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Academia Journal of Educational Research 5(2): 024-028, March 2017

DOI: 10.15413/ajer.2017.0302
ISSN 2315-7704
©2017 Academia Publishing

Research Paper

A quantitative study of self confidence in learning English as a foreign language

Accepted 11th March, 2016


Self-confidence is a specific area of psychology related to the language learning

process development. Learners are commonly exposed to situations that really
block their learning process in a class of English as a foreign language. The
purpose of this study is to describe the role that self-confidence factor plays when
beginner students learn at the language department of Philosophy and Arts School
from Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon. This quantitative study may provide
information about important issues related to the role of self-confidence in an EFL
Elizabeth Alvarado Martínez* and course. It will offer helpful recommendations to teachers to get students involved
Oscar Eduardo Sandoval Villa in class and improve their language learning attitudinal factors about deducing
Autonomous University of Nuevo
León, Mexico. what is necessary to be done in class.
*Corresponding author. E-mail:
elizalv@yahoo.com.mx. Key words: Self-confidence, foreign language, affective factors, language learning.


Affective factors have a great influence on students´ Iwamoto (2015) in Japan. This study named Effects of L2
learning process, above all in the learning of a foreign (second language) affective factors on self-assessment of
language. At the same time, the language learning process speaking had the objectives of getting the validity of
can be influenced by different factors, such as educational students’ self-assessment of L2 oral performance, the
systems, teaching and learning approaches, classroom influences of L2 affective variables on their self-
conditions, educational technology, socio-cultural, assessment bias and the degree to which the influences of
students’ backgrounds as well as, emotional conditions of L2 affective variables differ between high and low
students and teachers (Eldred et al., 2004). proficiency learners. It followed a quantitative-qualitative
In order for students to communicate and interact in a methodology with the application of a questionnaire and
foreign or second language they need to experience some students’ oral interviews using an oral assessment scale
aspects and play against fear of class exposure, delete and students self-rating. Among the results, it can be
previous negative experiences with speaking in class, observed that self-assessment of L2 speaking might not be
experiment cultural beliefs and habits, take an active role a sufficiently reliable or consistent assessment tool.
in the classroom and handle the lack of confidence, among Therefore, if teachers are considering including self-
others. These factors are closely related, they affect each assessment in a speaking class, self-assessment training
other either positively or negatively; in other words, if one should be conducted. Besides, after the L2 interview,
of the factors increases or decreases, the others will follow students with higher self-esteem who had a positive view
in a direct relationship. of themselves evaluated their grammar abilities higher,
while those with lower self-esteem who had a negative
view of themselves evaluated lower. Students who spoke
LITERATURE REVIEW English relatively fluently tended to evaluate their own
fluency higher; then, foreign or second language self-
There are several studies related to self-confidence around confidence factor is a predictor to evaluate students
the world. One of the most recent is that reported by performance.
Academia Journal of Educational Research; Martínez and Villa. 025

EFL Instructors and students Writers’ Perceptions on block their learning process in a class of English as a
Academic Writing Reluctance is a research conducted by foreign or second language. MacIntyre (1999)
Asadifard and Koosha (2013) in Iran. Its purpose was to hypothesizes that in the context of second language
discover the causes of the voluntary disengagement from learning, students with low self-confidence might tend to
students and instructors’ viewpoint. They applied a survey underestimate their ability to learn a second language and
of motivation to engage with writing and a questionnaire have negative expectations about their performance, in
of perception on writing reluctance. It was observed that that way, feeling insecured or anxiety in the face of the
when students feel their work may not be thoroughly language learning tasks is common for beginner students.
checked, they gradually lose their interest in writing, Teachers, as facilitators need to be aware of their students'
consequently, reluctance might be the outcome. It was problems so as to implement strategies in the classroom
concluded that some of the possible causes of writing which might help them perform in the target language.
reluctance according to students are: Linguistic factors, Krashen (1985) claims that foreign language learning
psychological factors (low self-confidence, anxiety, fear of process involves four different affective domains such as
writing and low motivation) and methodological factors. motivation, anxiety, attitude and self-confidence; the latter
Bippus and Eslami (2013) made a research in the USA is the core concept in the development of this research.
about Adult ESOL Students and Service Learning: voices, Similarly, Clement and Kruidenier (1985) stated that
experiences and perspectives. This study focused on confidence, motivation and language ability are related
students' perspectives regarding their oral communication learning dimensions in the field of the second language.
skills. The instruments applied were student journals, Thus, analyzing these mentioned domains and factors
reflection papers, projects, semi-structured interviews, involved in the process of second or foreign language
and personal observations. The participants declared that learning, it can be observed that self-confidence plays a
they had gained confidence speaking in English. In other central role and has a strong relationship with motivation
words, service learning brings authenticity to learning since students may sometimes feel anxious and experience
situations and students develop their communication skills some problems when communicating with others.
through it since they become more active. It is important Self-confidence is also related to self-esteem. This can be
to mention that all students did the activities together. observed through the definition provided by Branden
They were never alone and the teacher in charge of the (1994). He describes self-esteem as confidence in our
group of students was always patient and friendly, ability to think and cope with the basic challenges of life.
available to help students and offer a measure of comfort. Confidence in our right to be successful and happy, the
One more interesting study was conducted by Chuan-Ta feeling of being worthy, deserving, entitled to assert our
Chao (2003). His research: Foreign language anxiety and needs and wants and achieve our values. As a result,
emotional intelligence: A study of EFL Students in Taiwan confidence is part of the connotation of self-esteem and at
had the intention of examining the association between the same time self-esteem is an important aspect in the
foreign language anxiety and emotional intelligence skills development of confidence towards foreign language
among private college students who learn English as a learning. In addition to this assumption, Dörnyei (2005)
foreign language. The implemented instruments were two expressed that the concept of self- confidence is closely
questionnaires: 1) Foreign language classroom anxiety related to self-esteem and both share a common emphasis
scale and 2) Exploring and developing emotional on the individual's perception of his or her abilities as a
intelligence skills. The results revealed that students with person.
high foreign language anxiety have less control of their Apart from the different definitions of self-confidence,
emotional intelligence (EI) skills and encounter more El Glenda and Anstey (1990) explained that many terms such
problems. On the other hand, students with low foreign as self-evaluation, self-satisfaction, self-appraisal, and self-
language anxiety tend to employ their El skills better and confidence can be interchangeable. John and Srivastava
have a lesser degree of El problems. These findings (1999) highlighted self-confidence relating it to the Big
showed that enhancing one’s El skills will also enhance Five personality dimension of extraversion, which, among
one’s self-confidence and further decrease foreign language other things, an energetic focus toward the social and
anxiety and raise learning in the target language. material world, sociability and positive emotionality can
Hence, students who are motivated to learn a language have be projected.
a corresponding perception of self-confidence and it is Glenda and Anstey (1990), Pierce et al. (1989), Brockner
teachers’ responsibility to encourage learners to boost their (1988) and Bandura (1982) mentioned that some factors
performance in a foreign or second language so they could to build general self-confidence points to self-confidence
interact in any exposed situation without being blocked. being derived from several features. The most important
features are: 1) typical personal experiences; positive
Theoretical background experiences increase self-confidence, while the negative
experiences have the opposite effect and 2) social and
Learners are commonly exposed to situations that really friendly messages received from others, such as school,
Academia Journal of Educational Research; Martínez and Villa. 026

community, peers and home are important for self- feeling of security and comfort in speaking English and
confidence improvement. Sending positive messages for willing engagement as one who is glad to speak English
others is thought to be detrimental to the development of with native speakers of English".
high self confidence, whereas, exposure to negative The anonymous questionnaire was administered the
messages decreases the level of self confidence. For week 3 of classes to a hundred and sixty-eight (168)
sending messages, students need to interact with their participants and re-administered to a hundred and
peers. Yashima et al. (2004) claimed that students’ seventy-one (171) in the week 14 to see whether students'
willingness to be part of classroom activities can be sense of confidence in speaking English had changed. The
determined by self-confidence. questionnaire consisted of 12 items with a 5-point Likert
Krashen (1985) claimed that language acquisition can scale to report degrees of agreement (5) or disagreement
take place in a nice atmosphere where self-confidence and (1) in a Spanish version because the young participants are
motivation are promoted. This acquisition is a matter of beginner students who are at their first level of an English
attitude rather than aptitude, where students can get course.
involved in the meaningful classroom activities that they The quantitative analysis shows that the Cronbach´s
might forget they are applying rules to communicate in a alpha of the first application is 0.812 and 0.839 for the
second or foreign language. This could happen if students second application. This demonstrates a good level of
are motivated to interact and have self-confidence. In reliability according to George and Mallery (2003). The
other words, the affective filter should be low and the median in the first application is 32.58 while in the second
messages or input students receive should also be application it was 33.47. That is, students tend to agree
meaningful and comprehensible. In that way, students with most of the items provided in the instrument; they
could acquire a foreign or second language because the show an increase in their self-confidence level.
input may get in as Krashen (1988) exclaimed that
affective filters are a sort of psychological hurdles that
refrain language learners from grasping the available RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
comprehensible input accurately.
To highlight Krashen´s ideas, Du (2009) pointed out that The data collected from the questionnaires was examined
the affective filter works as a stop light in the process of according to Griffee’s confidence construct where three
acquisition. When the student has no motivation, feels the self-confidence variables: ability, assurance and willing
lack of confidence and is worried about his/her failure the engagement compounded it. The three sets were looked
filter tends to be up. By the time the filter is completely independently and the questionnaire results of the two
down the learner is relaxed and tries so hard to become an applications compared. Thereafter, the results of the three
active learner. sets were looked collectively to define which group of
Lastly, Schutz (2007) stated that affective factors such as specific aspects of confidence has been most strengthened
self-confidence, motivation and anxiety are important in over the course.
the acquisition of a second language. Well-managed, all Questions 1, 4, 7 and 9 are composed of the ability
these factors might result in the building of self-confidence variable (Appendix). The results of question 1: Can I be
in the student as the main aspect in second language interviewed in English indicated that 47% of students
learning. If a student feels good in a language class, he or questioned in the first application agreed they could be
she might have more possibilities to reach a better level of interviewed in English. Hence, there was an increase in the
proficiency. ability to speak English as a foreign language. In the second
application to the same students, the percentage was 60%,
which meant a difference of 13% in this acquired skill at
METHODOLOGY the end of the course and that they felt they could manage
the target language. The results of question 4: Can I speak
The purpose of this study is to describe the role that self- in English with foreign people measured students' ability
confidence factor plays when beginner students learn the to speak English and showed an increase of 12% because
English language at the language department of the results of the first application were 27 and 39% in the
Philosophy and Arts School from U.A.N.L. In order to second one, respectively.
achieve this, a confidence in speaking questionnaire was In question 7: Can I show a visitor who speaks the
applied. This questionnaire was designed for typical English language all over the University Campus and
university students by Griffee (1997: 187) and its answer questions about it? There was an increase of 11%
confidence construct is the product of his in-depth inquiry because in the first application students showed 17% of
into the self-confidence variables: ability, assurance and agreement while at the end of the course their answer in
willing engagement in speaking English as a second agreement was 28%, surpassing the percentage obtained
language, where ability is defined “as a command of at the beginning of it. In response to questionnaire item 9,
grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation; assurance as a Can I give opinions in English when speaking with English
Academia Journal of Educational Research; Martínez and Villa. 027

Appendix: Research questionnaire

S/No. Research questionnaire

1 Can I be interviewed in English?
2 Would I like to study in a country with an English language?
3 Do I like to speak English?
4 Can I speak in English with foreign people?
5 When I speak English Do I feel cheerful and self-confident?
6 Do I speak English easily?
7 Can I show a visitor who speaks the English language throughout the University Campus and answer questions about it?
8 Do I practice English with friends and family every day?
9 Can I give feedback in English when speaking with English speaking people?
10 Do I look for opportunities to speak English?
11 Do I speak English with groups of people who are foreign to my friends and family?
12 Do I feel relaxed when I speak English?

speaking people?, there was a 9% increase due to the answer in the first application and during the second
difference between the first application which was 27% up application they chose the same answer which showed
to 36% in the second application. It means students 70% of students with confidence to live in a country whose
increased their level of confidence. native language is English. According to the results of item
For measuring assurance variable, questions 3, 6, 11 and 5: When I speak English, do I feel happy and self-
12 were designed. The first item: I like to talk in English confident? (a) There was a positive change since students
did not denote a change, neither in the first nor the second who selected total disagreement answer in the first
application. The 65% of the students chosen totally agreed application changed their opinions in the second phase
on the Likert scale. Students’ responses to question 6: Do I and as such there was a reduction from 3 to 2% in the
speak English easily demonstrated a 13% increase at the applications of the instrument.
end of the course, which is the difference between the 28% Question 8: Do I practice English with friends and family
in the first application while they showed a 41% of every day also showed an increase of 7% of confidence
increase in the second application. Students were in management in students. This percentage is due to the
agreement about speaking English easily as a foreign difference between the first application which was 39%
language and undoubtedly a good increment of confidence and the second application that was 46% of agreement.
in language management. Lastly, an increase of 3% was shown in item 10 looking for
There was a slight increment in item 11: Do I speak opportunities to speak English indicating that there was a
English with groups of people outside my friends and favorable increase in confidence management because
family? Since the results indicated that a 12% of the 46% of the students selected the agreement choice in the
students were in disagreement with speaking to unfamiliar first application and throughout the second application of
people at the beginning of the semester, meanwhile the the questionnaire there was an increment of 49% which
11% of the students were in disagreement at the end of the reflects more confidence of students along the semester.
course. Therefore, their level of fear decreased a 1% which Some of the perceived results indicated that students are
meant students gained some more confidence. Then, eager to use the language and they feel fairly confident;
measuring item 12: Do I feel relaxed when I speak English? however, most of them do realize that they do not have the
it can be said that students agreed to feel more relaxed appropriate proficiency level to manage real situations in
when they speak English as a foreign language. As it can be English. Even though they try so hard, they are down the
seen, there was a 5% difference between both road to progress in their learning. The study demonstrated
applications, the first one showed a 47% while the second that first level students show the common behaviors of
application reflected 52%. It all means students felt more beginner students when learning a second language, so
comfortable and confident using the English language. their level of confidence is quite low.
Willing engagement variable is integrated by questions In general, students show they feel more ability to speak
2, 5, 8 and 10. Based on the comparison of percentages English in week 14 rather than in week 3; this might be a
attained in item 2: I would like to study in a country with consequence of being exposed to more knowledge about
English language, there was a 3% increase of confidence grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. Students also
on students who wanted to study abroad in an English- reported feeling more comfortable when speaking English
speaking country, which reflects a positive change from during the second application of the instrument, perhaps
the 67% of students who selected total agreement as an to the exposure to the target language and the practice in
Academia Journal of Educational Research; Martínez and Villa. 028

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