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VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES FACULTY OF POST-GRADUATE STUDIES BÙI THỊ PHƢƠNG A STUDY ON ESP LEARNERS’ SPEAKING ANXIETY AT A UNIVERSITY IN VIETNAM NGHIÊN CỨU VỀ VIỆC LO LẮNG CỦA SINH VIÊN TIẾNG ANH CHUYÊN NGÀNH KHI HỌC NÓI TIẾNG ANH TẠI MỘT TRƢỜNG ĐẠI HỌC Ở VIỆT NAM M.A. MINOR PROGRAMME THESIS Field: English Linguistics Code: 60140111 HANOI – 2017 VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES FACULTY OF POST-GRADUATE STUDIES BÙI THỊ PHƢƠNG A STUDY ON ESP LEARNERS’ SPEAKING ANXIETY AT A UNIVERSITY IN VIETNAM NGHIÊN CỨU VỀ VIỆC LO LẮNG CỦA SINH VIÊN TIẾNG ANH CHUYÊN NGÀNH KHI HỌC NÓI TIẾNG ANH TẠI MỘT TRƢỜNG ĐẠI HỌC Ở VIỆT NAM M.A. MINOR PROGRAMME THESIS Field: English Linguistics Code: 60140111 Supervisor: Prof. Nguyễn Hòa HANOI – 2017 DECLARATION Title: “A STUDY ON ESP LEARNERS’ SPEAKING ANXIETY AT A UNIVERSITY IN VIETNAM” I certify that no part of the thesis has been copied or reproduced by me from any other works without acknowledgement and that the thesis is originally written by me under strict guidance of my supervisor. Hanoi, 2017 Student’s signature Bùi Thị Phƣơng i ACKNOWLEGEMENTS First of all, I would like to send my sincere and special gratitude to my supervisor, Prof. Nguyễn Hòa, who has given valuable assistance, guidance, precious suggestions, advice, and reference materials to me so that I can complete this thesis. I would also like to acknowledge Mr. Khoi at University of Language and International Studies as the second reader of this thesis, and I am gratefully indebted for his very valuable instructions of how to conduct the study using a new research methodology. I would also like to thank the third-year students in Transport Engineering in English who were involved in the validation survey for this research project. Without their passionate participation and input, the validation survey could not have been successfully conducted. Finally, I must express my very profound gratitude to my family and to my boyfriend for providing me with unfailing support and continuous encouragement throughout my years of study and through the process of researching and writing this thesis. This accomplishment would not have been possible without them. Thank you. ii ABSTRACT For many years, speaking anxiety has been a dilemma in the English classrooms and will no doubt continue being a serious obstacle to students in order to improve their English speaking skills. However, the question with regard to detecting the reasons of speaking anxiety has not been solved properly in the teaching and learning of English in Vietnam. The focus of English teaching in Vietnam has witnessed a shift toward providing students with greater communicative skills to meet the need of using English in the real world. Therefore, this study, by utilizing a qualitative research method and narrative inquiry inviting the voice of technical Vietnamese university learners, aims to investigate the different causes of speaking anxiety among Vietnamese university participants in learning English speaking skills. This study also provides a necessary justification for teachers and educators to some potential solutions and calls for further researches with regard to the correlation between speaking anxiety and the teaching and learning of English speaking skills in technical Vietnamese universities. The findings reported that students mostly feel anxious when it comes to speaking in English speaking classroom due to several factors. Results indicated that the causes of speaking anxiety could be divided into three main categories, namely: student factors, teacher factors and learning settings/environment. It is suggested that actions to resolve this problem are necessary but do not seem to be implemented successfully. There is a need for teachers and educators, also researchers to carry out more studies on this topic, to create more motivating teaching methods by giving the students more opportunities to practice speaking, to make a more comfortable and friendly speaking environment; or to change the learning setting and testing formats by giving the students a more relaxing and practical format of speaking exams or to redesign English classes and reconsider the iii aims of English teaching in order to enhance the effectiveness of English speaking lessons. TABLE OF CONTENTS Error! Bookmark not defined. iv LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1: The timeline of the first student‟s story .....................................................17 Figure 2: The timeline of the second student‟s story ................................................17 Figure 3: The key features of the third student‟s story .............................................18 Figure 4: The percentage of subcategories causing speaking anxiety in student factors. .......................................................................................................................20 Figure 5: The summary of subcategories of learning settings/ environment as considered as the cause of speaking anxiety. ............................................................33 Figure 6: The proportion of subcategories of teacher factors ...................................41 Table 1: Quanlitative opinions from students about the causes of their speaking anxiety........................................................................................................................18 v CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION This chapter provides the first look over the problems, the aims and objectives of the study, the significance of the study, the chosen research methods, and the structure of the study. 1.1 Identification of the problems English for Special Purposes (ESP) is a learner-centered approach in which all teaching practices are governed by specific needs of specific learners (DudleyEvans, 1998). ESP courses (both academic and occupational) are designed for the learners who want English for their occupation in post-academic setting or for the ones who want it for academic purposes in a pre-occupational setting. Within the communicative framework of ESP language teaching, learning to speak and communicate are major aims for learning English (Nunan, 2003). Despite the significance of speaking skills, most of students have problem in speaking the second language especially in the English class (Khairi, 2003). Anxiety has been identified as a common emotional reaction in foreign language classrooms. Researchers have found that one-third of foreign language learners experience at least a moderate level of foreign language anxiety (Horwitz, 2001). Therefore, foreign language teachers and scholars have been interested in finding out the causes of foreign language anxiety in speaking classroom. Among the four skills, speaking has been recognized as the most anxiety-provoking (Han, 2001). The view that anxiety can affect learner‟s learning performance is supported by MacIntyre and Gardner (MacIntyre, 1989) who found that students with high communicative anxiety tended to have lower scores on oral and written vocabulary tests. Moreover, regardless of its significance of learning English as a second language, speaking skills have still received improper attention of the students in EFL context at the Hanoi-based technical university where the researcher decided to carry out the studies. There are a few available researches that have been done in 1 this field in the institution. To ensure the anonymity, the researched university is named University X in this study. With an integration of the three emerging problems mentioned above, the researcher is urged to conduct the study “A study on ESP learners’ speaking anxiety in a university in Vietnam” with a hope to make a useful contribution to the School‟s Researches and Studies. 1.2. Aims and objectives of the study First of all, the study aims at identifying whether there is an anxious feeling in speaking English among the ESP students at university X; then mentioning reasons that cause ESP learners‟ anxiety when speaking in English classroom in context of the university basing on some previous researches to point out the importance of this paper. Also, from this study, educators especially lecturers in the university and other higher learning institutions will get useful information about students‟ anxiety level in speaking English as a second language. The information will help them to design effective teaching methods that can help to reduce language anxiety and to create less stressful learning atmosphere. In short, the aims and objectives of the study are to answer the following research question: What are the causes of ESP students’ speaking anxiety? 1.3. Significance of the study As one of pioneering studies on speaking anxiety among ESP learners in the university, the study would be helpful to related populations including teachers teaching speaking skills, sophomores, and the researchers who share the same interest. As mentioned earlier, anxiety is one of major factors that affects second language learning. Bearing in mind the fact that language learners, to some extent, experience debilitating levels of language anxiety in learning a new language and the new language anxiety can cause students to postpone language study 2 indefinitely; a thorough understanding of the causes of speaking anxiety may offer some potential solutions to improve learners‟ performances and increase their learning satisfaction. Additionally, this study may serve as a guide for language teachers in terms of helping them to increase their understanding of language learning anxiety from the perspective of the learners. Studies of this nature can also provide insights into how educators can develop appropriate interventions to decrease language anxiety among ESP learners. In addition, by understanding the causes of speaking anxiety, strategies and interventions to boost the self-confidence of learners and lower their anxiety in language learning in general, and speaking in particular can prove to be beneficial to all stakeholders. With regards to other researchers, this study offers some reliable and useful information for their future researches. Particularly, future researches could be made better after limitations of this study are considered. 1.4. Methods of the study Qualitative method was applied in this study. The instruments used to collect data for the recent study were a questionnaire which included an open-ended question and narrative inquiry. The open-ended item in the questionnaire was included to examine to some extent the participants‟ opinions towards the causes of speaking anxiety. The narrative inquiry was carried out to further evaluate the causes of speaking anxiety among participants that they could not express fully in the questionnaire. 1.5. Structure of the study The present study consists of 5 chapters: Chapter 1 presents the introduction to the study, in which identifies the research problems, aims and objectives of the study, the significance of the research and the methods were used. 3 Chapter 2 highlights the review of the literature on language anxiety, speaking anxiety in the English speaking classroom, and the causes of language anxiety. Chapter 3 introduces details of the chosen research methods, the setting and procedure in which the methods were used and carried out. Chapter 4 consists of findings and discussions of the study which provides the detailed results of the data analysis procedure. And lastly, chapter 5 summarizes the results of the research, limitations and suggestions for the study. 4 CHAP 2: LITERATURE REVIEW In this chapter, all the key concepts such as “speaking anxiety” and “causes of speaking anxiety” are defined as the frame for the study. Also, a brief overview of the related studies discloses the research gap and justifies the aims and objectives of this research paper. 2.1. Speaking Numerous definitions about “speaking” have been given. It can be seen that most of the definitions share the same perspectives about speaking. According to Chaney (1998), speaking is “the process of building and sharing meaning through the use of verbal and non-verbal symbols, in a variety of contexts”. This definition emphasizes on two aspects of speaking, i.e. meaning and context. This perspective is further supported by Brown (1994) and Burn and Joyce (1997) that speaking can be considered as the “interactive process” whose form and meaning depend on the context in which it occurs. Also, speaking is defined as “a closed loop where in the conversation can only occur where there are two individuals, the communicator and the recipient” (Cheng, 2007). This definition mentions another aspect of speaking, that is the involvement of the communicator and recipient. It points out one of the most prominent features of speaking that is the interaction between people. In term of speaking skills, Cunningham (1999) also states that speaking requires the learners to understand when, why and in what ways to produce language. It is considered as the sociolinguistic competence of the learners. Besides, various definitions highlight the linguistic competence of the learners when speaking. Cunningham (1999) asserts that speaking involves the ability of composing correct sentences in term of grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. Bailey (2008) also emphasizes that speaking is an oral skill which includes producing verbal utterances systematically. Grammatical rules, cohesive devices, lexical items and phonological rules are all necessary to express one‟s thoughts adequately. 5 2.2. ESP learning ESP focuses on the learner‟s needs, waste no time, is relevant to the learner, is successful in imparting learning, is more cost-effective than „General English‟. Subsequent to Strevens‟ definition, Dudley-Evans (1998) proposed another definition which was largely adapted from Strevens‟ definition. The definition Dudley-Evans proposes seems to enjoy some improvements over Srevens‟ (1988) by removing the absolute characteristic that ESP is “in contrast with „General English‟, and has revised and increased the number of variable characteristics. The division of ESP into absolute and variable characteristics, in particular, is very helpful in resolving arguments about what is and is not ESP. From the definition, ESP can neither it necessarily refers to specific discipline, nor does it have to be aimed at a certain age group or ability range. 2.3. Anxiety 2.3.1. Definition of anxiety Anxiety is one of the most well documented psychological phenomena. Chastain (1988) defines anxiety as a state of uneasiness and apprehension or fear caused by the anticipation of something threatening. Broadly speaking, anxiety is the subjective feeling of tension, apprehension, nervousness, and worry associated with an arousal of the automatic nervous system (Spielberger, 1983). Traditionally, the nature of anxiety has been differentiated into trait anxiety, situational anxiety, and state anxiety (Cattell & Scheier, 1963; MacIntyre & Gardner, 1989, 1991; Spielberger, 1966). Trait anxiety is a general tendency to become nervous in a wide range of situations (Spielberger, 1983). The type of anxiety is caused by students‟ personality so it can be stable over time. Spielberger also gives the definition of state anxiety which is “the feeling of worry and stress that takes places at a particular moment under a particular circumstance”. Notably, state anxiety often goes with physical signs such as “perspiration, sweaty palms, dry mouth, muscle contractions and tension, and 6 increased heart rate”. This kind of anxiety is unstable and can change according to moments and circumstance. Situational anxiety, as its name says, happens up to specific situations. Situational anxiety can change from situation to situation; however, it is quite stable. Especially, MacIntyre and Gardner (1991) stress that situational anxiety can be classified as a type of state anxiety which “persists not necessarily across situations but with certain situations consistently across time” (as cited in Zhanibek, 2001). Also, situational specific anxiety is more various than trait and state anxieties. 2.2.2. Foreign language speaking anxiety MacIntyre (1999) views anxiety as a feeling of worry and emotional reaction that arises while learning or using a second language. Horwitz et al. (1986) offer a similar definition, arguing that learning anxiety can impact their learning in general and their fluency of speech in particular. Horwitz et al. (1991) indicate that anxiety was significantly related to poor performance in the FL, particularly in speaking skills. Mason (1995) concluded that most of the university students agreed that listening/speaking skills are assuming much more significance and complexity than mere traditional note-taking and formal speaking skills. This attribution of importance to the aural skills often leads to unwanted anxiety and stress on the part of learners. Ortega (2009) lists out the symptoms of foreign language speaking anxiety such as “freezing up” and “getting confused in spite of having studied hard”. Furthermore, Hanna and Gibson (1987) states that speaking anxiety can lead to “blood pressure”, “hand trembling”, weakness in some parts of the body”, “feeling anxious”, “forgetting the prepared material” and “avoiding looking at the audience”. 2.2.3. Causes of foreign language speaking anxiety A lot of researches find out that speaking anxiety can be caused by linguistic factors, psychological factors and cultural factors. Kojima (2007) states that students who have low linguistic abilities often struggle in speaking activities and feel nerve-racking. He also points out the tendency to have a high level of anxiety 7 of students who have insufficient linguistic knowledge. This argument is strongly backed up by numerous studies carried out all over the world. The studies carried out by Kayaoglu and Saglamel (2013), Melouah (2013), Tanveer (2007) presents that the language anxiety level goes up when students have low linguistic abilities in terms of vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. Furthermore, psychological factors contribute considerably to students‟ speaking anxiety. Kojima (2007) states that people with extrovert personality are much eager and more willing to talk to other people rather than introvert ones. Also, learners who often have a high level of anxiety often set a “higher performance standards” and “higher level of worries over errors.” (Gregerson & Horwitz, 2002). They tend to be perfectionists. Horwitz et al. (1986) claims that communication apprehension (fear of communication with people), fear of negative evaluation (apprehension about others‟ evaluation) and test anxiety can also cause speaking anxiety. A lot of observations, interviews and questionnaires reveal that negative feelings and attitudes are the most common cause of speaking anxiety. Additionally, the insufficient knowledge of the culture of the target language may cause anxiety speaking (Kojima, 2007). Tanveer (2007) indicates that language anxiety may happen from the differences between students‟ culture and target language culture. Also, Horwitz, Tallon & Luo (2010) prove that there are a number of factors outside the learners can cause learners‟ speaking anxiety. For example, lack of teacher support and attention can lead to students‟ anxiety. Besides, Alrabai (2014) emphasizes inappropriate teaching style, stressful classroom atmosphere, lack of time and so on also increase students‟ anxiety. 2.3. Related studies Numerous researchers have investigated the issue of learning anxiety from different perspectives. Worde (2004) investigates the causes of language learning anxiety and finds that speaking activities, inability to comprehend, negative classroom experiences, fear of negative evaluation, native speakers, methodology, 8 pedagogical practices and the teachers themselves were the main causes of learning anxiety. Kondo and Ling (2003) find out that low proficiency, speaking activities and fear of negative evaluation by classmates are three major causes of language learning anxiety. Some scholars report a negative relationship between language anxiety and success in language class, i.e. the higher the anxiety, the lower the performance, as claimed by Clement, Gardner, &Smythe (1980). Others report that there is no relationship, or a positive relationship (Backman, 1976, Scovel, 1978). More recently, Horwitz (2001) has claimed that the issue of understanding the relationship between anxiety and achievement is unresolved. As stated by Philip (cited in Shamas, 2006) the reason for these mixed results is conceivably that a comparison of the experimental research examining the relationship between anxiety and second language learning is, to a degree, perplexing, presenting some conflicting evidence and illustrating that anxiety is a complex, multi-faceted construct. Horwitz et al. (1986) on the other hand, sketch parallels between language anxiety and three related performance anxieties: (1) communication apprehension; (2) test anxiety; and (3) fear of negative evaluation. Since the focus in this study is on speaking skills, the major component communication apprehension will be dealt within the research. Oral communication anxiety or difficulty in speaking in groups and trouble in speaking in public or stage fright are all indicators of communication apprehension. The vital role of communication apprehension in creating foreign language anxiety is undeniable. Those who naturally have trouble speaking in group are likely to experience even greater difficulty speaking in a foreign language class where they feel less control over the communicative situation and their performance is constantly observed. Also, Koch and Terrell (1991) argue that more than half of their subjects considered oral presentations in front of the class as the most anxietyproducing activities. Horwitz and Cope (1986) indicate that students with high 9 levels of anxiety were afraid of speaking in the foreign language and they had a deep sense of self-consciousness and viewed foreign language production in classroom as a test situation rather than as an opportunity for communication. In short, this chapter has provided a thorough theory which would be used as the frame for the study. Also, this chapter has given an overview of the related studies. 10 CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY This chapter contains a full description of the study which aims to investigate the causes of speaking anxiety provided by ESP students at the university X based on the framework presented in the previous sections. 3.1. The Methodology The methodology that was applied in this study was qualitative method. Heigham and Croker (2009: 137) suggest that qualitative method provides a better answer to a research question. The explanatory design of the questionnaire with the follow-up narrative inquiry was valuable to the research objectives which aim to investigate the variable in this study and to compare participants‟ perspectives on the different causes that lead to speaking anxiety. The narrative methodology was also used to elicit students‟ opinions on the causes of English speaking anxiety. There is some growing recognition of the significance of narrative methodology in a variety of disciplines, especially in the research of language teaching. The method provides researcher with opportunities to „address ambiguity, complexity, and dynamism of individual, group, and organisational phenomena‟ (Mitchell, 2003). Several studies were done on the applications of narrative methods. The use of this method has been seen as beneficial in many case studies, particularly for organisational science. These studies showed that using narrative method provides an insight into organisational change or causes of cultural change (Faber, 1998; Boje, 1998; Beech, 2000). Complex tacit knowledge can be transferred with storytelling or can also serve as a source of implicit communication (Ambrosini, 2001; Linde, 2001). Other aspects were also included, such as: how narrative creates identity (Czarniawska, 1997); narrative as the assistant to education development (Abma, 2000; Cox, 2001) ; sense-making is clarified with narrative (Gabriel, 1998); and how narrative may act as a source of understanding (Cortazzi, 11 2001). Narrative may also play important roles in decision making (OíConnor, 1997) or the processes of knowledge transfer (Darwent, 2000). Through stories, narrative becomes an instrument to construct and communicate meaning and impart knowledge. Stories told within their cultural contexts to promote certain values and beliefs can contribute to the construction of individual identity or concept of community. According to Wisker (Wisker, 2008), a deep insight into the problems, rich data and information as to the participants‟ emotions, feelings, and experiences would be provided with the use of sensitive and appropriate narrative. In the present study, narrative methodology was utilized to have the participants tell stories about their experiences in learning English speaking skills to answer the research question. The narrative methods in this study then were analyzed by coding, paragraphing, quoting, and categorizing to provide a clearer detail on the research question. The full scripts of the students‟ stories would be found in the Appendices. 3.2. Setting of the study and the participants The University X where this study was carried out is one of the public universities located in Hanoi. This university mainly focuses on training engineers/ technicians in a variety of majors such as road and bridge building, civil construction, automotive technology and electronic and telecommunication. Thus, to pass the university entrance exams, test-takers are required to take math, chemistry and physics, which are natural science subjects rather than social science ones such as English. For the first two years, only general communication English courses are taught. Afterwards, students enroll in both general English and ESP courses at the same time in the last two years. Normally, there are from 35 to 50 students in a general communication English classroom. Classes are equipped with a projector and audio system. As a technical university, male students heavily outnumber their female counterparts. Therefore, the percentage of male students in an English class often accounts for from 80 to 100 %. Last but not least, the students‟ origin is quite various from remote areas to urban cities of Vietnam. 12 The researcher was in charge of teaching ESP classes and General English speaking classes at the university simultaneously. However, since the study aims to investigate the causes of English speaking anxiety in general English speaking classroom, therefore, the chosen participants were ESP students who studied in a general English speaking class. 35 third-year male students at a chosen faculty are the main and single subject and respondents in this research for the following reasons. The researcher at the research time was teaching the class, so the class was chosen as the target participants of the research and advance notice can be easily made to get the cooperation from them to complete the questionnaire and narrative inquiry. 3.3. Research design An exploratory design was chosen, that is there was no control group and data was collected from the pre-existing class at the University X. The data was collected to examine the participants‟ perceptions towards causes of speaking anxiety in general English speaking classroom. The data was first collected by a self-reported questionnaire to examine different views of the participants on causes that lead to English speaking anxiety. The questionnaire included an open-ended question to examine students‟ views on the causes of speaking anxiety. Finally, the narrative methodology was utilised to further elicit the participants‟ detailed opinions towards the causes of speaking anxiety 3.4. Data collection procedure The data collection procedure of this study took place over the second semester at the university, from January to June 2017. The first stage of data collection procedure commenced with a self-reported questionnaire which involved an open-ended question. The questionnaire was handed to the students after the end of the term. All of the difficult terms in the questionnaire were orally explained clearly by the teacher in order to exterminate misunderstandings. The questionnaire was submitted directly to the teacher after 13
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