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LINGUIST List 25.666

Sat Feb 08 2014

Review: Applied Linguistics; Language Acquisition: Gabryś-Barker & Bielska (2013)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <jsalmonslinguistlist.org>

Date: 12-Oct-2013
From: Ivan Lombardi <ivan.lombardiunicatt.it>
Subject: The Affective Dimension in Second Language Acquisition
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/24/24-1983.html

EDITOR: Danuta Gabryś-Barker
EDITOR: Joanna Bielska
TITLE: The Affective Dimension in Second Language Acquisition
SERIES TITLE: Second Language Acquisition
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Ivan Lombardi, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

SUMMARY
Danuta Gabryś-Barker and Joanna Bielska's collection of essays treats the role
of affect, in its broadest sense, in second language acquisition and learning.
The volume is divided into four parts, or facets of affectivity in language:
Affective variables in language learning, Motivation, attitudes and learning
experiences, Affectivity in language production, and Affective dimension in
education contexts.

Part 1: Affective Variables on Language Learning
Aneta Pavlenko's lengthy essay 'The affective turn in SLA' opens the book with
a reflection on the increasing attention to affect in SLA and language
learning that characterised the last decade. In her opinion, this trend has
led to a paradigm shift, the affective turn. She argues against the restricted
value given to the notion of 'affective factors' as defined by major SLA
textbooks. In her opinion, these relate to “a single research question (the
influence of affect on L2 learning)”, while the complexity of affect needs “a
range of diverse questions regarding linguistic, psychological and social
aspects of L2 learning and a replacement of a single paradigm (affective
factors) with a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches” (p. 9).
Pavlenko reviews the state of the art in the three highlighted dimensions: the
linguistic one examines the relationship between affect and prosody, lexicon
and morphosyntax. The psychological dimension deals with how affectivity
affects language learning motivation, language choice and decision making. The
social dimension inquires about how affective processes are influenced by
social contexts that ultimately shape emotions, behaviours and choices. In the
end, the author states that affect is a phenomenon that can be understood only
with true interdisciplinary studies, and wishes for a better future
integration of findings in psychology, psycholinguistics and applied
linguistics.

David Singleton's brief paper 'Affective dimensions of second language
ultimate attainment' reviews several studies that point to the inadequacy of
the critical period hypothesis as the single factor that influences ultimate
language attainment. He calls for a wider-ranging approach than a mere focus
on age, as, in his view, “the affective dimension in respect of L2 attainment
… is at least as significant as the age factor” (p. 30).

In her chapter 'Anxiety and perceived communication competence as predictors
of willingness to communicate in the ESL/FL classroom', Dagmara Gałajda
designs a study attempting to analyse “to what extent is willingness to
communicate (WTC) conditioned by the reported communication apprehension (CA)
and self-perceived communication competence (SPCC) of … students in L1 and FL
university contexts” (p. 37). Her results show that in formal contexts, WTC is
conditioned by SPCC in L1 and the level of CA in the FL; in informal contexts
WTC is conditioned by SPCC in both L1 and FL, and the level of CA varies as a
function of the degree of acquaintance to the interlocutor.

'Self-efficacy beliefs and FL achievement in the Polish school context' by Ewa
Piechurska-Kuciel shares the results of a study testing the following working
hypothesis: “Higher self-efficacy students gain higher FL achievement” (p.
51). Indeed, the author gets statistically significant support for this. Low
self-efficacy students had a lower FL (and general) achievement, both in terms
of competence and grades, while their high self-efficacy counterparts had a
better experience overall. She eventually gives recommendations to teachers to
boost pupils' self-confidence, self-esteem and self-efficacy -- which may lead
to a better language learning experience in school.

In her essay 'Affectivity in learning L2 phonology/phonetics -- the role of
self-concept in successful acquisition of English pronunciation', Małgorzata
Jedynak states that “pronunciation is the aspect of foreign language learning
most sensitive to the impact of human emotions” (p. 60). She sets up an
experimental group of Polish students to find out whether a correlation
between the learners' self-concept and the attainment of English pronunciation
exists. Such a correlation, however, is not supported by her results, as even
students with a more positive self-concept did not perform as well as expected
in the measured pronunciation tasks.

Part 2: Motivation, Attitudes and Learning Experiences
Teresa Maria Włosowicz's 'The role of motivation in third or additional
language acquisition and in multilingualism research' focuses on the
complexity of describing the role of motivation in learning additional
languages after the L2 -- especially when the L2 is English, the world's
lingua franca. Her extensive literature review results in the proposal of
several motivational strategies for L3, L4, L5 ... learning from a range of
different points of view: the (multilingual) ideal self, choice motivation,
etc. Additionally, she points out how multilingualism research studies may be
influenced by the subjects' motivation (or lack thereof).

In her paper 'Language learning vibes', Tammy Gregersen analyses language
learning motivation with the instruments of positive psychology -- especially
Csikszentimihályi's notion of flow. According to her, 'vibes' are the
sensations that one feels before cognition, the 'gut feeling' that may
generate a positive or negative attitude towards learning a specific language.
She emphasises the need for language pedagogy to consider approaches that
create positive vibes (like flow states) and thus avoid negative states like
the rise of anxiety: “language teacher[s] should keep in mind the powerful
negative force that foreign language anxiety can have on language learners and
create opportunities and activities that challenge their learners yet do not
overwhelm them in order to facilitate the creation of flow, thus generating
the vibes that will undergird future attempts at language learning” (p. 95).

Danuta Gabryś-Barker essay 'The affective dimension in multilingual's language
learning experiences' “comments on the role of affectivity in foreign language
instruction in multilingual contexts, in which the first foreign language (L2)
is learnt during the early stages of education, whereas … any subsequent
foreign language [is] acquired later in life, that is, in (young) adulthood”
(p. 99). Her findings indicate that affectivity plays a primary role in
language learning, and that L2 and L3 contexts are different in terms of the
perceived positivity or negativity of the experience. L3 learning, in general,
is viewed by her respondents as more traumatic than L2 learning: the causes
may be the different perceptions of both the learning situation and the FL
itself; the language learning history and the experience; the rising
importance of affective factors in adult learning (like the preservation of
the self-concept).

The chapter 'Goals pursuit in a foreign language classroom' (Anna Klimas)
“explores the nature of setting and pursuing language learning goals” (p. 112)
and the factors that may influence the students' goal setting in a positive or
negative way. She highlights the role of three different kinds of inhibiting
factors (external distractions, personal distractions and knowledge/learning
limitations) and of several facilitative factors concerning the learners'
personal sphere, as well as planning, resources, task, and the human factors
(teacher, peers, significant others). She also states that identifying these
factors in the classroom has been a way to raise the students' awareness of
them, and thus a crucial step in overcoming obstacles and exploiting the
positive 'vibe'.

In their large-scale attitudinal study 'Affective dimensions in SL
pronunciation', Ewa Waniek-Klimczak, Andrzej Porzuczek and Arkadiusz Rojczyk
enquire whether pronunciation is perceived by Polish learners of English as an
important goal to strive for, and what motivates them to spend time and energy
to achieve a native-like accent. Results show that their students -- English
majors -- value pronunciation very highly and wish to attain native-like
pronunciation (though with differences between BA students, MA students and
students at a private university). Their motivating factors seem to be related
to the improvement of the self-concept, better job opportunities in the
future, and personal perfectionism.

Beata Webb analyses the 'Attitudes and perceptions of international students
toward their life in Australia'. She surveys students from different countries
about their issues in getting accustomed with the Australian life and
university system. Her results show a very different picture for students from
Europe and students from the Middle East and East Asia. The first group
exhibits the most positive attitudes towards living in Australia. Both the
other groups report difficulties with the language, in bonding with locals,
but have a better attitude than Europeans towards the university workload.
Chinese students in particular struggle the most, though they still value the
experience of living, studying (and often working) in Australia positively.

Part 3: Affectivity in Language Production
In the opening of the third section, Liliana Piasecka ('Identification and
verbal expression of emotions by users of English as a foreign language')
discusses L2 learners' feelings while put in emotionally loaded situations,
and how they express their feeling linguistically. She designs an empirical
investigation whose results show that her students (who have been studying
English for an average of 13 years) are able to name and express in English
the emotion they feel when facing a highly emotional situation. They also seem
to use emotional language in English appropriately. Moreover, the author
points to a different management of emotion vocabulary by males and females.

In the next chapter ('Student paper presentations -- an analysis of
face-related issues') Ewa Bogdanowska-Jakubowska acknowledges that “paper
presentation is a face-threatening situation for every presenter [and]
especially for students, for whom such a situation is quite new” (p. 167). She
is interested in observing the students' presentation strategies and
face-saving behaviours when confronted to a mixed audience: the peers and the
teacher. She concludes that this kind of presentation poses a problem for
students, who are forced to rely on three kinds of 'self-presentational
strategies': those directed to the audience as a whole; different ones when
addressing the fellow students; and a third additional kind when addressing
the teacher.

Joanna Nijakowska begins her essay 'Politeness in written academic discourse'
by introducing the metadiscourse framework and the politeness framework, which
she uses to analyse the writer-reader interaction in EFL methodology
textbooks. In the corpus studied, she is able to show the politeness
strategies applied by authors to create a bond with the readers and engage
them in the activity of reading. As a results, she states that authors of EFL
textbooks use more on-records solidarity expressions than language choices
aimed at taking distance. Moreover, authors tend to use different politeness
strategies to soften possible face-threatening formulations (which may occur
often in textbooks, given the supposedly asymmetrical relationship between the
writer and the reader).

Andrzej Łida is interested in the 'Emotive lexis in research articles'. He
challenges the view of academic discourse as neutral, and looks for emotive
expressions in two (English) corpora in language sciences and biology. His
results show that emotion terms are indeed used in research papers, twice as
frequently in language sciences as in biology. These are often adjectives, and
they represent mostly interest (60% of all emotions) and surprise (17%). He
thus concludes that academic discourse is not de-emotionalised, as commonly
thought, though the emotions conveyed mostly are mild or mitigated.

Part 4: Affective Dimension in Educational Contexts
Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) is the focus of the next three
chapters. In the first ('CLIL lessons in the upper-primary: the interplay of
affective factors and CALP'), Agnieszka Otwinowska shares the results of two
surveys concerning the attitude of young (10-11 years old) Polish students
towards CLIL (mathematics and science) lessons in English. She finds visible
age-related differences in the emotional response to CLIL. Fourth graders, in
fact, rated the lessons as too difficult, probably because their Cognitive
Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) is not yet developed. Fifth graders, on
the other hand, are less reluctant about CLIL, though they highlight several
difficulties as well. In the author's opinion, those may be correlated to a
lack of proper use of CLIL methodology by untrained teachers.

Zbigniew Możejko discusses 'The role of affective factors in CLIL provision in
the secondary school'. He investigates the perception of CLIL classes by
Polish young adolescents, their parents and teachers. His results highlight
that the parents are most enthusiastic about CLIL provision, whereas teachers
are realistic and students somewhat critical. The last group, however,
declares that they feel motivated by CLIL instruction, though teachers do not
always agree. Moreover, in his opinion there seem to be several issues in CLIL
implementation, and thus its success is highly dependent on the teacher rather
than on proper implementation. In the end, the author claims that his results
hint at an important role of attitude, motivation and beliefs in the success
of CLIL provision.

The focus of Katarzyna Papaja and Arkadiusz Rojczyk's essay is 'Motivation
from the perspective of a CLIL teenage learner'. The results of their
investigation seem quite different from those of the preceding studies: their
learners enjoy learning English, and especially through CLIL. Moreover, their
motivation does not ebb and flow much, though learners say they value CLIL
lessons the most in their second year, given an initial difficulty in the
first year and the concern with having CLIL instruction in English and the
final exam in Polish in the third year. In their sample, females had a more
positive view of CLIL than males. The researchers found no statistically
significant correlation between CLIL instruction and a broadening in the
students' interests, nor CLIL seems to have been a way to raise their interest
in British/American culture.

Anna Turula examines the role of 'Affect in VLEs' in the context of EFL
teacher training. She argues that virtual learning environments are “first and
foremost learning environments and, as such, they share the characteristics of
traditional in-class learning milieus” (p. 254). When discussing the results
of her two studies, in fact, she shows that e-learning environments like
Moodle are not that different from traditional environments when the focus is
on affective factors like social anxiety and motivation. Demotivating or
anxiety-generating factors are not 'e-specific' or related to digital literacy
-- they actually follow ordinary classroom dynamics.

The chapter by Maria Stec ('The affective aspects in early language learning
and syllabuses') gives an overview of six syllabi and a collection of
teachers' opinions on the topics of children's emotional development and the
affective aspects of language teaching. She finds that affective factors are
not stated explicitly in the syllabi (only one states that teachers should be
aware of their role in their pupils' emotional development) but they all
include some vocabulary to describe emotions. In their answer to
questionnaires, the teachers state that they actively try to stimulate
positive emotions in their pupils, and teach them how to control emotions.
Only a few, however, teach them to name or describe emotions in the foreign
language. The author argues that this practice may change with a training in
emotional intelligence development for teachers.

Marcin Gliński discusses 'The problem of inhibition among children during
culture-based classes', that causes young learners' classroom participation to
diminish. He reviews the role of several techniques meant to enhance the
learners' positive emotions when applied with highly inhibited students in the
English culture class. These techniques helped to build a positive atmosphere,
though some not as much as expected (e.g. storytelling and puppet
presentations); the most successful techniques were the ones that encouraged
the inhibited students to participate actively in the classroom interaction --
though the same students often need to be further encouraged by the teachers.
While these results are general, the author acknowledges that every learner is
different, and therefore what motivates one pupil may not be effective at all
with another.

The last chapter ('Affective factor considerations in a transcultural approach
to language teaching', Karen Jacob, Maria Juan-Garau and José Igor
Prieto-Arranz) presents an approach to English as an international language.
The researchers set up an experimentation that connected three secondary
schools in Spain and Poland through a blog. The aim was to promote interaction
in English as a means to achieve “transcultural and translingual competence”
(p. 292). The virtual space seems to have effectively helped in that sense: by
using English to interact with peers (and fellow learners of English), the
students were able to make friends, communicate authentically, develop an
international identity, discuss global issues and also develop an interest for
the other while challenging stereotypes.

EVALUATION
Researchers interested in the role of affect in language learning will surely
value this collection of essays for its variety of topics, solid literature
reviews and theoretical overwiews, as well as the numerous empirical results
and statistical data. Though the editors mention a wide range of possible
readers (language teachers, pre-service teachers, teacher trainers,
post-graduate students), this book is probably better suited for academics
interested in affect and its relationship to language.

All in all, affectivity is at the core of every essay, as it is “at the core
of everything we do in and with our lives” (p. xvii). The essays are well
balanced across the four sections, and feature the works of mostly Polish
authors, with contributions from international distinguished authors. In most
of the essays the educational context is central, and the role of language
learning and SLA is examined in relation to affectivity. A few essays,
however, while interesting and certainly high-quality, seem not to fall
strictly into the domain of SLA, but rather into the broader domain of applied
linguistics. Thus, the reader might find them out of place in a collection
edited in a Second Language Acquisition series and whose title explicitly
addresses SLA as the domain of reference.

This book met my expectations, and I was able to find new valuable contents
and data that advance our field. I appreciated above all the convenient
literature reviews that introduce the empirical aspects of almost every essay,
guiding the researcher through cornerstone references, but also through less
known but interesting essays and books.


ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Ivan Lombardi is a Ph.D. candidate in Language education at the Università
Cattolica, Milan, where he teaches a course called 'Foreign language
workshop'. He also teaches 'Game-based language learning' at an online MA
promoted by the University of Nottingham. His current research topic is the
motivational power of game elements for foreign language learning.
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