Testing a model of L2 communication among Iranian EFL learners: A path analysis framework

Authors

English Department, University of Zabol, Iran

Abstract

Using  willingness  to  communicate  (WTC)  and  socio-educational  models  as  a  framework,  the
present study aimed at examining WTC in English and its underlying variables in a sample of 372
Iranian  non-English  major  EFL  learners.  The  data  were  collected  through  self-reported
questionnaires.  Path  analysis  framework  using  the  Amos  Program  with  maximum  likelihood
estimation  was  also  utilized  to  examine  the  hypothesized  model  and  the  potential  relationships
between the variables. The final model showed a very good fit to the data. The results of structural
equation  modeling  revealed  that  self-perceived  communication  competence  (SPCC),  international
posture  and  motivation  were  significant  predictors  of  L2WTC.  The  findings  also  showed  that  L2
communication anxiety (CA), motivation, personality trait of agreeableness and teacher immediacy
could exert indirect effects on L2WTC. Furthermore, each of teacher immediacy and agreeableness
variables  predicted  both  international  posture  and  CA  among  the  EFL  learners.  Following  these
findings,  potential  factors  affecting  learners  WTC  should  receive  sufficient  attention  by  teachers,
administrators  and  learners  alike.  By  adopting  more  immediacy  behaviors,  EFL  teachers  can  also
establish relaxing and supportive classroom climate and lower the learners’ affective filter. In such
an  atmosphere  learners  are  more  emotionally  secured,  suffer  less  communication  apprehension,
perceive themselves to be more proficient and motivated, obtain promoted international posture by
forming  realistic  attitudes  toward  different  cultures,  and  consequently  become  more  willing  to
communicate in English.

Keywords

Main Subjects


Introduction
Since  the  advent  of  communicative
approaches  to  second  language  pedagogy,
enhancing  communicative  competence  has
been  underscored  instead  of  merely  having
mastery  over  the  structural  elements  of
language  (Savignon,  2000).  As  Ellis  (2008)
argued,  these  L2  instruction  approaches  are
based  on  the  hypothesis  that  L2
communicative  competence  is  developed
through  performance  and  information
exchange. MacIntyre and Charos (1996) also
believed  that  the  primary  reason  for
language  learning  is  defined  in  terms  of
communication.  
 
Furthermore,  considering  the  importance  of
communicative  competence  in  language
education,  MacIntyre,  Clément,  Dörnyei,
and  Noels  (1998)  advanced  a  heuristic
model  of  communication  to  delineate  the
concept  of  willingness  to  communicate
(WTC)  and  several  factors  which  might
affect  WTC  in  L2  context.  Based  on  its
 
original  conceptualization  (see  McCroskey
&  Baer,  1985),  they  defined  WTC  as  “a
readiness  to  enter  into  discourse,  at  a
particular  time  with  a  specific  person  or
persons, using  L2” (p. 547).  In this model
WTC  was  deemed  a  situational  variable
which  could  be  affected  by  various
linguistic,  communicative,  affective  -cognitive,  contextual-  social  variables.
Further,  MacIntyre  et  al.  (1998)  proposed
that  the  main  objective  of  second/foreign
language learning should be to “engender in
language students the willingness to seek out
communication  opportunities  and  the
willingness  actually  to  communicate  in
them”  (p.  547).    Since  this  pioneering  work
of  MacIntyre  et  al.,  L2WTC  has  been
studied extensively in different  English as a
second  language  (ESL)  contexts  (e.g.,  Cao
&  Philp,  2006;  Clément,  Baker  &
MacIntyre,  2003;  MacIntyre,  Babin  &
Clément,  1999;  MacIntyre,  Baker,  Clément,
&  Conrod,  2001;  MacIntyre,  Baker,
Clément,  &  Donovan,  2003;  Peng,  2007,  to
name a few).
 
Nevertheless,  WTC  has  been  mostly
examined  in  second  language  context  in
which  there  is  constant  linguistic  exposure
to  and  direct  contact  with  the  L2  society
(Fallah,  2014).    And  it  has  not  been  given
enough  scholarly  attention  in  EFL  context,
where  students  mostly  learn  English  as  an
academically  mandatory  subject,  and  there
are  few  immediate  linguistic  requirements
for  them  to  use  English  in  daily  life  (see
Cetinkaya,  2005).  As  such,  to  shed  further
light on the concept of WTC in EFL context,
it  would  be  crucial  to  examine  Iranian  EFL
learners’  willingness  to  communicate  in
English along with other variables related to
English communication.  
 
In short, based on MacIntyre’s (1994) WTC
mode  and  Gardner’s  (1985)  socio-educational model, the present study set out
to  test  a  model  of  L2  communication  by
examining  the  potential  connections  among
L2WTC,  motivation,  perceived
communication  confidence,  international
posture,  communication  anxiety,  teacher
immediacy  and  personality  trait  of
agreeableness  among  non-English  major
EFL learners.  
Literature review
This section includes a review of the related
literature  on  communicative,  affective-cognitive,  contextual  and  personality
variables  which  according  to  previous
research  (see  MacIntyre  et  al.,  1998)  can
affect language learners’ WTC.
Communicative variables
Two  communicative  factors,  namely  self-perceived  communication  competence
(SPCC)  and  communication  apprehension
(CA)  have  been  extensively  examined  in
both empirical and conceptualization studies
concerning  WTC.  Based  on  studies
conducted  on  WTC,  McCroskey  (1997)
argued  that  SPCC  and  CA  tend  to  make
significant  contribution  to  prediction  of
WTC.
 
SPCC  refers  to  the  feeling  that  one  has  the
ability  to  communicate  effectively  at  a
particular  point  (MacIntyre  et  al.,  1998).
McCroskey  and  McCroskey  (1986)  argued
that  most  of  the  decisions  people  make
regarding  communication  are  inspired  by
self-perceived competence rather than actual
competence i. e. the perception of being able
to  perform  a  communication  task  can
outweigh  actual,  objectively  defined
competence  in  inspiring  a  willingness  to
initiate  communication.  McCroskey  and
Richmond  (1987)  found  that  SPCC
positively  affected  general  attitude  toward
communication,  self-esteem,
argumentativeness,  willingness  to
communicate,  and  sociability.  Further,  the
findings  of  several  studies  (McCroskey  &
 
Richmond,  1990;  MacIntyre,  1994;
MacIntyre  &  Charos,  1996;  MacIntyre,
Babin,  &  Clément,  1999;  Yashima,  2002)
have  unanimously  shown  that  perceived
competence  is  the  strongest  predictor  of
L2WTC.  Learners  who  perceived
themselves as competent communicators are
usually more willing to communicate.
 
Language anxiety is also defined by Gardner
and  MacIntyre  (1993,  p.  5)  as  “the
apprehension  experienced  when  a  situation
requires  the  use  of  a  second  language  with
which the individual is not fully proficient”.
Horwitz, Horwitz, and Cope (1986) believed
that  foreign  language  anxiety  consists  of
three  constituents,  namely  test  anxiety,
communication  apprehension  and  fear  of
negative evaluation.  
 
Studies  have  consistently  demonstrated  the
association of anxiety with foreign language
learning  and  performance  (MacIntyre  &
Gardner,1991;  MacIntyre,  1995;  Saito  &
Samimy,  1996;  Saminy  &  Radin,  1994;
MacIntyre, Noels, & Clément, 1997; Cheng,
Horwitz,  &  Schallert,  1999).  Clément,
Dörnyei  and  Noels  (1994)  stated  that,
compared  to  their  highly  anxious  peers,
students who are less anxious over speaking
in  English  think  positively  about  their
language proficiency, and they are interested
in increasing their contact with English.
 
MacIntyre  et  al.  (1997)  also  argued  that  L2
learners’  perception  of  L2  competence  can
be  affected  by  level  of  language  anxiety  so
that L2 learners who are more anxious about
communicating  in  L2  tend  to  perceive  their
actual  L2  competence  more  negatively  and
lower  than  that  rated  by  neutral  observers.
Furthermore,  research  has  revealed  an
inverse  relationship  between  L2WTC  and
anxiety  i.  e.  the  more  students  are  anxious,
the  more  reluctant  they  are  to  enter  into  L2
conversations  (e.g.,  Gardner  &  MacIntyre,
1993;  Hashimoto,  2002;  MacIntyre  &
Clément, 1996).
 
Affective variables  
Motivation and international posture are two
major  affective-cognitive  variables  which
have  proven  to  be  theoretically  and
empirically related to WTC.   
 
Motivation  as  a  major  individual  factor  can
significantly  affect  language  learning
success  (Dörnyei,  2005).  According  to
Dornyei,  motivation  inspires  L2  learning
and it can be a stimulating  and  encouraging
force to endure the long and rather tiresome
learning  course.  Without  adequate
motivation,  even  learners  with  the  most
exceptional  abilities  can  hardly  achieve
long-term goals.
 
In  his  socio-educational  model  of  L2
acquisition  Gardner  (1985)  mentioned  that
when  we  discuss  the  motivation  to  learn  a
second  language,  we  should  take  into
account  both  cultural  context  and
educational  setting,  which  are  named  as
integrativeness  and  attitudes  toward  the
learning  situation,  respectively.  Attitudes
towards  the  language  situation  include
attitudes  towards  the  language  course,  the
textbooks,  the  language  teacher  and  the
school  environment.  Integrativeness  is
conceptualized  as  a  real  enthusiasm  for
pursuing  the  second  language  education
with  the  hope  of  becoming  psychologically
closer  with  the  target  language  community
(Gardner,  1985).  Research  has  shown  that
attitudes  on  the  learning  situation  and
integrativeness  exert  the  greatest  impact  on
motivation,  which  in  turn  affect  language
achievement  (Gardner,  2007;  Hashimoto,
2002;  MacIntyre  &  Charos,  1996)  and
higher  levels  of  integrativeness  and
motivation  engender  more  interaction
among learners (Cetinkaya, 2005).
 
However, due to the different nature of EFL
context  in  which  there  is  little  or  no
immediate  contact  with  English  native
speakers,  some  scholars  (e.g.,  Clément,
Dörnyei,  &  Noels,  1994;  Clément  &
Kruidenier,  1983)  believe  that  Gardners’
socioeducational  model  is  not  as  much
relevant  to  this  context  as  it  is  to  ESL
context.  Connected  to  this,  Yashima  (2002)
advanced “international posture” concept  as
an  orientation  close  to  integrative
orientation.  This  concept  represents
components  such  as  interest  in  foreign  or
international  affairs,  enthusiasm  for  going
abroad  for  study  or  work  purposes,
willingness to speak with intercultural peers
and  non-ethnocentric  stance  on  different
cultural  issues  (Yashima,  2002).
Empirically,  it  has  been  shown  that
international  posture  can  positively  affect
L2WTC (Cetinkaya, 2005; Yashima, 2002).
Teacher immediacy  
Another  factor  which  can  exert  significant
effect on learners’ communication including
their  WTC  is  the  contextual  variable  of
teacher immediacy (Wen & Clement, 2003).
 
The construct of immediacy was introduced
by  Mehrabian  (1967)  who  defined  it  as  the
communication  behaviors  which  improve
psychological  and  physical  closeness  with
others. Utilizing approach-avoidance theory,
Mehrabian (1971) stated that individuals are
attracted  toward  people  and  things  they  are
interested  in  and  think  of  highly.
Furthermore,  Andersen  (1979)  believed  that
immediacy  behaviors  play  an  important
functional  role  in  communication  by
conveying positive attitudes of the sender to
the receiver.  
 
Immediacy  behaviors  are  divided  into  two
kinds,  nonverbal  and  verbal.  Nonverbal
immediacy  indicates  behaviors  like  positive
use  of  gestures,  smiling,  vocal  variety,  eye
contact, a relaxed body position and forward
body  lean.  Verbal  immediacy  includes
verbal  behaviors  such  as  using  humor  and
using  “we”  and  “our”  in  class  (Frymier,
1993).  
 
Teacher  immediacy  is  then  conceptualized
as communication behaviors that reduce the
perceived  distance  between  teacher  and
students (Andersen, 1979). Anderson argued
that  immediacy  behaviors  convey  teacher
warmth  and  positive  emotions,  indicate
accessibility  and  approach  for
communication,  and  enhances  physiological
arousal  in  learners.  The  concept  of  teacher
immediacy has received substantial attention
in  the  instructional  context.  It  has  been
found  to  positively  affect  students.  Verbal
and  nonverbal  immediacy  were  correlated
with increased affective learning (Anderson,
1979;  Gorham,  1988).  Along  the  same  line,
positive  associations  were  noticed  between
teacher  immediacy  and  learners’ motivation
(Christophel,  1990;  Frymier,  1993).  Carrell
and  Menzel’s  (1998)  findings  revealed  that
the  teacher’s  verbal  immediacy  behavior
was  positively  connected  to  learners’
inclination  to  speak  in  class  in  a  liberal  arts
context.  
 
However,  teacher  immediacy  has  not  been
given  sufficient  scholarly  attention  in  the
TESOL  field.  There  are  only  a  few  studies
reported in the existent literature.
 
In  a  qualitative  study  Hsu  (2005),  for
example,  explored  learners’  perception  of
how  the  immediate  relationship  influences
their  WTC.  The  findings  indicated
significant  relationships  between  teacher
immediacy  and  the  learners’  L2WTC.  In
another  study  Yu  (2009)  found  that  teacher
immediacy  negatively  affected
communication  apprehension  and  positively
impacted  self-perceived  communication
competence.  However,  the  findings  showed
that teacher immediacy could affect L2WTC
 
only  through  the  mediation  of
communication competence and anxiety.
Rashidi  and  Mahmoudi  Kia  (2014)
investigated  the  relationship  between
teachers  communicative  behavior  and  EFL
learners motivation and involvement in their
language  learning.  The  results  revealed  that
teachers’  immediacy  behaviors  were
significantly  and  positively  correlated  with
learners’ willingness to talk.  
 
Finally,  Nabi  Karimi,  Shabani,  and
Hosseini’s (2012) study showed that teacher
immediacy was significantly associated with
EFL  learners’  willingness  to  engage  in
interaction  and  meaning  negotiation  with
their teachers.
 
Thus, as an attempt to bridge the current gap
and  enrich  the  literature,  the  present  study
sought  to  explore  teacher  immediacy  in  the
context of L2WTC.
Personality  
Though  research  on  the  role  of  personality
in  L2  achievement  is  admittedly  slim,  it
seems  that  the  personality  of  the  language
learner  would  exert  some  effect  on  the
process  of  L2  acquisition  (MacIntyre,
Clément,  &  Noels,  2007).  Personality  and
anxiety have been linked to speaking ability
(Campbell  &  Rushton,  1978;  Dewaele  &
Furnham,  1999).  MacIntyre  et  al.’s  (1998)
argued  that  people  of  different  personality
types  approach  language  learning
opportunities  such  as  in-class  activities  and
real-life  encounters  of  intercultural
communication in different ways.  
 
The  Big  Five  model  as  developed  by
Goldberg  (1993)  is  a  personality  model  that
covers  five  basic  and                    
independent personality traits:
 
  Introversion/Extraversion
  Intellect/Sophistication
  Pleasantness/Agreeableness
  Emotional Stability
  Conscientiousness/Dependability  
 
Goldberg  (1992)  utilized  bipolar  inventory
to  describe  and  measure  these  five
personality  traits.  For  example,  the
pleasantness/agreeableness  dimension,
which  is  tested  in  the  current  study,  is
typified  through  a  sequence  from  selfish,
uncooperative  and  unkind  to  unselfish,
cooperative and kind.   
 
In  MacIntyre  et  al.’s  (1998)  model,
personality is at the base of the pyramid, and
is  thought  to  play  a  significant  role  in
shaping the person’s communication pattern.
MacIntyre and Charos’s (1996) findings, for
example,  revealed  that,  personality  traits  of
openness  to  experience  and  extraversion
exerted  indirect  effects  on  L2WTC  through
the  mediation  SPCC  and  CA,  respectively.
Further, despite the premise that personality
factors would influence  L2 WTC indirectly,
agreeableness  proved  to  be  directly
associated with WTC.
 The initial hypothesized model
Using  willingness  to  communicate  (WTC)
and  socio-educational  models  as  a
framework, the initially hypothesized model
of  the  current  study  was  formed  by  three
latent  variables  (international  posture,
teacher immediacy and motivation) and four
observed  variables  (SPCC,  CA,  WTC  and
personality trait of agreeableness). The links
among  these  variables  are  schematically
represented in Fig. 1.
 
In  line  with  previous  research  (e.g.,
Christophel,  1990;  Christophel  &  Gorham,
1995) a direct positive path between teacher
immediacy  and  motivation  was  proposed.
Based  on  Wen and Clément’s (2003) study,
a  negative  path  was  also  drawn  between
teacher  immediacy  and  CA  and  a  positive

direct  path  between  teacher  immediacy  and
SPCC. Furthermore, based on Yu’s (2009)
findings  and  Wen  and  Clément’s  (2003)
argument  that  teacher  immediacy  can  exert
potential  impact  on EFL learners’ L2WTC,
a  direct  positive  path  was  drawn  from
teacher immediacy to learners’ L2WTC.
 
Following  MacIntyre  (1994)  and  MacIntyre
and  Charos  (1996),  a  direct  negative  path
was  hypothesized  from  CA  to  SPCC.
Further,  one  positive  path  between  SPCC
and  WTC  was  expected  (e.g.,  Baker  &
MacIntyre,  2003;  MacIntyre  &  Charos,
1996; Yu, 2009).  
 
The  two  expected  positive  paths  from
motivation  and  international  posture  to
L2WTC    paralleled  previous  research
(Ghonsooly et al., 2012; Yashima, 2002). A
positive  path  from  motivation  to  L2WTC
was  also  anticipated  based  on  Dörnyei  and
Kormos  (2000)  and  MacIntyre  et  al.’s
(1998)  pyramid  model  of  L2WTC.  As  for
the  agreeableness  personality  trait,  Clement
(1980)  argued  that  those  who  are  pleasant
and  agreeable  are  more  interested  in
interacting positively with  L2 speakers. The
most probable variable to be affected by this
trait is integrativeness (MacIntyre & Charos,
1996).  Further,  Yashima  (2002)  argued  that
integrativeness  can  be  represented  and
epitomized  by  international  posture  in  EFL
context.  Therefore,  a  positive  path  is
proposed from agreeableness to international
posture.  
 
The  hypothesized  negative  path  from
agreeableness  to  communication  anxiety  is
also  supported  by  previous  research  in
personality  and  behavioral  psychology.  For
example, it was shown that highly agreeable
individuals  automatically  engaged  in
emotion  regulation  processes  when  exposed
to  unpleasant  stimuli  (Jensen-Campbell,
Rosselli,  Workman,  Santisi,  Rios  &  Bojan,
2002). Tobin and Graziano’s (2011) findings
also  revealed  a  significant  relation  between
agreeableness and negative affect regulation
in  young  learners.  Finally,  in  response  to
MacIntyre  and  Charos’s  (1996)  call,  a
positive path from agreeableness to L2WTC
was hypothesized and re-examined.
 
In  short,  the  following  research  questions
were  addressed  to  provide  answer  to  the
objectives of the study:
 
Q  1:  Is  the  proposed  model  of  L2
communication  (Figure  1)  appropriate  for
the Iranian EFL learners?
 Q  2:  Can  the  independent  variables
significantly  predict  dependant  variables
including L2WTC among the EFL learners?

Method  
Participants
For  the  purpose  of  this  study,  398  Iranian
non-English  major  undergraduate  students
were  recruited  randomly  from  Colleges  of
Humanities,  Natural  Resources,
Engineering,  Agriculture,  Veterinarian  and
Basic  Sciences  at  the  University  of  Zabol.
Out of these, 372 participants (about 93.5 %
return  rate)  completed  the  questionnaires.
They  aged  between  18  and  34  years  (M  =
19.13,  SD  =  1.69).  One  hundred  seventy
three  students  were  male  (46.5  %),  and  199
(53.5  %)  were  female.  They  were  freshmen
who  had  just  studied  English  as  a  foreign
language  for  7  consecutive  years  in  junior
high  school  and  high  school.  They  were  all
taking  General  English  as  a  compulsory
university course prior to their ESP courses.  
Procedure  
Before  the  data  collection,  the  researchers
obtained  approval  from  8  EFL  professors.
Then,  the  questionnaires  were  distributed  in
twelve classes within 2 weeks in the middle
of  winter  semester.  The  participants
completed  the  Persian  versions  of  the
questionnaires in their classes.  
 
Prior  to  administering  the  questionnaires,
language  learners  were  all  informed  of  the
objective of the research and the time to fill
in  the  questionnaires  (about  25  minutes).
They  were  assured  that  their  participation
would  be  voluntary  and  anonymous  and  at
no cost to their academic evaluation.

Measures
The required data were collected through the
following  ten  questionnaires.  These
questionnaires  have  been  utilized
extensively in EFL settings (e.g., Cetinkaya,
2005;  Fallah,  2014;  Ghonsooly  et  al.,  2012;
Yashima,  2002;  Yashima  et  al.,  2004;  Yu,
2009).  The  original  English  questionnaires
were  translated  into  Farsi  in  the  present
study.
Willingness to communicate  
EFL  learners’  WTC  in  English  was  tested
through  twelve  items  from  McCroskey
(1992)  in  terms  of  contexts  of
communication  (group  discussions,  public
speaking,  interpersonal  conversations  and
talking  in  meetings)  and  types  of  receivers
(strangers,  acquaintances,  and  friends).  The
participants  chose  the  amount  (0%  -  100%)
that  they  would  be  willing  to  communicate
in each situation. Scores were the sum of the
points  that  the  respondents  achieved  based
on  the  WTC  scale  (Cronbach’s  α  =  .94).
Sample  item  is  “I am willing to talk in a
small group of strangers in English”.   
Self-perceived  communication  competence
(SPCC)  
McCroskey  and  McCroskey’s  (1988)  12-item questionnaire was utilized to gauge the
learners’  self-perceived  communication
competence.  Like  the  WTC  scale,  the  items
in  the  SPCC  scale  refer  to  4  basic
communication  contexts  and  three  types  of
receivers.  Participants  appraised  their
communication  competence  on  a  0-100
scale. (Cronbach’s α =  .93).  Sample  item  is
“I  can  Talk  in  English  in  a  large  meeting
among strangers”.  
Communication anxiety (CA)
This was measured by twelve items used by
Yashima  (2002).  The  respondents  indicated
the  percentage  of  time  that  they  would  feel
anxious  engaging  in  a  special  activity.
Similar  to  the  WTC  and  SPCC  scales,  it
includes  12  permutations  (four  situations,
three receiver groups) (Cronbach’s α = .91).
Sample item is “I feel anxious while talking
in English to a stranger”.
Teacher immediacy
The  immediacy  behavior  scale  comprised
items  tapping  on  teacher  verbal  (20  items,
Gorham,  1988,  Cronbach’s  α  =  .89.)  and
nonverbal (14 items, Richmond, Gorham, &
McCroskey,  1987,  Cronbach’s  α  =  .88)
immediacy  behaviors.  Respondents
indicated  whether  or  not  their  teachers
exhibited such behaviors and their incidence
of  use  on  a  range  from  “one”  (rarely)  to
“four”  (very  often).  Sample  item  is  “my
teacher  uses  a  variety  of  vocal  expressions
when talking to the class”.
Agreeableness measure    
Two  items  from  The  Ten  Item  Personality
Inventory  (TIPI;  Gosling,  Rentfrow,  &
Swann,  2003)  were  used.  The  authors
reported TIPI is a reliable and valid measure
of personality. The test begins with the stem
‘‘I see myself as:’’ followed by pairs of two-trait  descriptors,  which  respondents  assess
on  a  7-point  likert  scale  varying  from  1
(strongly  disagree)  to  7  (strongly  agree)
(Cronbach’s α = .68). Sample item is “I am
sympathetic and warm”.
Motivation
The  30-itme  Motivation  scale  with  three
constituents  (Motivational  Intensity,
Attitudes  toward  Learning  English  and
Desire  to  Learn  English)  was  originally
developed  by  Gardner  (1985)  as  part  of  the
Attitude/Motivation  Test  Battery.  Each
component  was  measured  by  10  multiple
items. (Cronbach’s α =  .90,  86  and  87  for
MI,  DLE  and  ALE,  respectively).    Sample
item  is  “I  plan  to  learn  as  much  English  as
possible”.     
International posture
The  participants’  international  posture  was
measured  through  Yashima’s  (2002)
 
questionnaire.    The  questionnaire  included
four  sub-scales,  namely  Intercultural
Friendship  Orientation  (4  items,  sample:
“studying English will allow me to meet and
converse  with  more  and  varied  people”),
Approach-Avoidance  Tendency  (7  items,
sample:  “I  try  to  avoid  talking  with
foreigners if I can”), Interest in International
Vocation/Activities  (5  items,  sample:  “I
want  to  live  in  a  foreign  country”  )  and
Interest in Foreign Affairs (2 items, sample:
“I often read and watch news about foreign
countries”  ).  The  participants  marked  the
amount to which they agreed with each item
on  a  7-point  scale  by  marking  a  number
between  1  (strongly  disagree)  and  7
(strongly  agree).  The  reliability  estimates
(Cronbach’s α) were .75, .79, .71 and .66 for
the four scales respectively.  
Results and discussion
Pearson  correlations  were  used  to  examine
the  relationships  between  continuous
variables. Table 1 shows the mean, standard
deviation,  and  correlation  matrix  between
the  variables.  Furthermore,  to  answer  the
research  questions,  as  to  whether  the
proposed  model  is  appropriate  for  the
Iranian  EFL  learners  and  whether  the
independent variables can predict dependant
variables  including  L2WTC,  Structural
Equation  Modeling  was  conducted  through
AMOS  20.  This  analysis  allows  for  testing
complex  hypotheses  and  examining  the
relationship  between  one  or  more
independent  variables  and  one  or  more
dependant  variables.  In  addition,  this
approach  examines  the  direct,  indirect  and
total  effects  of  the  links  among  the  model
variables.
 
In  the  present  study,  model  estimation  was
conducted  using  maximum  likelihood  (ML)
estimation.  As  shown  in  Figure  1,  the
proposed  model  was  tested  and  the  results
indicated  that  the  goodness-of-fit  measures
for  the  base  model  were  as  follows:
goodness-of-fit  (GFI)  index  =  .94,  adjusted
goodness-of-fit  (AGFI)  index  =  .90,
comparative fit index (CFI) = .92, root mean
square  error  of  approximation  (RMSEA)  =
.07,  and  Chi-Square  =  153.01  (57  df),  p  <
.001  which  show  an  unacceptable  good  fit
for the base model. To have a very  good  fit
model,  RMSEA  should be  smaller  than  .05,
CFI,  GFI  and  AGFI  should  indicate  values
higher  than  .90,  and  p  value  should  be
higher  than  .05.  Thus,  model  modifications
were conducted to improve the model.
 
First, the four non-significant paths (the path
from  agreeableness  to  L2WTC  and  the  3
paths  from  teacher  immediacy  to  L2WTC,
SPCC  and  motivation)  were  deleted.  The
goodness-of-fit  measures  were  reanalyzed
for  the  revised  model.  They  were  not
completely acceptable yet: GFI = .94, AGFI
=  .91,  CFI  =  .92,  RMSEA  =  .07  and  Chi-Square = 156.65 (61 df), p < .001.  
 
Post  hoc  model  modifications  were  then
conducted  in  order  to  improve  model  fit.
The  significant  chi-square  test  for  the
modified  model  indicated  that  further
variance could be accounted for in case new
paths  were  drawn.  Contrary  to  the
confirmatory  approach  followed  till  now,
drawing  additional  paths,  as  MacCallum,
Roznowski,  and  Necowitz,  (1992)  stated,  is
an  exploratory  procedure.  These  paths
should  be  considered  as  data  driven,  and
serve  as  potential  avenues  for  future
research (MacIntyre & Charos, 1996).
 
 
Based  on  the  highest  modification  index
(MI),  additional  paths  were  added,  one  at  a
time,  till  the  model  showed  a  good  fit.  The
additional paths were as follows: immediacy
→IP and motivation →SPCC. (see Table 2).
The model was tested.  As shown in Table 2,
all the selected model fit indices show very
good  levels  (GFI  =.96,  AGFI  =  .94,  CFI  =  
 
.97,  RMSEA  =  .03)  except  for  the  chi-square which was significant (χ2
 = 88.83 (59 df),  p  <  .01)  due  to  the  relatively  large
sample  size.  However,  a  conventional  way
of  dealing  with  this  sample-size  impact  on
the Model Chi-Square is the relative/normed
chi-square  (χ2/df)  which  in  our  study
displays  a  value  below  the  acceptable  level
of 2 (see Hooper et al., 2008; Tabachnick &
Fidell, 2007). Therefore, it can be concluded
that  the  final  measurement  model  have  a
very  good  fit  to  the  data,  and  it  can  be
deemed  an  appropriate  communication
model for the Iranian EFL context.

In  the  structural  equation  model,  significant
paths  were  obtained  leading  from  SPCC,
motivation and international posture to their
anticipated  destination  of  L2WTC.  L2CA
had a direct path to SPCC, while immediacy
had a direct path to L2CA. Also direct paths
were  found  leading  from  international
posture to motivation, from agreeableness to
international  posture  and  L2CA,  and  from
L2CA  to  SPCC.  As  for  the  data  driven
paths,  two  significant  paths  indicated  the
impacts  of  motivation  and  immediacy  on
SPCC  and  international  posture,
respectively. The paths were all found to be
significant  at  least  at  the  level  of  .05.  Thus,
it can be safely said that all the independent
variables  could  significantly  predict  the
dependant variables in the final model.
 
The  significant  path  (p  <  .001,  c.r.  =  6.85)
showing  the  effect  of  SPCC  on  WTC
confirms  the  results  obtained  in  previous
studies  (McCroskey  &  Richmond,  1990;
MacIntyre,  1994;  MacIntyre,  Babin,  &
Clément,  1999;  MacIntyre  &  Charos,  1996;
Yashima,  2002;  Yu,  2009).  The  strength  of
this  impact  on  WTC  also  parallels  the
findings  of  these  studies  suggesting  that
SPCC  exerts  the  highest  effect  on  L2WTC.
This indicates that, irrespective of one’s real
proficiency,  simply  deeming  oneself  able  to
communicate  can  influence  the  willingness
or  intention  to  get  engaged  in
communication.  The  significant  effect  (p  <
.001,  c.r.  =  -  5.63)  of  L2CA  on  SPCC  was
also  supported  by  previous  research
(MacIntyre,  1994;  MacIntyre  &  Charos,
1996; Yu, 2009).
 
The significant effect (p < .05, c.r. = 2.17) of
motivation  on  L2WTC  in  the  present  study
is  basically  in  accordance  with  MacIntyre
and Clément’s (1996) and MacIntrye et al.’s
(2003) findings indicating significant impact
of motivation on  L2WTC in Canada. Along
the  same  line,  Peng  (2007)  found  that
motivation can significantly predict L2WTC
among Chinese EFL learners. However, this
finding was in contrast with Ghonsooly et al.
(2012), Yashima (2002), Kim (2004) and Yu
(2009),  who  did  not  find  a  significant  path
leading  from  motivation  to  L2WTC.  A
plausible  explanation  for  the  finding  of  the
present study might be Peng’s (2007, p. 48)
argument  that  “in  an  EFL  context,
motivation  is  an  important  impetus  in
stimulating  learners  to  persevere  in  both  L2
learning  and  possibly  L2  communication”.
In  addition,  motivation  assuages  the  effects
of  some  individual  and  situational
shortcomings  and  act  as  a  vigorous  driving
force  in  language  learning  (Dörnyei,  2005).
Yashima  (2002)  also  stated  that  high  levels
of  motivation  encourage  perseverance
among  L2  learners,  which  can  in  turn  boost
their  proficiency,  confidence  and  eventually
their willingness to communicate.

Interestingly, the role that motivation played
was  two-dimensional  as  it  also  contributed
to L2WTC indirectly, through impacting the
learners’ SPCC. In other words, the role of
Iranian  EFL  learners’  motivation  in
increasing learners’ L2WTC in English can
be mediated by their perception of their own
ability to communicate.
 
The  results  of  this  study  also  revealed  a
mildly significant path (p < .05, c.r. = 2.54)
and  a  strong  direct  path  (p  <  .001,  c.r.  =
7.07)  from  international  posture  to  L2WTC
and  motivation  respectively,  suggesting  that
the  more  internationally  aligned  learners
were,  the  more  tendency  they  had  to  enter
into  communication  and  also  the  more
motivation  they  have  to  pursue  their  L2
education. This is basically supported by the
socioeducational  model  in  that  attitudes
affect  motivation.  In  the  present  study
attitude  (international  posture)  covered  the
learners’  attitudes  toward  international
vocation  or  activities,  intercultural
communication, and foreign affairs.  
 
Therefore,  up  to  this  point,  it  can  be
suggested  that  the  willingness  to  enter  into
L2  communication  in  Iran  is  mainly
determined  by  a  combination  of  the  EFL
learners’ motivation, perception of their L2
proficiency,  and  their  attitudes  and
orientations  toward  the  international
community.
 
The  results  also  revealed  that  teacher
immediacy  had  a  significant  negative  effect
(p  <  .001,  c.r.  =  -  4.05)  on  EFL  learners’
L2CA.  This  corroborates  Rodriguez,  Plax,
and  Kearney’s  (1996)  argument  that
immediate  teachers  facilitate  interpersonal
closeness  and  create  warm  and  friendly
atmosphere  in  the  classroom  through
conveying  positive  attitudes,  thereby
reducing  anxiety.  Connected  to  this,  Wen
and  Clement  (2003)  stated  that  teacher’s
dependability  and  affability  make  learners
feel  emotionally  supported  and  less
communicatively  nervous.  Therefore,  in
Iranian EFL context, where the teacher is the
main  authority  in  the  classroom,  teacher
immediacy  behaviors  can  be  deemed  an
important  emotional  resource,  under  the
auspices  of  which  the  learners  can  tackle
communication  apprehension.  Put  it  into
nutshell,  learners  feel  happier  and  less
stressed  in  classes  with  caring  and
affectionate  teachers  (Ellen  &  Michael,
1993).
 
The  significant  path  (p  <  .001,  c.r.  =  4.28)
from  teacher  immediacy  to  international
posture is one of the data-driven paths of the
present study. It suggests that the more EFL
learners  find  their  teachers  physically  and
psychologically  approachable,  the  more
positive  attitude  they  develop  towards  the
international  society.  As  Yashima  (2002)
argued,  language  learners’ attitudes  toward
the  international  community  are  subject  to
change.  As  such,  EFL  teachers’ verbal and
non-verbal  immediacy  behaviors  can  be  an
invaluable asset in creating a supportive and
non-threatening learning milieu for learners.
Such  an  environment  is  conducive  to  the
development of positive  attitudes and views
toward  language  learning  and  intercultural
community  among  EFL  learners.  Since
adding  an  additional  path  is  deemed  data-driven  and  exploratory,  this  path  should  to
be  replicated  and  further  examined  along
with the path from motivation to SPCC.
 
Given  the  strong  effect  of  teacher
immediacy  on  international  posture,  the
unquestionable  impact  of  international
posture on the learners’ motivation, and the
mildly  significant  path  leading  from
international  posture  to  L2WTC,  it  appears
that  teacher  immediacy  exerts  positive
indirect effects on both learners’ motivation
and their L2WTC.   
 
Furthermore,  the  significant  path  (p  <  .01,
c.r.  =  2.77)  indicating  the  impact  of
agreeableness  on  international  posture
suggested  that  agreeable  EFL  learners
tended  to  be  more  interested  in  foreign
languages  and  international  activities  and
affaires.  Given  the  agreeable  individuals’
high  social  desirability,  positive  prosocial
behaviors and friendly disposition (Graziano
&  Tobin,  2013),  it  is  likely  that  they  have
more  positive  feelings  and  attitudes  toward
international community. This interpretation
gains  more  credibility  in  the  light  of
MacIntyre  et  al.’s  (1998)  notion  that
personality  can  affect  the  way  a  person
reacts to foreign people and cultures.
 
Interestingly,  agreeableness  personality  trait
contributed to L2 communication anxiety (p
<  .001,  c.r.  =  3.75).  This  finding  is  in
contrast  with  previous  empirical  studies  on
the  regulatory  function  of  agreeableness
(e.g., Tobin & Graziano, 2011) though these
are  restricted  in  the  realm  of  education,  and
almost  rare  in  the  EFL/ESL  context
altogether.  The  reason  is  due  in  part  to  the
nature  of  English  communication  in  Iran.
Since Iran is an EFL context, occurrences of
natural  and  social  communication  in
English, especially in verbal mode, are quite
scarce.  Instead  English  communication,  if
any,  occurs  only  for  academic  or  pedantic,
so  to  speak,  purposes.    Therefore,  L2

communication, in most likelihood, is set up
as  a  form  of  competition.  If  this  line  of
reasoning  is  valid,  then  persons  high  in
agreeableness  perhaps  do  not  care  to
participate  or  at  least  do  it  with  an  extra
burden  of  carrying  communication
apprehension. This conjecture seems to gain
more  plausibility  in  the  light  of  Graziano,
Hair,  and  Finch’s  (1997)  argument  that
highly agreeable individuals are interested in
social  harmony  and,  compared  to  their  less-agreeable  peers,  they  dislike  conflicts  and
competitions.  Connected  to  this,  Ryckman,
Thornton  and  Gold  (2009)  found  that
competition  avoiders  were  pleasant,
agreeable  and  acquiescent  in  their  social
interactions.  An  intriguing  study  (Bilalic,
McLeod  &  Gobet,  2007)  also  showed  that
playing  chess  was  not  appealing  to  highly
agreeable participants due to the competitive
nature  of  chess  where  players  endure
constant confrontations.  
 
Conclusion and implications   
This study tested a model of L2WTC among
Iranian  EFL  learners.  The  final  model  was
an  acceptable  representation  of  the  dataset
regarding  the  evaluated  variables.  The
results  of  structural  equation  modeling
supported  both  the  WTC  model  and  the
socio-educational model.  
 
The  findings  indicated  that  L2WTC  is  a
complex  concept  and  obviously  connected
to  different  factors  in  EFL  context.  It  was
shown  that  SPCC,  international  posture  and
motivation  were  significant  predictors  of
L2WTC.  The  indirect  effects  of  CA  and
motivation  on  L2WTC  were  mediated  by
SPCC,  and  the  roles  of  teacher  immediacy
and  agreeableness  in  enhancing  EFL
learners’  L2WTC  were  also  mediated  by
international  posture.  Therefore,  SPCC,
international posture and motivation seemed
to  play  a  key  role  in  understanding  and
improving  L2 communication in the  Iranian
EFL  context.  Further,  while  teacher
immediacy  significantly  predicted
international  posture  and  CA,  personality
trait of agreeableness predicted international
posture  and  communication  apprehension
among the EFL learners.  
 
Based on these findings, it can be suggested
that  for  more  effectively  enhancing  EFL
learners’  willingness  to  communicate,
teachers and learners as well should be more
aware of the effect of affective and personal
factors on learners’ communication capacity
including  their  WTC.  They  should  try  to
assuage  communication  anxiety  and
improve  learners’  motivation  and  their
beliefs and attitudes toward the international
community.
 
Due to the ubiquitous existence of anxiety in
EFL  context,  teachers  should  pay  more
attention to the way they treat their students
particularly  by  adopting  appropriate  error
correction  ways  in  order  to  facilitate
communication  and  should  learn  not  to
discourage  them  from  speaking.  Also  based
on the findings of the current study, in order
to  establish  a  welcoming,  relaxing,  and
supportive  classroom  climate  and  to  lower
EFL  learners’  affective  filter  (Krashen,
1982),  teachers  can  use  immediacy
behaviors.  In  such  an  atmosphere  learners
are  more  emotionally  secured,  suffer  less
communication  apprehension,  and  perceive
themselves  to  be  more  proficient  and
motivated and consequently more willing to
communicate  in  English.  In  such  an
atmosphere  teachers  can  also  use
miscellaneous  materials  and  activities  to
engender  EFL  learners’  enthusiasm  for
familiarizing  themselves  with  different
cultures,  forming  realistic  attitudes  toward
those  cultures,  promoting  their  linguistic
competence  and  eventually  enjoying
effective  English  communication
(Cetinkaya, 2005).
 
Since the participants were a selected group
of  EFL  learners  from  only  one  university,
any  generalization  of  the  findings  to  other
contexts  should  be  done  with  caution.  The
data  collection  was  done  only  through  self-reported questionnaires.  In  order to obtain a
more  accurate  estimate  of  the  variables,
future  research  should  utilize  qualitative
methods  such  as  interview  and  observation,
too.    It  is  also  recommended  that  this  study
be  replicated  in  different  EFL  contexts
among  learners  with  diverse  cultural,
educational  and  socioeconomic
backgrounds.  
Acknowledgments  
This  study  was  supported  by  a  research
grant  (No.  19-93)  from  the  University  of
Zabol.  Also,  we  would  like  to  especially
thank  Professor  William  Graziano  from
Purdue  University,  Dr.  Mostafa  Papi  from
Michigan State University and the Journal’s
anonymous  reviewers  for  their  invaluable
and  insightful  comments  on  the  earlier
versions  of  the  manuscript.  We  must  also
thank  all  colleagues  and  participants  for
their  warm  cooperation  during  the  data
collection phase.

 

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