The Impact of Study Abroad on Affective Factors: Motivation, Attitudes and Anxiety
Rodríguez Aparicio, Saioa
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Interest in study abroad (SA) and its linguistic outcomes has significantly increased in recent years due to globalisation and its emphasis on intercultural communication (Arnett, 2002). Nevertheless, although affective factors play a crucial role in the successful acquisition of an L2 (Gabrys-Barker and Bielska, 2013), little attention has been paid so far to the extralinguistic effects of SA within Second Language Acquisition (SLA). The purpose of this study is to analyse the relation between SA and motivation, attitudes and anxiety for 25 Spanish university students. Affective outcomes were measured using a modified version of Gardner’s (1985) Attitudes and Motivational Test Battery (AMTB) survey as well as four open ended questions. This investigation sought to examine whether SA led to an increase in L2 motivation, a decrease in L2 anxiety and a development of positive attitudes towards the target language and its community. This research also investigated whether SA resulted in an improved perception of students’ linguistic skills. Findings of the study demonstrated that participants’ instrumental and integrative motivation increased significantly, and that language anxiety (LA) decreased considerably, mainly in out-of-classroom contexts. Although students’ attitudes towards the L2 became more positive, attitudes towards English native speakers displayed greater variation since they depend on the amount and nature of students’ encounters with the target group. Therefore, some participants reported a positive change in their stance towards native speakers, others declared that their attitudes remained unchanged and, although to a lesser extent, some students developed a negative image of English native speakers. Finally, results exhibited an improvement on students’ perception of their communicative competence, notably on their fluency. This study supports the view that SA, together with learner strive to become competent L2 speakers, provides an optimal context for the development of positive motivational, attitudinal and anxiety outcomes that contribute to the successful acquisition of a foreign language.