Community Involvement as a Means of Developing Oral Communication Skills and L2 Confidence: The Case of Tertiary Students in an Intermediate Japanese Course

Imura, Taeko (2007). Community Involvement as a Means of Developing Oral Communication Skills and L2 Confidence: The Case of Tertiary Students in an Intermediate Japanese Course PhD Thesis, School of Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies, University of Queensland.

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Author Imura, Taeko
Thesis Title Community Involvement as a Means of Developing Oral Communication Skills and L2 Confidence: The Case of Tertiary Students in an Intermediate Japanese Course
School, Centre or Institute School of Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies
Institution University of Queensland
Publication date 2007
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Associate Professor Nanette Gottlieb
Abstract/Summary One of the ultimate goals of language learning is to be able to communicate effectively in real life situations with native speakers (NSs). Nevertheless, most foreign language (FL) courses rarely provide the opportunity for the learners to interact with NSs in the language curriculum. Furthermore, a large volume of research has shown that the speaking situation in the classroom can provoke anxiety for many FL learners when they are adolescents or adults who are self-conscious and apt to fear negative evaluation by teacher and peers. It appears that affective factors cannot be disregarded when teaching how to speak the language, as they can impact on the learning process and consequently on developing speaking skills in a FL. This research investigates the impact of interaction with NSs on the development of oral communication skills and L2 confidence when FL learners had an opportunity to use the target language regularly outside the classroom with NSs in the community: the Community Involvement (CI) project. The study also aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of the CI approach in a FL curriculum. The framework for this research is based on foreign language anxiety (Horwitz, Horwitz, & Cope, 1986; Gardner & MacIntyre, 1993a; MacIntyre, 1999; MacIntyre & Gardner, 1991c), the vicious cycle model (Baker & MacIntyre, 2000), and willingness to communicate (MacIntyre, 1994; MacIntyre, Dörnyei, Clément, & Noels, 1998). So far, few studies have reported the effect of interaction with NSs on linguistic and affective outcomes in regards to FL context and the evidence is far from conclusive. Forty students, who were studying Japanese at an intermediate level at a university, had a matched NS partner and met for 10 hours during a semester outside the classroom (i.e., the CI project). The CI project was an integral part of the intermediate course. For the analysis, both quantitative and qualitative data were collected from the students. They completed a questionnaire on perceived competence and anxiety measures and took listening and speaking tests before and after the 10- hour interaction. The effect of interaction with NS was examined by comparing the scores on the pre- and post- questionnaires and tests by administering statistical tests. Furthermore, in order to demonstrate the effect of interaction and account for the linguistic, cognitive, and affective changes which took place over the duration of the study, a total of 217 written journals collected from individual students after each meeting were analysed. The statistical results clearly show that interaction with NS had a significant impact not only on improving oral communication skills but also on affective factors. The findings suggest that perceived competence in speaking and listening increased and anxiety felt inside the classroom and outside the classroom decreased dramatically after the interaction (viz. increase in L2 confidence). The analysis of the qualitative data provided in-depth insight into affective and cognitive changes and lent further support to the statistical findings. It also revealed that linguistic development was difficult to dissociate from affective and cognitive changes, as they were strongly interrelated. Most students enjoyed the interaction and felt comfortable in using the language outside as well as inside the classroom regardless of their past learning experience and competence in Japanese oral skills. This suggests that the positive learning experience at a personal level made them transform internally by themselves, and these changes spread to the classroom context. Thus, the experience reduced students’ anxiety successfully and contributed to changing their feelings, beliefs and attitudes associated with using and learning the language. The study confirmed that the CI approach is effective in a FL curriculum. The present study has implications for FL teaching especially in developing oral communication skills. It has also made significant contributions to theoretical and methodological advancements by highlighting the importance of affective factors in the development of oral communication skills. Such insights are of particular interest to teachers of FL who are concerned about maintaining students’ motivation and researchers who investigate affective variables. When as little as 10 hours of interaction with NS “outside the classroom” makes remarkable differences to learners in linguistic and non-linguistic outcomes, the regular interaction with NSs is strongly recommended and should be made available to FL learners in a multicultural society.

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Created: Fri, 21 Nov 2008, 15:52:11 EST