Chapter 1 Introduction
1.1 Background of the Research
As an international language, English is the language spoken by the most areas people, which playinga more and more important role in our foreign language learning. However, English learning is a quitecomplicated process, which including listening, reading, writing and speaking. English learning suffer theimpact both of its own language characteristics and other factors. In order to improve the English learningand teaching quality, lots of researches have been carried out widely on the factors affecting Englishlanguage learning performance. And during this process, the learners’ individual distinctions can beexplained by both affective and cognitive factors, such as the foreign language reading anxiety (FLRA) andtolerance of ambiguity (TOA) in reading. This two factors are also the focuses in this research.Reading is an effective, main and momentous ways or language skill to gain the direct or indirectknowledge and information, which plays a crucial role in English language learning, especially in Englishas second or foreign language (EFL/ESL). Excellent reading ability establishes a solid foundation to obtainother language skills. With the development of globalization, the world is becoming a “global village”,reading is one of the important ways to gain information and knowledge all over the world. So muchattention should be paid to improve the quality and efficiency of English learning and teaching in China.
1.2 Significance and Purpose of the Research
From the national university entrance exam and the CET-4/CET-6 to the National EntranceExamination for Postgraduates, the role of English reading comprehension in those proficiency tests ishighlighted. Reading proficiency and performance also were generally affected by the important emotionalfactors including reading anxiety (Gardner & Maclntyre, 1991). Despite the fact that there are substantialstudies on foreign language reading anxiety, disputable research results are existing in the effects of anxietyon FLRA. Most of studies indicated that anxiety has restraining effects on foreign language readingperformance (Horwitz et al., 1986; MacIntyre and Gardner, 1991a: 1-17, 1994b: 283-305; Aida, 1994:155-168). When the reading anxiety is taking place, it seems to disturb the students understandinginformation exactly and effectively. Some studies showed that in the process of foreign language learning,the learners in medium level of anxiety benefit a lot than those with too much, too little or no anxiety(Chastain, 1975: 153-161). Still some other studies demonstrated that the correlation between anxiety andperformance does not exist (Young, 1991: 426-437; Brantmeier, C. 2005: 67-85; Huang, 2009). In order tohave a good knowledge of the correlation between FLRA and reading performance, much more relatedinvestigations on reading anxiety and reading comprehension are required, this is also pointed out byHuang’s study. So one of the aims of this research is to conduct the relationship between FLRA and Englishreading achievement, with multiple-choice items assessing the learners’ performance. Furthermore, due toforeign language reading anxiety varies according to the target language (Saito et al. 1999), it is of greattheoretical and pedagogical interest to understand how anxiety reactions in reading influence learners ofEnglish as a foreign language in China.
Chapter 2 Literature Review
2.1 Definitions of Key Terms
Several definitions of FLRA were given. Saito et al (1999) was the first person who came forwardthe concepts of FLRA. He pointed out that FLRA was not quite same to general language anxiety, which isan independent part from anxiety. The levels of FLRA changed in accordance with various targetlanguage,which was likely to connect with the specific writing systems. Foreign language reading anxietydegrees of the learners went up with their perceptions of the difficulty of reading in their foreignlanguage(FL). According to Chen (2005), FLRA was defined as a type of nervousness, strain and worryemerged during the course of foreign language reading. FLRA is negative feeling generated by theindividual in the process of FL reading and learning in the study carried out by Shi & Liu (2006).On the basis of the previous relevant studies mentioned above, in the present thesis, FLRA is inclinedto described as a sort of feeling of nervousness, negative emotion that is related to an arousal of theautomatic nervous system. Foreign language reading anxiety in this paper refers to English reading anxiety.
2.2 Types of Anxiety and Tolerance of Ambiguity
2.2.1 Types of Anxiety
Anxiety can be described in different perspectives and divided into several categories. In a generalway, there are two main distinctions made in relation to the types of anxiety. The first distinction was madebetween facilitating anxiety and debilitating anxiety. For one thing, facilitating anxiety was a type ofanxiety that kept individuals motivated and enhanced their ability to carry out learning tasks. For another,facilitating anxiety was regarded as the one that impeded learning because it made the individuals try tokeep away from the learning tasks and rarely attend learning activities. Williams (1991) claimed that thedistinction between this two kinds of anxiety may be in correspondence to anxiety intensity. A low-anxietymay be beneficial to learning, while a high-anxiety may be bad for learning. Also, sometimes this two kindsof anxiety may counteract each other and generate no obvious effects on learning.
Chapter 3 Theoretical Framework ........19
3.1 Krashen’s Second Language Acquisition Theories........19
3.1.1 Input Theory.....19
3.1.2 Affective Filter Hypothesis..........20
3.2 Relative Theories in English Reading.......21
3.2.1 Interactive Model of Reading......21
3.2.2 Schema Theory.......22
Chapter 4 Research Design......24
4.1 Research Questions........2
4. 4.2 Subjects.....24
4.3.1 Foreign Language Reading Anxiety Scale.......25
4.3.2 Second Language Tolerance of Ambiguity Scale....26
4.3.3 Reading Tests..........26
4.4 Procedures and Data Collection..........27
Chapter 5 Results and Discussion........29
5.1 The Results of Non-English Majors’ FLRA and TOA..........29
5.2 The Relation between Non-English Majors’ FLRA and TOA.....32
5.3 The Differences of FLRA , TOA and Reading Comprehension..........33
Chapter 5 Results and Discussions
5.1 The Results of Non-English Majors’ FLRA and TOA
In the present study, the items grouped into five dimensions to be discussed, including culture; readingability; the difficulty of the reading material; interest and confidence. Each dimension be composed of fouritems. As shown in table 2, the mean score and std. Deviation of each dimension in the FLRAS arepresented. The total mean score is 59.3516, with a std. Deviation 15.49077, which means the subjectsgenerally have a moderate degree of FLRA. The mean scores of 2 dimensions are higher than that of themean 2.968 of the total 20 items, maybe those dimensions are the potential reasons of the subjects’ readinganxiety. Table 2 shows that the subjects generally have a highest level of reading anxiety on the culturaldimension with mean score of 3.0879. For instance, item 20 (Mean=3.2967,Std. Deviation=1.26925) anditem 19 (Mean=3.2308,Std. Deviation= 1.30875). Item 20 mainly investigates how much backgroundknowledge the students mastered on English history and culture in term with English reading, the same asitems 19, which states that English culture and ideas seem very foreign to me. Besides, item 5 also mainlysurveys the situation that when the subjects meet a unfamiliar topic, whether he or she is nervous or not. Itsmean score (M=2.9670, Std. Deviation=1.03763) is also a bit higher, although not higher than that of thetotal mean 2.968. Item 10 (M=2.8571, Std. Deviation=1.26114) investigates that the subjects’ feeling whenthey reading some strange letters and symbols in doing some reading. Therefore, it can be inferred thatmost non-English students are lack of English cultural knowledge in fulfilling English readingcomprehension, maybe it is also the main reason leading to reading anxiety. So the learners need to enlargethe input of the background knowledge and have a good understanding to English culture, ideology, historyand custom.
The research has investigated the current situation of non-English majors’ level of FLRA and TOA infulfilling English reading comprehension, and explored the relationship between FLRA and TOA, thedifferences of FLRA, TOA and reading comprehension between arts and science students. The findings areobtained from the analysis of the data on the questionnaires, and listed as followed. The first major finding of this research is the current situation of non-English majors’ level ofEnglish reading anxiety and tolerance of ambiguity in fulfilling reading comprehension. Most subjects havea medium English reading anxiety with a mean 59.3516 and a medium tolerance of ambiguity with themean score 35.8791 in their English reading comprehension achievement. From the item statistics analysis,when non-English majors in fulfilling English reading, they generally have reading anxiety from unfamiliarEnglish culture, lack of interests and confidence, upset and intimidated emotions and their poor readingability. The lower tolerance of ambiguity result from their inadequate input and misunderstanding tocognitive construction, they want to understand everything they meet in language learning.