Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Willingness to Communicate in English: A Case Study of EFL Students at King Khalid University

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Willingness to Communicate in English: A Case Study of EFL Students at King Khalid University

Article excerpt

Abstract

The main purpose of learning a foreign language is to use it for meaningful and effective communication both inside and outside the classroom. This paper is devoted to identifying the main communication difficulties faced by EFL students at King Khalid University (KKU) and exploring the reasons that lie behind these difficulties. The paper investigates the participants' willingness to communicate (WTC) in English when they have an opportunity and highlights the personality traits that affect students' oral communication in English. To this end, two types of instruments were used: a questionnaire and a semi-structured interview. Both the questionnaire and the interview attempted to measure four types of communicative contexts (public speaking, meetings, group discussions and interpersonal conversations) and three types of interlocutors (strangers, acquaintances and friends). The findings reveal the EFL students' WTC in English at KKU and how their personality traits affect their WTC. Moreover, the paper suggests some recommendations for overcoming EFL students' unwillingness to communicate in English.

Keywords: communicative contexts, EFL students, interlocutor types, KKU, L2, personality traits, WTC

1. Introduction

The main purpose of learning a foreign language is to use it for meaningful and effective communication both inside and outside the classroom. The notion of "Willingness to Communicate" (WTC) is a model that integrates psychological, linguistic and communicative variables in order to describe, explain and predict second language (L2) communication. MacIntyre, Baker, Clement, and Donovan (2002) define WTC as a state of readiness to enter a discourse at a particular time with a specific person or persons using an L2. Many factors influence Arab EFL learners' WTC in English, which in turn predicts Arab students' actual use of the second language.

The study aims to explore EFL students' willingness to communicate in English at King Khalid University and how their personality traits affect their WTC. The following section is a brief review of the relevant literature on WTC and personality traits.

1.1 Willingness to Communicate in an L2 Context

Many linguistic and non-linguistic factors play major roles in communication. Specifically, psycholinguistic and socio-cultural factors are quite relevant to WTC, especially in an L2. A few studies have investigated the factors that affect L2 learners; however, few studies have been conducted on the effect of personality traits on L2 learning, particularly in the Arab context. English is spoken worldwide, and it is the language of business communication. According to Grubbs et al. (2009), "It is the language to compete in the global economic environment." Saudi Arabia is one of the top destinations for international labor and foreign investment in the world; therefore, there is a need to use English as a tool for international and intercultural communication, which may explain the interest in WTC. According to MacIntyre et al. (2002), WTC is a state of readiness to enter a discourse at a particular time with a specific person or persons using an L2. This researcher believes that WTC represents the willingness to speak freely, without fear. The degree of WTC depends on context, the receivers and personality traits and indicates whether individuals choose to speak or avoid having a conversation.

MacIntyre, Baker, Clement, and Conrad (2001) studied the relations among WTC in L2, social support and language learning orientations. In (2002), MacIntyre et al. studied WTC, perceived competence, French anxiety, integrativeness and motivation in terms of sex and age among junior high school students in a French immersion program. Hashimo (2002) conducted a study with Japanese ESL students to investigate the effects of WTC and motivation on actual L2 use.

A recent study by L. McCroskey, Fayer, J. McCroskey, and Richmond (2007) investigated communication traits in Puerto Rico in both Spanish and English, including a discussion of relations among communication traits in each language and the differences and similarities of those traits in both languages. …

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