Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Beliefs about Foreign Language Learning and Their Relationship to Gender

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Beliefs about Foreign Language Learning and Their Relationship to Gender

Article excerpt

Abstract

Learners' beliefs about foreign language learning have been stressed in educational research because they are regarded as fundamental to learners' progress (e.g. Altan, 2012; Russell, 2009; Rieger, 2009; Kormos & Csizér, 2008;). This paper deals with the results of a research project conducted among first-year English language majors studying the Intensive English Language Program at Qassim University. A total of 250 male and female students participated in this study. A modified Arabic version of Horwitz's (1987) BALLI (Beliefs About Language Learning Inventory) was used to explore the overall beliefs of Saudi university students about learning English as a foreign language and to investigate the effect of gender on those beliefs. Results revealed that Saudi university students have positive and realistic beliefs about foreign language as regard the nature of language learning, communication strategies, and motivation and expectations about learning English as a foreign language. The findings also indicated that overall males and females held similar beliefs about language learning as regard the difficulty and the nature of language learning. However, statistical significant gender differences were found in the areas of English language aptitude, learning and communication, and motivation and expectations. The study recommends an identification of Saudi learners' beliefs on a wider scale, so as to provide guidelines to EFL teachers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to tailor their teaching methods to avoid mismatches between classroom practices and learners' beliefs. Finally, the study suggest that recognition of learners' beliefs and reflection on their possible effect on language learning might increase awareness and even adjustment of their expectations.

Keywords: beliefs, expectations, motivation, aptitude

1. Introduction

Nowadays, Knowledge of English has become an essential part of everyday life of the global world. Many people are using English in nearly every sector and for international relations. Ehrlich (2008) estimates that more than 300 million people are speaking English as their native language and more than 400 million are speaking it as a second or foreign language. Altan (2012) argues that the importance of English as a worldwide language has been increasing rapidly and more people are aware of the fact that at least some knowledge of English is necessary to get ahead in life since it brings high social status to the individual, as well as extending job opportunities. One variable which has received a lot of attention recently in the language learning process is beliefs about language learning which Horwitz (2007) considers as central constructs in every discipline which deals with human behavior. Learners' beliefs about foreign languages have been in the focus of educational research because they are considered fundamental to learners' progress (e.g. Kormos et al, 2008; Dörnyei, 2005).

As the global economy continues to develop, so too does the need for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) to prepare itself to be able to participate on an international level. One factor that seems to play a sizeable role in how well KSA can continue to flourish in the 21st century is the ability of its population to learn the language(s) necessary for efficient communication with other nations. Daif-Allah (2010) observes that KSA has recently begun to recognize the need to promote multilingualism in the context of globalization since it cannot participate in the new economy through the medium of Arabic only. Everything shows that the future of KSA requires mastering at least one or two foreign languages besides the Arabic language. In such a framework, the Saudi Ministry of Education has sent big numbers of graduate and undergraduate students to study in famous foreign universities worldwide. Locally, it has attempted to introduce foreign language teaching in primary classrooms (mainly English), besides the current mandatory study of English in both middle and high school. …

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