English Department, University of Zabol, Iran
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.
- International Posture
- L2 Communication anxiety
- Self-perceived communication competence
- Teacher immediacy
- Willingness to communicate in English
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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 &
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
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).
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
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,
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
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
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.
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:
Goldberg (1992) utilized bipolar inventory
to describe and measure these five
personality traits. For example, the
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
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?
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.
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.
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
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
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
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”.
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”.
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”.
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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