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Foreign language reading anxiety: Investigating English-speaking university students learning Chinese as a foreign language in the United States

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Dissertation
Author: Aiping Zhao
Abstract:
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 students' radical awareness, choosing reading passages that fit students' proficiency level, providing background information about the topic of reading passage and giving evaluation feedback after the reading activity were suggested to decrease students' 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 researcher's 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. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

TABLE OF CONTENTS

LIST OF TABLES………………………………………………………………..…

viii LIST OF FIGURES………………………………………………………………....

ix ABSTRACT………………………………………………………………………....

x

CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION ………………………………………………………………..... 1 Statement of Problem …………………………………………………............. 3 Context of the Study……………………………………………....................... 4 Research Questions ……………………………………………………............ 5 Significance of the Study ……………………….………………………….…. 6 Summary …………………………………………………………………........ 7 Definition of Terms ………………………………………………………….... 7

CHAPTER TWO LITERATURE REVIEW…………………………………………………………… 9 The Conceptual Framework of Foreign Language Anxiety…………. ……..... 9 Foreign Language Anxiety and Other Types of Anxiety…………..…… 10 Definition of Foreign Language Anxiety…..……………………….…... 13 The Effect of Foreign Language Anxiety on Performance… ……….…. 14 Foreign Language Anxiety Related to Writing and Listening………….. 21 The Construct of Foreign Language Reading Anxiety....................................... 25 Sociocognitive Perspective of Reading…………………………..…...... 25 Reading Process for Learners of Chinese…………………………….… 27 Foreign Language Reading Anxiety…………………………...…….…. 29 Foreign Language Reading Anxiety and Performance……………….… 33 Foreign Language Anxiety and Background Variables…………………….….

35 Gender……………………………………………………..……………

35 Course level … ……………………………………………………….…. 38 Time spent in the target language country………………………….….. 40 Sources of Foreign Language Anxiety and Foreign Language Reading Anxiety………………………………………………………………………...

41 Sources of Foreign Language Anxiety…………………..………….….. 42 Communicative task…………………………………………..... 42 Task types…………………………………………………….… 45 Sources of Foreign Language Reading Anxiety……………………...… 47 Summary ………………………………………………………………..….…. 50

CHAPTER THREE METHOD……….………………………………………………………………….. 51 Setting and Participants ……………………………………………………… 52 v

Instruction…………………………………………………………………..…. 58 Data Collection ……………………………………………………………...... 63 Data Sources………………………..…………………………………... 63 Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale…………………….. 64 Foreign Language Reading Anxiety Scale………………….……. 66 A background information questionnaire………………………... 67 Reading comprehension scores…………………………………... 67 Questions for focus group discussion……… …………...………. 68 Timeline……………………………………………................................ 68 Data Analysis………………………………………………………………….. 69 Assumptions and Issues of Validity …………….…………………………….. 70 External Validity…………………….………………………………….. 70 Internal Validity…………………………………………….…………... 71 Summary ………………………………………………………………….…... 72

CHAPTER FOUR RESULTS…………………………………………………………………………… 74 Research Questions Revisited…………………………………………………. 74 Missing Data…………………………………………………………………... 75 Statistical Tests………………………………………………………………… 76 Cronbach’s Alpha……………………………………………………….. 76 2*2*2 Factorial ANOVA………………………………………………... 77 Effect Size………………………………………………………………. 78 Pearson Product-Moment Correlation………………………………….. 79 Research Question One………………………………………………………... 80 Research Question Two……………………………………………………….. 85 Research Question Three……………………………………………………… 94 Summary………………………………………………………………………. 98

CHAPER FIVE DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION………………………………………………. 101 Overview………………………………………………………………………. 101 Foreign Language Reading Anxiety Level among Learners of Chinese……… 102 Level of Foreign Language Reading Anxiety vs. Level of Foreign Language Anxiety……………………………………………………….

102 Possible Sources of Foreign Language Reading Anxiety………………. 105 Unfamiliar scripts………………………………………………… 105 Worry about the reading effect…………….……………………... 109 Unfamiliar topic………………………………………………….. 111 Background Variables and Foreign Language Reading Anxiety……………… 113 Course Level and Foreign Language Reading Anxiety………………… 113 Target Language Experience and Foreign Language Reading Anxiety… 116 Gender and Foreign Language Reading Anxiety……………………….. 118 Foreign Language Reading Anxiety and Foreign Language Reading vi

Performance………………………………………………………………… 119 Summary of Findings…………………………………………………….…... 122 Limitations of the Study…………………………………………………….... 122 Recommendation for Future Research……………………………………….. 124 Pedagogical Implications…………………………………………………….. 126 Concluding Remarks………………………………………………………..... 130

APPENDIX A: SAMPLE OF CONSENT FORM…………………………………. 132 APPENDIX B: HUMAN SUBJECTS APPROVAL MEMORANDUM…………... 134 APPENDIX C: FOREIGN LANGUAGE CLASSROOM ANXIETY SCALE….… 136 APPENDIX D: FOREIGN LANGUAGE READING ANXIETY SCALE...……… 138 APPENDIX E: BACKGROUND INFORMATION QUESTIONNAIRE.………… 140 APPENDIX F: A SAMPLE OF READING COMPREHENSION TEST ITEM IN CHAPTER TESTS………………………………………………………………..…

142 APPENDIX G: QUESTIONS FOR FOCUS GROUP DISCUSSION….…….……. 143 REFERENCES……………………………………………………………………… 144 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH……………………………………………………….. 155

vii

LIST OF TABLES

1. Summary of Participant Characteristics……………………………………………

54 2. Basic Information about the Instructors……………………………………………

56 3. Chapters, Vocabulary, and Parables that Elementary and Intermediate Students Learned ………………………………………………………………………….....

62 4. Chapter Schedule of the Elementary Chinese I………………………….. ……….

63 5. An Overview of Research Questions, Data Sources and Analysis Tools…………..

73 6. Cronbach’s Alpha of the Two Instruments…………………………………………

81 7. Descriptive Statistics of the FLRAS and the FLCAS……………………………...

82 8. Frequency Percentages on the FLRAS (N=125)…………………………………..

82 9. Levene's Test of Equality of Error Variances……………………………………..

88 10. 2*2*2 ANOVA Table…………………………………………………………….

88 11. Descriptive Statistics of the FLRAS Score at Different Levels…………………..

90 12. Effect Sizes of the Main Effects and Interactions………………………………...

92 13. Descriptive Statistics of the Reading Performance Score………………………...

95 14. Correlation between FLRAS Score and Reading Performance Score……………

96 15. Summaries of Research Questions and Findings…………………………………

99 16. Typical Responses from Students about the Most Frustrating Aspects in Reading Chinese……………………………………………………………………………

106 17. Chinese Reading Process Described by Students………………………………..

107 18. The Effect of Going to China on Reading Chinese………………………………

117

viii

LIST OF FIGURES

1. A dialogue from Integrated Chinese Part I……………………………………….

59 2. A dialogue from Integrated Chinese Part II………………………………………

60 3. Histogram of the FLRAS score………………………………………………..….

87 4. The course*China interaction among female students …………………………….….

93 5. The course*China interaction graph among male students………………………

93 6. Histogram of reading performance score………………………………………....

94 7. Scatterplot of the correlation between the FLRAS and reading performance score………………………………………………………………………………

97

ix

ABSTRACT

The 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 researchers’ 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 x

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 xi

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 students’ radical awareness, choosing reading passages that fit students’ proficiency level, providing background information about the topic of reading passage and giving evaluation feedback after the reading activity were suggested to decrease students’ 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 researcher’s 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. xii

CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION

The aim of this dissertation was to examine the foreign language reading anxiety among American students learning Chinese as a foreign language. Foreign language anxiety has been identified as one of the major affective factors that influence foreign language learning (Aida, 1994; Horwitz, Horwitz & Cope, 1986; MacIntyre & Gardner, 1994b). Early studies in language anxiety had an obvious focus on the language skill of speaking since speaking was considered as the most anxiety-provoking skill among all the four language skills: speaking, reading, writing and listening (e.g., Aida, 1994; Phillips, 1992; Young, 1986). Students were later found to have different anxiety levels related to different language skills and therefore anxiety study related to language skills other than speaking began to appear in 1990s (e.g., Cheng, Horwitz & Schallert, 1999; Saito, Horwitz, & Garza, 1999; Vogely, 1998). Foreign language reading anxiety did not draw researchers’ attention until recently (Saito et al., 1999; Shi & Liu, 2006). Reading used to be regarded as an individual activity that happens within a person’s brain, and reading did not require the interaction that speaking did (Bernhardt, 1991). Readers were believed to have the advantage of rereading and thinking; consequently, affective factors in second language reading, such as anxiety, were neglected. However, reading was an active meaning constructing process from a sociocognitive perspective (Bernhardt, 1991) in that readers played an important role in reading comprehension. Readers interacted with texts, which led to different interpretations of the text based on the readers’ background knowledge and language knowledge. First language (L1) literacy, second language (L2) language knowledge (e.g., word recognition skills, grammar knowledge, and discourse structure knowledge) and background knowledge were considered to be the major factors that influence L2 reading performance (Coady, 1979;

Grabe, 1991). Bernhardt (2005) found that L1 literacy and L2 language knowledge accounted for about 50% of the variance in reading performance and these two factors were insufficient to explain the variances in reading performance. She pointed out that the role of affect such as anxiety had been neglected from 1

the previous reading models, which might explain some more of the variance in reading performance. Indeed, studies done in different target languages have showed that foreign language reading anxiety does exist among some foreign language learners, and foreign language reading anxiety is related to foreign language reading performance. For instance, Yamashita (2004) found that students’ anxiety in reading L2 was higher than that in reading L1. The American students learning Japanese, Russian and French as their foreign languages in Saito et al. (1999) reported different levels of foreign language reading anxiety. Students learning Spanish as a foreign language in Sellers’ (2000) study also experienced anxiety in reading and reading anxiety had an influence on reading strategies use and passage content recall. Shi and Liu (2006) found that foreign language reading anxiety had a negative correlation with both reading comprehension scores and general language proficiency scores among English learners in China. Previous studies have also shown that foreign language reading anxiety levels, unlike foreign language class anxiety levels, vary depending on different target languages (Saito et al., 1999; Sellers, 2000; Shi & Liu, 2006). Foreign languages such as Spanish, French, English, Japanese and Russian have been studied as the target languages in relation to foreign language reading anxiety. Saito et al. (1999) found that students experienced more anxiety in reading Japanese than in French and Russian. Shi and Liu (2006) evidenced that Chinese students studying English had higher levels of foreign language reading anxiety than the American students in Saito et al. The inclusion of unexplored target languages such as Chinese will enrich and expand what we have already known about foreign language reading anxiety. Chinese is often classified as a less commonly taught language in the U.S. despite the increasing number of students enrolled in Chinese programs. Chinese, like other less commonly taught languages, needs more time and effort on the students’ part in order to reach the same proficiency level of students learning other more commonly taught languages. The Foreign Service Institute estimated that it took approximately 1,320 hours of instruction for students in an intensive program of Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean to reach the same proficiency level of students learning other commonly taught languages like French or 2

Spanish in 480 hours of instruction. The effort that students need to put into the study of less commonly taught language and the constant frustration they experienced from learning might make anxiety a salient factor for learners of less commonly taught language. Indeed, “FL anxiety is an important element in the overall learning process, particularly in noncognate, non-western languages, such as Arabic” (Hussein, 2005, p. 207). Similarly, anxiety might also play an important role in the overall learning process of Chinese as a foreign language and for reading in particular. However, the reading anxiety of learners of Chinese as a foreign language has rarely been studied to the best knowledge of the researcher. Statement of Problem As mentioned in the beginning of this chapter, most early studies on foreign language anxiety have focused on speaking, and foreign language reading anxiety research did not begin until recently (Saito et al., 1999). Many fundamental questions concerning foreign language reading anxiety such as the source of foreign language reading anxiety, the relation between foreign language reading anxiety and foreign language reading performance, and the relation between background variables and foreign language reading anxiety are still waiting for answers. Although most studies have shown that foreign language anxiety has a negative influence on the learning process and performance (Horwitz et al., 1986; MacIntyre & Gardner, 1989, 1991b; Phillips, 1992; Young, 1991), the relation between foreign language reading anxiety and foreign language reading performance is not so clear cut. Some studies demonstrate that foreign language reading anxiety negatively influences reading performance (Sellers, 2000; Shi & Liu, 2006) while some others show no significance in such a relationship (Brantemier, 2005; Mills, Pajares & Herron, 2006). Background variables such as gender, course level, and experience with the target culture have been discussed in foreign language classroom anxiety studies (Aida, 1994; Campell, 1999; Coulomebe, 2000; Saito & Samimy, 1996). The relation between these variables and foreign language reading anxiety has not been thoroughly explored either. Saito et al. (1999) pointed out that foreign language reading anxiety varied according to different languages. However, the previous studies have mostly examined target languages which are either alphabetic such as English, French, and Spanish or syllabic such as Japanese. 3

Only Zhang (2002) has studied Chinese, a logographic language, as the target language in her foreign language reading anxiety study. The participants in Zhang’s study were learning Chinese as a second language in China, which was a second language learning situation. They had the opportunity to learn and use Chinese both inside and outside the classroom. Students in foreign language learning situations, on the other hand, have very few chances to learn and use the target language outside of the classroom. Therefore, due to the different learning situation students in a second language learning situation and foreign language learning situation might experience different levels of foreign language anxiety. This study aims to investigate the foreign language reading anxiety level among English speaking students learning Chinese as a foreign language. Logographic languages and alphabetic languages have two different writing systems. The alphabetic language has a connection between the sound and the form but there is no such a connection for the logographic language. Native speakers of English can use their phonetic knowledge to help them in reading in another alphabetic language such as French or Spanish but not a logographic language such as Chinese. Therefore, the recognition of words, the reading process and the affective state during the reading process might be different for learners of Chinese and for learners of other alphabetic languages (Saito, et al., 1999). More research into the anxiety level of reading a logographic language as the foreign language needs to be done to deepen the understanding of foreign language reading anxiety. Context of the Study Due to the closer economic and political ties between China and the U.S., a growing number of American students are beginning to learn Chinese as their foreign language. Chinese was the seventh most commonly learned foreign language in the U.S. according to the 2006 survey by the Modern Language Association (MLA). The MLA’s 2006 survey reported that students learning Chinese in institutions of higher education had increased 312% from 1986 to 2006. Enrollment in Chinese has enjoyed a continuous growing from 1960 to the present. There was a total enrollment of 51,582 of Chinese learners in institutions of higher education in the U.S. according to the MLA’s 2006 survey, which showed a 51.0% increase over the enrollments in the 2002 survey. There was also a rise in number of higher education institutions offering Chinese courses since 2002, from 543 to 661 with a net increase of 118. In the state of Florida, the Chinese program at Florida State University (FSU) had also enjoyed an increase in student enrollment. For example, in fall 2005, there were two 4

Elementary Chinese classes with a total number of about 50 students. In fall 2006, three Elementary Chinese classes were offered with a total enrollment of about 80 students. In fall 2007, there were four Elementary Chinese classes with an enrollment of about 90 students according to the registration data at the university’s registration website. Besides elementary Chinese courses, intermediate level Chinese class and above-intermediate level Chinese classes were also offered through the program. As a Chinese instructor at FSU, the researcher noticed that when students read in Chinese, they always preferred reading the Pinyin (the Chinese pronunciation system) text to reading the character text because the Pinyin used Roman letters that were similar to English. However, characters were what appear in newspapers, books, magazines and almost every other written material in Chinese. In the Elementary Chinese I class, students began learning to read Chinese character text in the third week after they began learning Chinese. At this time, students read the character text with the mediation of Pinyin text because the Pinyin text was given before the character text in the textbook. From the second half of Elementary Chinese II on, students read the character text immediately after they finished learning new vocabulary without the mediation of the Pinyin text since the Pinyin text was moved to the end of each chapter. No Pinyin text was given in the more advanced level Chinese courses such as Chinese Short Stories and Reading, and Reading in Chinese History. Although reading was not the focus of elementary level class, students were required to read the character text in the textbook and short passages in character in the accompanying workbook. Reading comprehension items were also an important part of chapter tests and the final exam. In light of the increasing number of students learning Chinese, this study was an attempt not only to address the lack of research, but also to add empirical evidence to how learner variables such as anxiety affected the learning of the Chinese language in general and reading in specific. Research Questions Research on foreign language reading anxiety has been very limited. Based on the few studies on foreign language reading anxiety, two assumptions informed the proposed study. First, foreign language reading anxiety is a construct that is related to but distinct from foreign language anxiety in general. Second, the foreign language reading anxiety level is dependent on different target languages (Saito et al., 1999). The purpose of this study was to expand the knowledge of foreign language reading 5

anxiety by examining the foreign language reading anxiety among learners of Chinese. To this end, the study focused on the following 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? Significance of the Study This study has both theoretical significance and pedagogical implications. Anxiety related to specific language skills had not been studied thoroughly although students had reported to experience different levels of anxiety in relation to different language skills (Kim, 2000; Saito et al., 1999; Sellers, 2000; Vogely, 1998). This study expands the knowledge base related to foreign language reading anxiety by examining Chinese, a logographic language as the target language. This study does not mean to emphasize the difference between learners of Chinese and learners of other languages but hopes to add empirical data to the study of reading anxiety in FL learners, including learners of Chinese.

Anxiety plays an important role in foreign language learning especially in the learning of less commonly taught language (Hussein, 2005; Saito & Samimy, 1996; Samimy & Tabuse, 1992). Chinese is still considered a less commonly taught language despite the increasing enrollment in the Chinese courses. The foreign language anxiety among learners of Chinese has rarely been investigated and no studies have examined the foreign language reading anxiety among learner of Chinese in a foreign language situation. To understand how affective factors, especially anxiety, influence the learning of the less commonly taught language and the reading performance of this language in particular, this study also contributes to the study of foreign language reading anxiety by revealing the relation between foreign language reading anxiety and reading performance and also the relation between different background variables and foreign language reading. 6

As the number of students enrolled in Chinese program increases in the U.S. and the world, it is important for instructors and researchers to be aware of the affective states of their learners. In terms of pedagogical implications, the data were collected in a large research university in the U.S. and the results can be generalized to similar educational settings. The foreign language reading anxiety level demonstrated the extent to which foreign language reading anxiety was prevalent among learners of Chinese. The sources of foreign language reading anxiety were also revealed with the implication that instructors could better select reading materials, reform their classroom instruction and help students come up with appropriate anxiety-coping strategies. Summary The first chapter addresses the need for the investigation of foreign language reading anxiety among learners of Chinese. For one thing, foreign language anxiety in relation to specific language skills such as reading has not been thoroughly investigated. For another, previous studies have rarely included a logographic language as the target language in foreign language reading anxiety. This study of foreign language reading anxiety among learners of Chinese, a logographic language, has the potential to enrich the understanding of foreign language reading anxiety. The definitions of some special terms used in the dissertation are given below. Definition of Terms Anxiety: “The subjective feeling of tension, apprehension, nervousness, and worry that are experienced by an individual,” and the “heightened activity of the autonomic nervous system that accompanies these feelings” (Spielberger, 1976, p. 5). Cognitive perspective of reading: This perspective considers reading process as an intrapersonal problem-solving task that takes place within the reader’s brain (Bernhardt, 1991). Foreign language anxiety: “A distinct complex of self-perceptions, beliefs, feelings and behaviors related to classroom language learning arising from the uniqueness of the language learning process” (Horwtiz et al., 1986, p. 128). Foreign language reading anxiety: The anxiety that learners experience in reading a foreign language. It is related to but distinguishable from foreign language anxiety (Saito et al., 7

1999). Interactive model of L2 reading: This model acknowledges the importance of affective factors in second language reading besides the other two important variables: L1 literacy and language knowledge (Bernhardt, 2000, 2003, 2005). Language skills: The four language skills of reading, listening, speaking and writing that usually appear in the foreign language curriculum (Yao et al., 2005). State anxiety: The apprehension that a person experiences at a particular moment in time as a response to a definite situation (Spielberger, 1983). Situational anxiety: The specific forms of anxiety that occur consistently over time within a given situation (MacIntyre & Gardner, 1991a). Social perspective of reading: This perspective holds that reading is a meaning-constructing process and a text consists of many implied value systems and is interpreted differently by different readers or even by the same reader under different contexts (Bernhardt, 1991). Sociocognitive perspective of reading: This perspective is a combination of social perspective and cognitive perspective of reading. It maintains that text is not only characterized by linguistic elements but also its pragmatic nature, its content, its structure and its topic (Bernhardt, 1991). Trait anxiety: An individual’s likelihood of becoming anxious in any situation (Spielberger, 1983). Trait anxiety is the more permanent predisposition to be anxious and it is usually viewed as an aspect of personality. Writing system:

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Abstract: 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 students' radical awareness, choosing reading passages that fit students' proficiency level, providing background information about the topic of reading passage and giving evaluation feedback after the reading activity were suggested to decrease students' 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 researcher's 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. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)