Graduation Year

2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Adult, Career and Higher Education

Major Professor

John Liontas

Co-Major Professor

Steve Downey

Keywords

foreign language learning, instructional technology, second language acquisition, Second Life, Spanish, Virtual Worlds

Abstract

Virtual Worlds (VWs) in foreign language education are slowly becoming more popular. Many studies have looked at the affordances of these worlds and how they affect some aspects of language acquisition. However, it is still unknown to what extent, if any, these virtual worlds can play a role in affecting motivation and anxiety. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between motivation, anxiety and virtual worlds to see how participation in activities within these environments interacted in two individual language learners, Jessica and Melissa.

Using a case study approach, I observed and interviewed the two participants in order to determine how these variables may have interacted in their experiences online. For these participants, avatar presence affected their anxiety, but the amount of that affect was determined by their pre-existing motivations for learning Spanish and the vividness and plausibility of their Ideal L2 Self. Both participants saw benefits for having an avatar as a face-saving device, but this was more evident in Jessica because she engaged in only conversations with speakers other than her classmates. While this investigation yielded results that support previous research on virtual worlds and anxiety, more research is necessary to see if and to what extent these worlds can affect motivation.

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