A Case Study of South Korean and Saudi English Learners

The topic was investigated by collecting qualitative data through ethnographic research n the participants. The data shows a correlation between cultural perspectives on English as an LA and participants responses on the Willingness to Communicate scale but there are no significant trends in the findings related to anxiety. Because the researcher was the also the participants’ teacher, the discussion will focus on the divergence between the data collected on participants and their observed classroom behavior. I.

Introduction Neat makes a successful learner? Ames (1986) suggested that the success of a learner must be examined in relation to those beliefs and perceptions that enable earners to become involved, independent, and confident in their own learning (in San et al. , 2004). Such attitudes are composed of three components: (1) cognitive, (2) affective, and (3) behavioral (Gang et al. , 2004). This case study investigates the affective domain of a learner’s success, specifically anxiety and willingness to communicate.

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Anxiety and willingness to communicate are individual differences that fall under the category of “Propensities”; one of Ellis’ (2008) four factors responsible ROR individual deterrence. While working Witt learners tort boot South n Korea and Saudi Arabia, their learning styles, strengths and weakness, anxieties, and cultural perceptions have often clashed and become apparent to both me and each other.

Therefore, I have begun to investigate the differences between them in terms of cultural perceptions and experience, and how those perceptions and experiences may influence their anxiety and willingness to communicate in the second language classroom. The purpose of the study is twofold. The primary purpose is to compare the extent to which a South Korean learner’s and a Saudi learner’s cultural characteristics and perspectives influence their language anxiety and willingness to ammunition inside and outside of the second language classroom.

The secondary purpose is to investigate the extent to which anxiety and willingness to communicate have affected their English language learning success.

II. Review of Relevant Literature Anxiety Language Anxiety is the affective factor that most pervasively obstructs the learning process. Therefore, it is one of the most extensively studied Individual Difference in Second Language Acquisition research (Doormen, 2005). It is an unstable phenomenon that may be generated by any situation or event and perceived differently by each individual experiencing it (Park, 2009).

There are six ways in which researchers can classify and describe language anxiety: (1) Input anxiety: Apprehension that prohibits the taking-in of information in the LA (Park, 2009). Z) Processing anxiety: Inhibition of the cognitive processes such as retrieving information (Park, 2009).

13) Output anxiety: Fear of performance, difficulty demonstrating knowledge (Park, 2009). 14) State anxiety: Apprehension that is experienced at a particular moment in response to a definite situation (Ellis, 2008). 15) Trait anxiety: A characteristic of a person’s personality, a permanent retrospections to be anxious (Ellis, 2008). 6) Situational anxiety: Anxiety aroused by a particular type of situation (Ellis, 2008). Researching anxiety is complex.

Researchers in the field of SLAB do not always agree on whether to treat language anxiety as a trait, state, or situation-specific phenomenon (Spokesman & Roadwork’s, 2001). Furthermore, teachers have always been aware that their students experience anxiety in the course of language learning, but researchers have not been able to make a clear connection of exactly how anxiety affects language acquisition (Spokesman & Roadwork’s, 2001).

In the early research on language anxiety, scholars had examined the effects of language anxiety on learners’ achievement and performance, hypothesizing that anxiety has a negative influence (Park, 2009). However, early studies were unable to establish a “clear-cut relationship between anxiety and overall foreign language achievement” (Park, 2009). Due to the unstable nature of language anxiety, it has been difficult to measure. The Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale developed by Hurwitz et al.

N 1986 is a 33-item tool used to measure levels of Foreign Language anxiety. It was the first widely-used tool of its kind. It has been found to be reliable and valid and has gained widespread popularity in research on language-learning situations. The authors found a negative relationship between anxiety and classroom performance and drew the conclusion that there is a commonality among anxious students learning a foreign language (Park, 2009). Sources of Language Anxiety Language anxiety comes in many forms, but what exactly causes it can be difficult to trace.

Hurwitz et al (1986) describes language anxiety as “a distinct set of beliefs, self- perceptions, and feelings and behaviors relating to the classroom learning arising room the uniqueness of the language learning process, and not merely a composite of other anxieties”(in Park, 2009, p.

5). Anxiety exists in almost every aspect of LA learning (Park, 2009). But where does it come from? The field of SLAB recognizes six sources of language anxiety: (1) Personal and inter-personal, (2) Learner beliefs, (3) Instructor beliefs, (4) Instructor-learner interactions, (5) Classroom procedures, and 16) Language testing (Young, 1991).

Among these six potential sources, personal and interpersonal anxieties have been most commonly discussed in the research (Park, 2009). The present study aims to investigate this source, as well as learner beliefs, specifically about the status of English as a second language in their first cultures. Anxiety in the Language Classroom Three types of anxiety can be observed in the language classroom, all of which are directly related to the language learning process.

Communication apprehension is a construct can be utilized across multiple communication contexts and experiences.

It IS described as “an individual’s level of fear or anxiety associated with either real or anticipated communication with another person or persons”, or as “a type of shyness Characterized by fear of or anxiety about communicating with people” (Park, 2009 p. 11). Communication apprehension can be easily exacerbated in the classroom because learners have little control over the communicative situation and their performance is being constantly monitored (Doormen, 2003).

Fear of negative evaluation is defined as: “apprehension about others’ evaluations, avoidance of evaluative situations, and the expectation that others would evaluate oneself negatively’ (Park, 2009. P.

13). Learners who experience this anxiety rarely initiate conversation and interact minimally, tend to sit passively, and wit draw trot activities that could increase language skills. Fear of negative evaluation is not augmented by language proficiency. In fact, advanced learners demonstrate this trait more that lower proficiency level learners (Greenest & Hurwitz, 2002).

Anxiety and perfectionism are closely linked and share many characteristics. They both often result in counterproductive for language learners.

Perfectionist learners set impossibly high performance standards which create performance anxiety (Doormen, 2005). They are also overly-concerned with the appearance of communication which ay cause the actual structure of their communication to be compromised (Doormen, 2005). This is evident in learners who over-use translation dictionaries causing high- level vocabulary to be used inappropriately.

Symptoms of perfectionism include; motivation more form fear of failure than pursuit of success, procrastination, difficulty in taking credit, and measurement of success in terms of productivity and accomplishment (Greenest & Hurwitz , 2002). Unwillingness to communicate (WET) NET is a situated construct that includes both state and trait characteristics. It can e described as an “individual’s readiness to enter a discourse at a particular time Ninth specific interlocutors using an LA”(Doormen, 2005, p.


It integrates a range of linguistic and psychological variables and depends on prior communication experiences and personality characteristics, such as anxiety. WET, like anxiety, is personality-based orientation; a person’s predisposition toward or away from communicating (Doormen, 2003). WET is often measured unreliably, mainly because it is not dependent on actual language proficiency, rather each individual learner’s perceived competence. The Relatedness of Anxiety to WET Anxiety influences WET in many ways.

Primarily, anxiety can bias learners’ perceptions of their own language competence.

Anxiety can lead to premature severance of communication or complete avoidance (Gallagher, 2012). Anxiety can also cause cognitive disruption within a learner without a single act of communication. Awareness alone of potential future communication can create distraction and disrupt the language learning process (Doormen, 2003). The potential to experience language anxiety in anticipated communication affects the quality of LA communication and lowers WET.

Anxiety and Cultural/Linguistic Factors There are many general cultural and linguistic factors at work which can influence a learners’ language anxiety. The nature of the language learning situation itself is Inherently tense.

Learners often report separate personalities in the target language that inevitably create tension and anxiety within the individual (Doormen, 2005). People naturally feel anxiety when they encounter a cultural gap between their culture and a new culture. The larger the gap between the first and second cultures, the more prone the person will be to feeling anxious.

In the classroom especially, communicative and cultural values can be violated during the LA learning process, which causes learner to feel uncomfortable in the new environment porcine, 2005). Linguistically, the distance between languages in terms of grammatical structure, directionality, alphabetic character system, and stress and syllable patterns can also affect anxiety, especially in speaking.

The distance between Al and LA concerning these factors correlates to the amount and strength of anxiety in the learners who speak them (Jaime, 2007).

The type of the learners’ first exposure to the LA, usually in the native country, is also a factor that must be taken Into consideration when starting a discussion about how cultural perceptions about English influence learners language anxiety and willingness to communicate. If the educational system in a country where English is taught as and LA or foreign language permits the opportunity for communicative language learning, the learners Nil be accustomed to speaking upon entering the LA classroom environment in the U. S. It is possible that this may decrease speaking anxiety (Jaime, 2007).

In my experience however, most students are not afforded this opportunity.

Advanced Learners rhea participants in the present study are both advanced proficiency level learners. Therefore, it is worth noting here that the anxiety of advanced learners is often augmented as compared to that of lower proficiency learners. Anxiety levels of advanced students more strongly affected by the fear of negative evaluation than that of lower proficiency levels (Park, 2009). Advanced level learners are also likely to notice their own errors.

In many language learning situations, it can also be observed hat teachers often have harsher attitudes toward advanced students (Park, 2009).

This can be due to higher expectations and the greater saliency of errors. Cultural Characteristics of Saudi (Arabic) Learners Female English language learners coming from Saudi Arabia are a particular group of learners who face difficult cultural differences. The most salient being Islamic moral ‘aloes, particularly related to the separation of genders (Samovar et al. , 2010). In English language classrooms in the United States, men and women study together.

This is often the Saudi woman’s first experience spending any significant amount of mime in the same room as a man who is not related to her.

Even further, it is generally not acceptable for a Saudi woman to communicate in the presence of a man outside of her family. The expectation to do so in the language classroom can cause extremely high levels of anxiety in the female Saudi student. The Saudi schooling system places minimal focus on communicative teaching of English (AY Swell, 2013). However, some students are exposed to the opportunity for oral communication as early as the secondary school level.

This lack of opportunity for can cause apprehension upon integration into the communicative LA classroom. The status of English as an LA is very important in understanding how Saudi ELL’s perceive their English language learning experience.

English is very prominent in Saudi Arabia as a gateway language. It is necessary for upward social and economic mobility (AY Swell, 2013). Saudi women who are afforded the luxury of learning English report feelings of greater confidence and empowerment (AY Swell, 2013). English is very much a status symbol in Saudi Arabia, and traveling to the U.


Is perceived as a luxury and sign to wealth English also serves a highly practical function in Saudi culture, not only is it accessory for professional purposes, it acts as a means to bypass censorship. As a traditionally Islamic society, the government filters much of the media content available to the country. However, content written in English is often overlooked (AY Swell, 2013). Therefore, Saudi who can read and write in English have a greater freedom to express themselves in international forums like the internet and also have access to much more information.

Upon arrival to the U. S.

, Saudi often relegate themselves to their own international community. This means that they live in neighborhoods and apartment employees where it is not necessary to communicate with native English speakers. They often report speaking only Arabic outside of the school setting (AY Swell, 2013). Cultural characteristics of South Korean Learners South Korean students who come to the U. S.

To learn English also face the challenges presented by various cultural differences.

In South Korea, the schooling system is teacher-centered and students are accustomed to individual work rather than group Nor (Samovar et al. , 2010). These factors create competitive classroom environments, which is precisely the opposite of what they encounter in the adult SSL lassoer in the U. S.

The communicative experience lends itself to higher face- protection on the part of the learner (Jaime, 2007). In other words, as the teacher perceives many opportunities for communication, the learners may perceive many more opportunities for embarrassment. This can result in learner passivism in the classroom (Park, 2009).

South Korean, as well as Chinese and Japanese students are generally thought to suffer from perfectionism more than other populations of learners (Jaime, 2007). This could be a result of the competitive nature of their early LA education. Like Saudi learners, South Korean students also report being relegated to the international community (Gallagher, 2012).

In the location of this study, South Koreans make up a large percentage of the total population. Learners can run all of their errands for the day in Korean owned and operated establishments, with little or no contact with native English speakers.

Unlike Saudi Arabia, English does not serve highly practical function in South Korean society (Huh & McKay, 2012). There is much discussion in world forums about the extensibility of learning English in the South Korean context (Huh & McKay, 2012). Learners often carry a severely augmented perception of the importance and practicality of the English language.

Ill. Research Question How do learners’ cultural characteristics and previous LA learning experiences in their native countries influence anxiety and willingness to communicate as compared between a Korean and a Saudi learner?

IV. Method Participants Overview of demographic information Two “successful” adult English as a second language learners One female from Korea yon*) and one female from Saudi Arabia (Koala*) Yon is studying English as a bobby, Koala has a goal of attending graduate school in the US Yon-53 years old/ Koala-29 years old Low-advanced level learners according to the 2013 ACTUAL Proficiency Guidelines Learner Profile- Koala Koala received formal education in 2 countries during the primary and secondary grades. She is literate in both her first language, Arabic, and English.

She is living in the US now because her husband is a diplomat and works at the Saudi Arabian Embassy.

This is not the first time she has lived in the US, but it is the first time she has studied English here. She lived in Washington, D. C. With her husband and two pun children from 2004 to 2005. Because her children were babies, she was not able to study English, although she wanted to. She speaks of this time in the US and trying to communicate.

She explains that she had the words in her head, and she could read and write in English, but she could not put them in the right order. She Nas not able to construct sentences.

Her children are older now and she has only one baby, so with the help of a babysitter, she is able to study English four days per Neck. She arrived here in August and began studying in September. She claims that she is now able to put her words “into the correct street.

” Because of Koala’s father’s diplomatic status, their family traveled a lot when she was young. When she Nas a baby until 4 years old, her family lived in Switzerland. Her older brothers and sister studied French there for four years, but her father said it was too expensive to put Koala in a language program because she was so young.

Her family then moved back to Saudi Arabia for two years, where Koala began her formal schooling. After two years, the family moved to Germany, where Koala attended an Islamic (Arabic) academy for 6 years, until she was a young teenager.

Koala’s father speaks English and French fluently, and she has an older sister who is an English teacher in Saudi Arabia. When asked about her own perceptions of her abilities in English, clarity seems to be her main concern. It is difficult to tell exactly what she means by “clear”, but she refers to it often.

She explains her beliefs about accents and dialects :although she doesn’t use the term “dialect”). She explains that Saudi speak Arabic Introit an accent, but all other people who speak Arabic do so with an accent and have to “add extra sounds”.

She believes that because she speaks Arabic with no ‘extra sounds” that she can transfer that skill to English, therefore making her English more clear than the English of other non-native speakers. She gives an example of this when she explains that the Korean speakers in her class have to add “ah” to the end of their words.

She also spoke about an Indian man whom she overheard speaking English in public. To her, his accent made it very difficult for her to understand his English. This showed me that she has high language awareness and self-monitors her own speaking as well as compares it to others. Koala reported using a variety of strategies to learn English outside of the classroom setting.

She has opportunity tort exposure to English in the none because near husband and children all speak fluently, but that she is shy to speak with them and this results in only using Arabic in the home.

She admits that she struggles and cannot be of much assistance En her children need help on their homework, but that studying with them helps her to learn new words. She also watches television and tries to practice repeating and imitating what she hears on TV. She watches the weather, talk shows, and also NBC news. When no one else is home, she watches Dora the Explorer with her baby and repeats the words that Dora requests of the audience. Koala’s affective filter is ‘err high outside of the school environment.

She is very embarrassed to speak English around her husband because he is constantly correcting her.

She feels similarly about speaking English around her children. She explains that her first- grade daughter wants her to speak more like and American. She is also conscious about not letting her eighth-grade son know that she watches children’s programming to practice English, suggesting that she feels embarrassed. Koala’s main concern is for her children. She explained that she does not want to study English so much for herself, but for her children.

She claims that she is old now, but the children are the future.

When she fails, she is not Just failing herself, but failing her children because they are part of her. She spoke about the difficulty she had at a meeting with her son’s teacher the week before our interview. At the beginning of the conversation she didn’t have a problem communicating, but after a few minutes she couldn’t understand and she felt like she wanted to cry, because at that moment he knew she was failing. Learner Profile- Yon Yen’s profile is somewhat less detailed.

Although she has been my student for about the same amount of time as Koala, Yon and I have failed to form a personal relationship.

She does not share personal information voluntarily and therefore, I know much less about her learning history, life in her native country, and her real reasons for studying English. I do know that Yon came for the first time to the United States two years ago. She traveled here with her two sons so they could complete their senior year of high school in the U. S. Both boys then continued on to college, one attends West Point and one attends college in New York City.

Yon will return to South Korea in August while her sons stay here to continue their education. Yon is now 53 years old.

In South Korea she had a successful career as the director of a hospital, where her husband is a surgeon. She reports the she did not need to use English for advancement or development of her professional career. Therefore, she did not study English from the time she was attending university until she came to the U. S.

Yon reports that she is studying English only as a hobby. She goes not need to learn English for any specific purposes, but attends classes in order to keep her student visa and stay in the U. S. With her sons. This is a common practice among Korean mothers who travel to the U. S.

Tit their children while their husbands stay in Korea to continue supporting the family. When asked about her perceptions of her own abilities in English, Yon reported that she is mainly concerned with grammar when she is speaking and writing. I believe she suffers from perfectionism in that she is overly concerned with the outward appearance of near communication, that it sometimes lacks structure. She easily becomes hung up on single words and grammar points, that she neglects the content of the language. However, Yon reports believing that her language proficiency is above that of her classmates.