Enjoyment and anxiety in second language communication: An idiodynamic approach

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Carmen Boudreau
Peter D. MacIntyre
Jean-Marc Dewaele


Emotions are a fleeting experience, sometimes lasting only moments before dissipating. Prior research in SLA has either ignored emotions, underestimated their relevance, or has studied them as a relatively stable individual difference variable. In contrast, the present study takes an idiodynamic approach to examine the rapidly changing relationship between enjoyment and anxiety in second language communication, on a moment-to-moment timescale. University students who speak French as a second language were recruited to complete oral tasks in their second language. Participants then rated their per-second fluctuations in each emotion while watching a video recording of their tasks. Immediately after this, they were interviewed about their attributions for fluctuations in their ratings. We found that the relationship between enjoyment and anxiety is highly dynamic, resulting in varying patterns of correlation ranging from negative to positive. Triangulation of ratings of anxiety and enjoyment with interview data produces a richer understanding of the role of emotions in second language communication.


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Author Biographies

Carmen Boudreau, Cape Breton University


Carmen H. E. Boudreau is a third-year medical student at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. She received her BSc Psychology Hons. and a Canadian Psychological Association Certificate of Academic Excellence at Cape Breton University, Sydney, Nova Scotia. There, she completed her honors thesis, presented in this edition of Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching. Currently, she is a member of the Dalhousie University Couples and Sexual Health Lab, where she is working on research that examines the role of interpersonal communication in couples dealing with sexual dysfunction.

Peter D. MacIntyre, Cape Breton University


Peter D. MacIntyre is Professor of Psychology at Cape Breton University, Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada. His primary research focus lies in the psychology of communication processes, in both the native and second languages. He has published numerous articles on motivation and emotion, and co-authored Capitalizing on Language Learners’ Individuality (with Tammy Gregersen, 2014, Multilingual Matters), Motivational Dynamics in Language Learning (co-edited with Zoltan Dörnyei and Alastair Henry, 2015, Multilingual Matters), and Positive Psychology in SLA (co-edited with Tammy Gregersen and Sarah Mercer, 2016, Multilingual Matters). He received the Robert Gardner Award for his contribution to second language learning (2004) from the International Association of Language and Social Psychology.

Jean-Marc Dewaele, Birkbeck College, University of London


Jean-Marc Dewaele is Professor of Applied Linguistics and Multilingualism at Birkbeck, University of London. He does research on individual differences considering psycholinguistic, sociolinguistic, pragmatic, psychological and emotional aspects of SLA and multilingualism. He authored Emotions in Multiple Languages (2010, Palgrave Macmillan) and co-edited several books on multilingualism and SLA. He is General Editor of the International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. He received the Equality and Diversity Research Award from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (2013) and the Robert Gardner Award for Excellence in Second Language and Bilingualism Research (2016) from the International Association of Language and Social Psychology.


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