Emotion, Motivation, and Vocabulary Learning: A Study of Heritage and Foreign Language Learners of Spanish
Leow, Ronald P.
Within second language acquisition (SLA), researchers now identify emotion as a cornerstone of cognition and learning (e.g., Dewaele, 2010a; LeBlanc, McConnell, & Monteiro, 2015) and a key component driving learners’ motivational systems (MacIntyre & Vincze, 2017). Traditionally, most SLA studies in emotion and motivation have investigated negative emotions exclusively. However, with the introduction of positive psychology in SLA (MacIntyre, Gregersen, & Mercer, 2016), scholars have taken an increased interest in the implications of positive emotions, such as enjoyment (e.g., Dewaele & Alfawzan, 2018; Dewaele & MacIntyre, 2014, 2016), for foreign language learning. Still, studies on emotion in general have chiefly focused on so-called second language (L2) or foreign language learners (FLLs) and largely fail to address questions of affect and language learning for heritage language learners (HLLs), who make up a continuously increasing percentage of the language learning community in the U.S. (Torres, 2011). Scholars now place greater importance on the study of emotion within HLL populations and highlight the need for ongoing research addressing emotion in diverse populations, particularly within the context of instructed SLA (e.g., Prada, Guerrero-Rodriguez, & Pascual y Cabo, 2020; Tallon, 2009).Considering these gaps, the present study takes a mixed methods approach to 1) explore advanced-proficiency Spanish HLLs’ and FLLs’ both positive and negative emotional reactions to emotional reading content, 2) compare the effects of emotional content on vocabulary learning for HLLs and FLLs, 3) investigate the relationship between HLLs’ and FLLs’ trait emotions, linguistic insecurity, language motivations, and vocabulary learning, and 4) investigate the implications of learners’ linguistic (e.g., Spanish proficiency) and sociobiographical variables (e.g., heritage background, academic institution, gender) on vocabulary learning outcomes. 121 participants, 64 HLLs and 57 FLLs, read three emotion-laden texts, positive, negative, and neutral in nature. While reading, they reported the intensity of their state emotions in response to each text’s themes. They also completed questionnaires on their trait emotions, linguistic insecurity, and L2 motivation during two separate sessions. After completing all tasks and questionnaires, they were asked to respond to an exit questionnaire at the close of each session. Their vocabulary learning was tested via form recognition, translation, and multiple choice subtests. The data were submitted to omnibus tests of analysis and mixed effects modeling.The results showed that HLLs and FLLs both showed a range of positive and negative emotions in response to emotional reading content, as well as overall positive emotions and high motivation with respect to HL/FL learning. Findings also revealed that the emotional content of the readings as well as positive and negative emotional reactions to that content, predicted different vocabulary outcomes. Motivation and trait emotion interest were seen as influential on vocabulary learning achievement, particularly for FLLs. Spanish proficiency was also a predictor of vocabulary achievement for FLLs. The study suggests the implications of affective variables for vocabulary learning for both HLLs and FLLs and provides qualitative evidence for the influences behind the key differences between the two groups.
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