Students’ Attitudes Towards Learning English Language

1 January 2017

This study investigated Libyan secondary school students’ attitudes towards learning English in terms of the behavioral, cognitive and emotional aspects. It also explored whether there is any significant difference in the students’ attitudes towards English language based on their demographic profiles i. . , gender, field and year of study.

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A total of 180 participants in the three study years from three specializations of Basic Sciences, Life Sciences, and Social Sciences took a questionnaire as a measuring instrument. Regarding the three aspects of attitude i. e. , cognitive, behavioral, and emotional, the participants showed negative attitudes towards learning English. On the demographic profile, there were statistically significant attitudinal differences regarding gender and field of study but not year of study.

Based on the research findings, some recommendations are finally presented. Keywords: EFL learner, Attitude, Language learning, Gender, Field of study, Year of study 1. Introduction It is argued that language learning is regarded as the cornerstone of human existence. Knowing the language can help us to express our opinions, hopes, and even our dreams (Tavil, 2009). In foreign Language learning context, there are various factors that influence the learning process such as motivation, attitudes, anxiety, learning achievements, aptitudes, intelligence, age, personalities, etc. Gardner, 1960; Lehmann, 2006, cited in Shams, 2008).

The matter of learner’s attitude is acknowledged as one of the most important factors that impact on learning language (Fakeye, 2010). This study looks into the concept of attitude as one of the major affective factors for success in learning a foreign language. More specifically, it investigates Libyan secondary school students’ attitudes towards learning English language, taking into consideration the three aspects of attitude i. e. , emotional, cognitive, and behavioral.

Additionally, it attempts to determine the influence of students’ demographic profile i. e. , gender, year and field of study on their attitudes towards learning English. 1. 1 Background of study Kara (2009) stated that attitudes towards learning besides opinions and beliefs have an obvious influence on students’ behaviors and consequently on their performance. It is argued that those students who possess positive beliefs about language learning have a tendency to increase more positive attitudes towards language learning.

Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education 119 www. ccsenet. org/ass Asian Social Science Vol. 8, No. 2; February 2012 Conversely, negative beliefs may lead to class anxiety, low cognitive achievement, and negative attitudes (Victori & Lockhart, 1995). According to Alhmali (2007), the purpose of education in Libya is to obtain high grades and pass the exams. Creativity and understanding the nature of students and their needs are not taken into account. The EFL teachers’ role is basically to transmit information to their students effectively.

There exists little knowledge about the best strategies to develop the students not just cognitively but also behaviorally and emotionally. In 2000, the new English curriculum “English for Libya” was implemented. This curriculum represents an outstanding change, compared to the previous one. Textbooks are based on the communicative approach. “The curriculum recommends that English to be used as much as possible by the teachers and students in the classroom. ” (Orafi & Borg, 2009).

Yet, the new curriculum is not applied as planned mainly because of the obvious differences between the main standards of these books and teachers’ beliefs. Meanwhile, the controversial concern is why some EFL students attain higher grades in English language exams than others who are under the same conditions and situations. The concern on the learners’ attitudes towards the target language was emphasized by Gardner (1985). He stated that the learners’ attitudes towards learning another language play a key role in enhancing and motivating them to learn that language.

This, in turn, affects on their performance, too. 1. 2 Research Questions and Hypotheses The research seeks to answer the following questions: 1- What are the attitudes of Libyan secondary school students towards learning English language in terms of their behavioral, cognitive and emotional aspects? 2- Is there any statistically significant difference in Libyan secondary school students’ attitudes towards learning English language by gender? 3 Is there any a statistically significant difference in Libyan secondary school students’ attitudes towards learning English language by the field of study?

Is there any a statistically significant difference in Libyan secondary school students’ attitudes towards learning English language by the year of study? Hence, the addressed hypotheses are: H01: There is not a statistically significant difference in Libyan secondary school students’ attitudes towards learning English language by gender. H02: There is not a statistically significant difference in Libyan secondary school students’ attitudes towards learning English language by the field of study.

H03: There is not a statistically significant difference in Libyan secondary school students’ attitudes towards learning English language by the year of study. 2. Literature Review As attitude is one of the key predominant factors for success in language learning, numerous studies have already been conducted in the field of language attitude (Alhmali, 2007; Ghazali et al. , 2009). In addition, Saidat (2010) mentions that language attitude research has been considered in the previous 50 years because of the growing relation between the importance of the language use and the nature of individuals.

However, the information concerning the language attitudes of Arab students, especially the Libyan students is not sufficient. For that reason, this study investigates the attitudes of EFL learners towards English language at secondary schools in Libya. 2. 1 Definitions of Attitude Researchers in the fields of psychology and education, especially language learning, consider several definitions of attitude which mention different meanings from different contexts and perspectives (Alhmali, 2007). Based on the theory of planned behavior, Montano and Kasprzyk (2008, p. 1) state, “Attitude is determined by the individual’s beliefs about outcomes or attributes of performing the behavior (behavioral beliefs), weighted by evaluations of those outcomes or attributes.

Thus, a person who holds strong beliefs that positively valued outcomes will result from performing the behavior will have a positive attitude toward the behavior. Conversely, a person who holds strong beliefs that negatively valued outcomes will result from the behavior will have a negative attitude. ” 120 ISSN 1911-2017 E-ISSN 1911-2025 www. ccsenet. org/ass Asian Social Science Vol. , No. 2; February 2012 Gardner (1985) also points out that attitude is an evaluative reaction to some referent or attitude object, inferred on the basis of the individual’s beliefs or opinions about the referent. “Attitude is thus linked to a person’s values and beliefs and promotes or discourages the choices made in all realms of activity, whether academic or informal. ” Gardner’s argument led Wenden (1991) to present a comprehensive definition of the attitude concept. He classified the term “attitude” into three interrelated components namely, cognitive, affective and behavioral.

The cognitive component involves the beliefs, thoughts or viewpoints about the object of the attitude. The affective component refers to the individual’s feelings and emotions towards an object, whether he/she likes or dislikes. The behavioral component involves the tendency to adopt particular learning behaviors. 2. 2 Importance of Attitude Reid (2003, p. 33) declared, “Attitudes are important to us because they cannot be neatly separated from study. ” Attitude is considered as an essential factor influencing language performance (Visser, 2008).

Achievement in a target language relies not only on intellectual capacity, but also on the learner’s attitudes towards language learning. This means that learning language should be approached primarily as a social and psychological phenomenon rather than as a purely academic one. Kiptui and Mbugua (2009, cited in Tella et al, 2010) investigated that negative attitude towards English is the most affective and psychological factor that results in the students’ poor performance in English among the secondary schools in Kenya. . 3 Language Attitude Besides the intellectual perspective, the nature of language learning has psychological and social aspects and depends primarily on the learners’ motivation and attitude to learn the target language (Padwick, 2010). Gardner and Lambert (1972) have concluded that the ability of the students to master a second language is not only influenced by the mental competence or, language skills, but also on the students’ attitudes and perceptions towards the target language.

They also advocated that attitude concept could enhance the process of language learning, influencing the nature of student’s behaviors and beliefs towards the other language, its culture and community, and this will identify their tendency to acquire that language. In 1992, Baker proposed a comprehensive theoretical model, focusing on the importance of conducting attitudinal research in the field of language learning. Baker (1992, p. 9) states that, “In the life of a language, attitudes to that language appear to be important in language restoration, preservation, decay or death. Recently, De Bot et al. (2005) assert that language teachers, researchers and students should acknowledge that high motivation and positive attitude of students facilitate second language learning.

Thus, if a learner does not have the interest and tendency in acquiring the target language to communicate with others, this learner will possess a negative attitude and will not be motivated and enthusiastic in language learning. Therefore, learners’ attitudes could incorporate in language learning because it may influence their performance in acquiring the target language. . 4 Aspects of Language Attitude Learning process is regarded as a positive change in the individual’s personality in terms of the emotional, psychomotor (behavioral) as well as cognitive domains, since when one has learned a specific subject, he/she is supposed to think and behave in a different manner and one’s beliefs have been distinguished (Kara, 2009). Furthermore, learning process has social as well as psychological aspects besides the cognitive approach. Attitude concept can be viewed from these three dimensions.

Each one of these dimensions has different features to bring out language attitude results. Accordingly, the attitude concept has three components i. e. , behavioral, cognitive and affective. These three attitudinal aspects are based on the three theoretical approaches of behaviorism, cognitivism and humanism respectively. In the following, the three aspects of attitude concept i. e. , behavioral, cognitive, and emotional aspects are briefly described. 2. 4. 1 Behavioral Aspect of Attitude The behavioral aspect of attitude deals with the way one behaves and reacts in particular situations.

In fact, the successful language learning enhances the learners to identify themselves with the native speakers of that language and acquire or adopt various aspects of behaviors which characterize the members of the target language community. Kara (2009) stated that, “Positive attitudes lead to the exhibition of positive behaviors toward courses of study, with participants absorbing themselves in courses and striving to learn more. Such students are also observed to be more eager to solve problems, to acquire the information and skills useful for daily life and to engage themselves emotionally.

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