Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published online by De Gruyter Mouton June 16, 2022

“You can’t start a fire without a spark”. Enjoyment, anxiety, and the emergence of flow in foreign language classrooms

  • Jean-Marc Dewaele EMAIL logo and Peter MacIntyre

Abstract

The present study adopted a mixed-methods approach using a convergent parallel design to focus on the role that positive and negative emotions have in the Foreign Language (FL) classroom on the ontogenesis of positive flow. Participants were 1,044 FL learners from around the world. They provided quantitative and qualitative data on FL enjoyment (FLE), classroom anxiety (FLCA) and experience of flow via an on-line questionnaire (Dewaele, Jean-Marc & Peter D. MacIntyre. 2014. The two faces of Janus? Anxiety and enjoyment in the foreign language classroom. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching 4. 237–274). FLE was a significantly stronger predictor of frequency of flow experience than FLCA. Further statistical analyses revealed that flow experiences are typically self-centred, infrequent and short-lived at the start of the FL learning journey and when the perceived social standing in the group is low. They become an increasingly shared experience, more frequent, stronger and more sustained as learners reach a more advanced level in their FL. What starts as an occasional individual spark can turn into a true fire that extends to other group members. The findings are illustrated by participants’ reports on enjoyable episodes in the FL classroom in which some reported complete involvement in an individual or collective task, merging of action and awareness, joyful bonding with classmates, intense focus and joy, loss of self-consciousness, sense of time and place.


Corresponding author: Jean-Marc Dewaele, Birkbeck, University of London, London, UK, E-mail:

References

Amini, Davoud, Shirin Ayari & Mansour Amini. 2016. The effect of flow state on EFL learners’ vocabulary learning. International Journal of Multicultural and Multireligious Understanding 3(5). 9–12. https://doi.org/10.18415/ijmmu.v3i5.54.Search in Google Scholar

Arnold, Jane. 2011. Attention to affect in language learning. Anglistik. International Journal of English Studies 22. 11–22. https://doi.org/10.1038/scientificamericanmind0711-11a.Search in Google Scholar

Aubrey, Scott. 2017a. Inter-cultural contact and flow in a task-based Japanese EFL classroom. Language Teaching Research 21(6). 717–734. https://doi.org/10.1177/1362168816683563.Search in Google Scholar

Aubrey, Scott. 2017b. Measuring flow in the EFL classroom: Learners’ perceptions of inter- and intra-cultural task-based interactions. TESOL Quarterly 51(3). 661–692. https://doi.org/10.1002/tesq.387.Search in Google Scholar

Cohen, Jacob. 1988. Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences, 2nd edn. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Search in Google Scholar

Creswell, John W. & Vicky L. Plano Clark. 2011. Designing and conducting mixed methods research, 2nd edn. London: Sage Publications.Search in Google Scholar

Csíkszentmihályi, Mihaly. 1990. Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper Collins.Search in Google Scholar

Csíkszentmihályi, Mihaly. 2009. Flow. In Shane J. Lopez (ed.), The encyclopedia of positive psychology, 394–400. Chichester, UK: Blackwell.Search in Google Scholar

Czimmermann, Eva & Katalin Piniel. 2016. Advanced language learners’ experiences of flow in the Hungarian EFL classroom. In Tammy Gregersen, Sarah Mercer & Peter D. MacIntyre (eds.), Positive psychology in SLA, 193–214. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.10.21832/9781783095360-009Search in Google Scholar

Dewaele, Jean-Marc. 2005. Investigating the psychological and the emotional dimensions in instructed language learning: Obstacles and possibilities. Modern Language Journal 89. 367–380. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4781.2005.00311.x.Search in Google Scholar

Dewaele, Jean-Marc. 2011. Reflections on the emotional and psychological aspects of foreign language learning and use. Anglistik. International Journal of English Studies 22. 23–42.Search in Google Scholar

Dewaele, Jean-Marc. 2018. Online questionnaires. In Aek Phakiti, Peter De Costa, Luke Plonsky & Susan Starfield (eds.), The Palgrave handbook of applied linguistics research methodology, 269–286. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.10.1057/978-1-137-59900-1_13Search in Google Scholar

Dewaele, Jean-Marc, Andrea Franco Magdalena & Kazuya Saito. 2019a. The effect of perception of teacher characteristics on Spanish EFL learners’ anxiety and enjoyment. Modern Language Journal 103(2). 412–427. https://doi.org/10.1111/modl.12555.Search in Google Scholar

Dewaele, Jean-Marc & Chengchen Li. 2020. Emotions in second language acquisition: A critical review and research agenda. Foreign Language World [外语界] 196(1). 34–49.Search in Google Scholar

Dewaele, Jean-Marc & Chengchen Li. 2021. Teacher enthusiasm and students’ social-behavioral learning engagement: The mediating role of student enjoyment and boredom in Chinese EFL classes. Language Teaching Research 25(6). 922–945. https://doi.org/10.1177/13621688211014538.Search in Google Scholar

Dewaele, Jean-Marc, John Witney, Kazuya Saito & Livia Dewaele. 2018. Foreign language enjoyment and anxiety in the FL classroom: The effect of teacher and learner variables. Language Teaching Research 22(6). 676–697. https://doi.org/10.1177/1362168817692161.Search in Google Scholar

Dewaele, Jean-Marc, Kazuya Saito & Florentina Halimi. 2022. How teacher behaviour shapes foreign language learners’ enjoyment, anxiety and motivation: A mixed modelling longitudinal investigation. Language Teaching Research. https://doi.org/10.1177/13621688221089601 (Epub ahead of print).Search in Google Scholar

Dewaele, Jean-Marc & Livia Dewaele. 2020. Are foreign language learners’ enjoyment and anxiety specific to the teacher? An investigation into the dynamics of learners’ classroom emotions. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching 10(1). 45–65. https://doi.org/10.14746/ssllt.2020.10.1.3.Search in Google Scholar

Dewaele, Jean-Marc & Peter D. MacIntyre. 2014. The two faces of Janus? Anxiety and enjoyment in the foreign language classroom. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching 4. 237–274. https://doi.org/10.14746/ssllt.2014.4.2.5.Search in Google Scholar

Dewaele, Jean-Marc & Peter D. MacIntyre. 2016. Foreign language enjoyment and foreign language classroom anxiety. The right and left feet of FL learning? In Peter D. MacIntyre, Tammy Gregersen & Sarah Mercer (eds.), Positive psychology in SLA, 215–236. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.10.21832/9781783095360-010Search in Google Scholar

Dewaele, Jean-Marc & Peter D. MacIntyre. 2019. The predictive power of multicultural personality traits, learner and teacher variables on foreign language enjoyment and anxiety. In Masatoshi Sato & Shawn Loewen (eds.), Evidence-based second language pedagogy: A collection of instructed second language acquisition studies, 263–286. London: Routledge.10.4324/9781351190558-12Search in Google Scholar

Dewaele, Jean-Marc & Peter D. MacIntyre. 2022. Do flow, enjoyment and anxiety emerge equally in English foreign language classrooms as in other foreign language classrooms? Revista Brasileira de Linguística Aplicada 22(1). 156–180. https://doi.org/10.1590/1984-6398202218487.Search in Google Scholar

Dewaele, Jean-Marc, Xinjie Chen, Amado Padilla & J. Lake. 2019b. The flowering of positive psychology in foreign language teaching and acquisition research. Frontiers in Psychology. Language Sciences 10. 2128. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02128.Search in Google Scholar

Egbert, Joy. 2003. A study of flow theory in the foreign language classroom. Modern Language Journal 87(4). 499–518. https://doi.org/10.1111/1540-4781.00204.Search in Google Scholar

Elias, Habibah, Sharifah M. S. Mustafa, Samsilah Roslan & Sidek M. Noah. 2010. Examining potential relationships between flow and motivational forces in Malaysian secondary school students. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 9. 2042–2046. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2010.12.443.Search in Google Scholar

Fredrickson, Barbara L. 2001. The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden and build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist 56. 218–226. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066x.56.3.218.Search in Google Scholar

Fredrickson, Barbara L. 2013. Positive emotions broaden and build. In Patricia Devine & Ashby Plant (eds.), Advances in experimental social psychology, 1–53. Burlington: Academic Press.10.1016/B978-0-12-407236-7.00001-2Search in Google Scholar

Haase, Richard F. & Michael V. Ellis. 1987. Multivariate analysis of variance. Journal of Counseling Psychology 34. 404–413. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0167.34.4.404.Search in Google Scholar

Horwitz, Elaine. 2017. On the Misreading of Horwitz, Horwitz and Cope (1986) and the Need to Balance Anxiety Research and the Experiences of Anxious Language Learners. In Christina Gkonou, Mark Daubney & Jean-Marc Dewaele (eds.), New Insights into Language Anxiety, 31–48. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.10.21832/9781783097722-004Search in Google Scholar

Horwitz, Elaine, Michael B. Horwitz & Joann Cope. 1986. Foreign language classroom anxiety. Modern Language Journal 70. 125–132. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4781.1986.tb05256.x.Search in Google Scholar

Ibrahim, Zana. 2020. Sustained flow: Affective obsession in second language learning. Frontiers in Psychology 10. 2963. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02963.Search in Google Scholar

Ibrahim, Zana & Ali H. Al-Hoorie. 2019. Shared, sustained flow: Triggering motivation with collaborative projects. ELT Journal 73. 51–60. https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/ccy025.Search in Google Scholar

Kirchhoff, Cheryl. 2013. L2 extensive reading and flow: Clarifying the relationship. Reading in a Foreign Language 25(2). 192–212.Search in Google Scholar

Landis, J. Richard & Gary G. Koch. 1977. The measurement of observer agreement for categorical data. Biometrics 33(1). 159–174. https://doi.org/10.2307/2529310.Search in Google Scholar

Larson, Reed & Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi. 2014. Experience sampling method. In Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi (ed.), Flow and the foundations of positive psychology, 21–34. Dordrecht: Springer.10.1007/978-94-017-9088-8_2Search in Google Scholar

Liu, Honggang & Xueyan Song. 2021. Exploring “flow” in young Chinese EFL learners’ online English learning activities. System 96. 102425. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2020.102425.Search in Google Scholar

MacIntyre, Peter D. 2007. Willingness to communicate in the second language: Understanding the decision to speak as a volitional process. Modern Language Journal 91. 564–576. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4781.2007.00623.x.Search in Google Scholar

MacIntyre, Peter D. & Sarah Mercer. 2014. Introducing positive psychology to SLA. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching 4. 153–172.10.14746/ssllt.2014.4.2.2Search in Google Scholar

MacIntyre, Peter D. 2017. An overview of language anxiety research and trends in its development. In Christina Gkonou, Mark Daubney & Jean-Marc Dewaele (eds.), New Insights into Language Anxiety: Theory, Research and Educational Implications, 11–30. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.10.21832/9781783097722-003Search in Google Scholar

MacIntyre, Peter D., Tammy Gregersen & Sarah Mercer (eds.). 2016. Positive psychology in SLA. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.10.21832/9781783095360Search in Google Scholar

MacIntyre, Peter D., Tammy Gregersen & Sarah Mercer. 2019. Setting an agenda for positive psychology in SLA: Theory, practice, and research. Modern Language Journal 103. 262–274. https://doi.org/10.1111/modl.12544.Search in Google Scholar

Mercer, Sarah, Peter D. MacIntyre, Tammy Gregersen & Kyle Talbot. 2018. Positive language education: Combining positive education and language education. Theory and Practice of Second Language Acquisition 4(2). 11–31.Search in Google Scholar

Nakamura, Jeanne & Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi. 2009. Flow theory and research. In Shane J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (eds.), Oxford handbook of positive psychology, 195–206. New York: Oxford University Press.10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195187243.013.0018Search in Google Scholar

Ness Evans, Annabel & Brian J. Rooney. 2013. Methods in psychological research, 3rd edn. New York: SAGE Publications.Search in Google Scholar

Nozawa, Takayuki, Mutsumi Kondo, Reiko Yamamoto, Hyeonjeong Jeong, Shigeyuki Ikeda, Sakaki Kohei, Miyake Yoshihiro, Yasushige Ishikawa & Ryuta Kawashima. 2021. Prefrontal inter-brain synchronization reflects convergence and divergence of flow dynamics in collaborative learning: A pilot study. Frontiers in Neuroergonomics 2. 686596. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnrgo.2021.686596.Search in Google Scholar

Piniel, Katalin & Ágnes Albert. 2017. L2 motivation and self-efficacy’s link to language learners’ flow and anti-flow experiences in the classroom. In Stela Letica Krevelj & Renata Geld (eds.), UZRT 2016 empirical studies in applied linguistics, 90–103. Zagreb: FF Press.10.17234/UZRT.2016.4Search in Google Scholar

Piniel, Katalin & Ágnes Albert. 2019. Motivation and flow. In Martin Lamb, Kata Csizér, Alastair Henry & Stephen Ryan (eds.), The Palgrave handbook of motivation for language learning, 579–597. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.10.1007/978-3-030-28380-3_28Search in Google Scholar

Prior, Matthew T. 2019. Elephants in the room: An “affective turn” or just feeling our way? Modern Language Journal 103. 516–527. https://doi.org/10.1111/modl.12573.Search in Google Scholar

Reeve, Johnmarshall. 2015. Giving and summoning autonomy support in hierarchical relationships. Social and Personality Psychology Compass 9(8). 406–418. https://doi.org/10.1111/spc3.12189.Search in Google Scholar

Rubio, Fernando D. 2011. Optimal experiences in the foreign language classroom: Flow states in speaking tasks. Anglistik. International Journal of English Studies 22. 63–80.Search in Google Scholar

Schüler, Julia. 2012. Flow experience and learning. In Norbert M. Seel (ed.), Encyclopedia of the sciences of learning, 1304–1305. Boston, MA: Springer.10.1007/978-1-4419-1428-6_523Search in Google Scholar

Seligman, MartinE. P. 2002. Positive psychology, positive prevention, and positive therapy. In C.R. Snyder & Shane Lopez (eds.), Handbook of Positive Psychology, 3–12. Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Tugade, Michele M. & Barbara L. Fredrickson. 2007. Regulation of positive emotions: Emotion regulation strategies that promote resilience. Journal of Happiness Studies 8. 311–333. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-006-9015-4.Search in Google Scholar

Walker, Charles J. 2010. Experiencing flow: Is doing it together better than doing it alone? The Journal of Positive Psychology 5(1). 3–11. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760903271116.Search in Google Scholar

Received: 2021-08-07
Accepted: 2022-06-02
Published Online: 2022-06-16

© 2022 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Downloaded on 22.2.2024 from https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/applirev-2021-0123/html
Scroll to top button