, and programs.

Previous Research

A considerable amount of research demonstrated connections between attitudes, motivation and English language proficiency. Gardner and Lambert (1972) and much of Gardner's later work (1985; Tremblay & Gardner, 1995; Masgoret and Gardner, 2003; Gardner et al., 2004) focused on the importance of attitudes toward the target language community and orientation, "a class of reasons for learning a second language" (1985), which, when combined with motivation, "the intensity of one's impetus to learn" (Brown, 2001) can lead to successful language learning outcomes. Working mainly in North American contexts, particularly Canada, Gardner identified integrative orientation (learning a language because one strongly identifies with or wishes to become part of its associated culture) as being an important predictor of language attainment.

Much of Gardner's work in Canadian and other contexts support the importance of integrative orientation. However, Gardner and Lambert (1972) acknowledged that other orientations may be important in different socio-cultural contexts. In fact, they found instrumental orientation (learning a language for its practical value, such as getting a well-paid job) to be significant in explaining differences among English learners in the Philippines. …