Affective characteristics of American students studying Chinese in China: a study of heritage and non-heritage learners' beliefs and foreign language anxiety
The purpose of this study was to investigate the affective characteristics of American college students studying Chinese in China, including their reasons for learning Chinese and studying abroad, their beliefs about language learning and their foreign language anxiety. The students were divided into 3 groups based on their ethnic heritage. The influence of their ethnic languages and cultures and other related background factors on three ethnic groups’ reason, beliefs and anxiety were explored through quantitative analyses and crosscomparison analyses. The results of this study were also compared with the results with previous studies using the BALLI and the FLCAS. A total of 133 American students (4.52% of the target population) enrolled in Chinese programs in seven key universities in China participated in this study. Three survey instruments were used -- the Beliefs About Language Learning Inventory (BALLI), the Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale (FLCAS) and a detailed Individual Background Information Questionnaire. The BALLI Plus explored the specific learning context of studying Chinese in China. Several conclusions were made based on the findings of this study. First, the present study identified some unique and important characteristics of American college students studying Chinese in China and provided an overall profile of them. Significant demographic differences among the three ethnic groups were found in a variety of areas. Second, this study has found some important differences among the three ethnic groups in their reasons for learning Chinese and studying abroad, their beliefs about language learning and their foreign language anxiety. The different ethnic language and cultural backgrounds likely played an important role in these differences. Third, the findings of this study showed that American students studying Chinese in China were highly motivated but also highly anxious foreign language learners. A substantial majority of them had a long history of foreign language learning, enjoyed learning languages, and believed that they would ultimately learn to speak Chinese very well. However, they also have the highest levels of foreign language anxiety found in studies using the FLCAS. The findings of the present study provide new insights on the backgrounds, language learning beliefs and foreign language anxiety of students studying a less commonly taught foreign language. The findings of the role of ethnic language and culture backgrounds in this study provide a new theoretical explanation for some of the affective differences that have been found among foreign language learners.