Type of Document Dissertation Author Zhao, Aiping Author's Email Address firstname.lastname@example.org URN etd-03012009-174343 Title Foreign Language Reading Anxiety: Investigating English-Speaking University Students Learning Chinese as A Foreign Language in the United States Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department Teacher Education, School of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Susan Wood Committee Chair Deborah Hasson Committee Co-Chair Patrick Kennell Committee Member Feng Lan Outside Committee Member Keywords
Date of Defense 2008-03-07 Availability unrestricted AbstractThe aim of this study was to explore the foreign language reading anxiety among learners of Chinese in colleges in the United States. Early studies on foreign language anxiety had an obvious focus on the language skill of speaking (e.g., Aida, 1994; Horwitz, Horwitz & Cope, 1986; Phillips, 1992; Young, 1986) and the foreign language anxiety study related to other language skills such as reading, listening and writing have not drawn researchersí attention until very recently (Cheng, Horwitz & Schallert, 1999; Saito et al., 1999; Vogely, 1998).
Foreign language reading anxiety is a construct that is related to but distinct from general foreign language anxiety (Saito, Horwitz, & Garza, 1999; Sellers, 2000; Shi & Liu, 2006). Alphabetic and syllabic target languages such as English, Spanish, and Japanese have been studied in the foreign language reading anxiety research but logographic language has rarely been included. By including Chinese, a logographic language, as a target language in research on the foreign language reading anxiety, this study intended to expand the understanding of the nature of foreign language reading anxiety and also the reading process of Chinese as a foreign language.
According to the sociocognitive perspective of reading (Bernhardt, 1991), reading is a meaning-reconstruction process where readers interact with not only the text-based components but also the extra-text components of a reading passage. Text-based components are such as word recognition, phonemic/graphemic decoding, and syntactic features. In reading a Chinese passage, learners of Chinese usually spend excessive time on word recognition due to the non direct relation between the form and the pronunciation of a Chinese character. Humans are limited in cognitive capacity (Eysenck, 1992). Therefore, after most of the cognitive capacity is used in dealing with word recognition, very little cognitive capacity is available for the activation of discourse knowledge, prior knowledge, and metacognition that deal with the extra-text components. The inefficient reading process might lead to reading anxiety among readers. Bernhardt (2005) pointed out that the role of affect such as anxiety had been neglected from the previous reading models, which might explain some more of the variance in reading performance.
A review of the previous studies demonstrated that many fundamental questions concerning foreign language reading anxiety such as the sources of foreign language reading anxiety and the relation between foreign language reading anxiety and foreign language reading performance had not been thoroughly investigated. Two basic assumptions raised by Saito et al. (1999) informed the proposed study. First, foreign language reading anxiety was a construct that was related to but distinct from foreign language anxiety. Second, foreign language reading anxiety varied depending on different target languages.
In this study, the researcher explored the following specific research questions.
1. What is the foreign language reading anxiety level among English speaking university students learning Chinese as a foreign language in the United States?
2. What background variables are related to foreign language reading anxiety?
a. Is gender related to foreign language reading anxiety?
b. Is course level related to foreign language reading anxiety?
c. Is time spent in China related to foreign language reading anxiety?
3. Is there a relationship between foreign language reading anxiety and foreign language reading performance?
A survey research design was employed in this study. Survey research has been widely used in foreign language anxiety studies (e.g., Horwitz et al., 1986; Saito et al., 1999). A total of 125 learners of Chinese in a large public research university in the U.S. took part in this survey study. The primary data source came from the two anxiety instruments, namely, Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale (Horwitz et al., 1986) and Foreign Language Reading Anxiety Scale (Saito et al., 1999) and also a background information questionnaire. Data from an email interview were the secondary data source triangulating the results obtained from the primary data source. Statistical analysis such as 2*2*2 factorial ANOVA and Pearson Product - Moment correlation analysis were adopted in this study.
The study found: 1.The level of foreign language reading anxiety was similar to the level of general foreign language anxiety among learners of Chinese. Reading Chinese as a foreign language was anxiety-provoking to some students. Unfamiliar scripts, unfamiliar topics and worry about the reading effect were identified as the main sources of foreign language reading anxiety. 2. There was a significant course level effect on the level of foreign language reading anxiety with intermediate students having a significantly higher level of foreign language reading anxiety than elementary students. 3. There was a significant negative correlation between foreign language reading anxiety and foreign language reading performance.
The findings suggest that reading was as anxiety-provoking to learners of a non-cognate non-western language as speaking did. The unfamiliar scripts were found to be the major source of foreign language reading anxiety, which confirmed one of the hypothesized sources of Saito et al. (1999). The finding about the significant course level effect on the level of foreign language reading anxiety also conformed to the studies done among learners of Japanese (Kitano, 2001; Saito & Samimy, 1996; Samimy & Tabuse, 1992). This finding reminded instructors of Chinese that as students advanced into higher level classes their foreign language reading anxiety increased due to the new characters needed to be learned and the increasing level of difficulty of the reading passages. Measures such as raising studentsí radical awareness, choosing reading passages that fit studentsí proficiency level, providing background information about the topic of reading passage and giving evaluation feedback after the reading activity were suggested to decrease studentsí level of reading anxiety.
The limitations in both the research design and the statistical analysis were acknowledged. The limitations in research design mainly came from the exclusion of advanced class students, the cancellation of the face to face small group discussion, the inclusion of the researcherís students, and the use of non standardized reading scores. The mean replacement of the missing data, the small cell size in the ANOVA analysis and the ceiling effect of the reading score were the limitations existing in the statistical analysis procedures. Future research was suggested to include advanced level students in examining the role that unfamiliar culture elements played in foreign language reading anxiety as advanced level students had more opportunity to encounter cultural elements in the more authentic reading materials. The relation between foreign language reading anxiety and the use of different word recognition strategies, different topics and styles of reading passages are also worth exploring.
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