Willingness to communicate in learning Mandarin as a foreign and heritage language

Zhou, Ying
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [May 2012]
The research investigated willingness to communicate (WTC) and its related antecedents and outcomes in learning Mandarin as a heritage and foreign language. The study examined the relationship between L2 WTC and two antecedents: the perceived competence and the communication anxiety. The outcomes of WTC investigated are the frequency of language use in Mandarin as an L2 and proficiency in the L2. The study also compared the differences between heritage and non-heritage learners of Mandarin on their L2 WTC and its antecedents and outcomes. One hundred and seventy-nine Mandarin learners at five universities in the United States participated in the study. They are English native speakers and learners of Mandarin at various proficiency levels. Among them, 78 are heritage learners of Mandarin and the remaining 101 participants do not have any heritage background of Mandarin. The data were collected via a questionnaire to measure their language background, L2 WTC, and the two antecedents and one outcome (frequency of language use) for L2 WTC. In addition, a Mandarin elicited imitation task developed by the researcher and a colleague was used to measure the participants' Mandarin proficiency levels. The resulting evidence was analyzed and inspected via AMOS, the structural equation modeling (SEM), to test causal relationships among the variables. ANOVA was conducted to compare the differences between heritage and non-heritage learners on the variables. The result shows that L2 communication anxiety predicts learners' perceived competence. When learners have higher perceived competence, they are more willing to communicate in Mandarin in classroom which leads to higher WTC outside classroom. Learners with higher WTC outside classroom actually use Mandarin more frequently and are able to achieve higher proficiency levels. L2 perceived competence is also important in directly predicting learners' frequency of use and proficiency levels of Mandarin. In addition, the evidence suggests a tendency for heritage language learners towards higher communication anxiety and lower WTC and frequency of use in Mandarin than non-heritage language learners. Suggestions are provided to reduce communication anxiety and enhance perceived competence, L2 WTC and eventually improve proficiency levels in classrooms of Mandarin learning.
Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2012.
Includes bibliographical references.
Mandarin, heritage language, foreign language, East Asian Languages
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