Identifying the Language Proficiency Gap Via Affective Variables Influencing L2 Willingness to Communicate among English Language Learners in Malaysia

Authors: Fatin Nabila Abd Razak (Universiti Teknologi MARA Cawangan Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia),
Ain Nadzimah Abdullah (Taylor’s University, Malaysia),
Vahid Nimehchisalem (Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia)
Speakers: Fatin Nabila Abd Raza
Strand: Applied Sociolinguistics
Session Type: General Session


The realization for the need to improve undergraduates’ English language communication skills to prepare them for the workplace has resulted in Willingness to Communicate (WTC) to be acknowledged as a significant construct that can affect and facilitate communication. Studies in relation to WTC in Malaysia are limited and are just beginning to garner researchers’ interest. There also seems to be a gap in English language proficiency, especially in L2 oral communication between Malaysian English language learners from urban and rural areas and is worthy of investigation. The present study aims to identify the relationships between the affective variables and WTC in English across four domains of language use (education, family, friendship, ad transaction) among Malaysian undergraduates from urban and rural areas. The affective variables involved in the study are Communicative Confidence, Motivation in Learning L2 and International Posture. A total of 540 participants from a public university were respondents for the study. Data collected were analysed using Partial Least Square- Structural Equation Modeling (PLS-SEM) technique. The results demonstrate Communicative Confidence as the strongest predictor for WTC in English across all language use domains. The indirect relationship between Motivation in Language Learning and WTC in English through communicative confidence is also found to be substantial in all language use domains. Results obtained from the multi-group analysis indicated that undergraduates living in urban areas have higher communicative confidence that makes them be more willing to communicate in English. Findings of the study contribute to the local applicability of the Heuristic Model of L2 WTC developed by MacIntyre et al. (1998). The study also draws out pedagogical implications that emphasises the development of English language learners’ communicative confidence as a factor that enhances language learners’ WTC in English especially for those living in the rural areas.

Keywords: Willingness to communicate (WTC), Rural vs urban, English language, Communication skills, Domains of language use