Anxiety in Learning English as a Foreign Language among Chinese Children: The Roles of Parental Literacy Beliefs and Practices

Project: Research

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As foreign language learners are acquiring a language that they rarely use in daily conversation, they often perform less competently in it than in their native language, which can cause foreign language anxiety (FLA). FLA hinders foreign language acquisition in adolescents and adults (e.g., Hewitt & Stephenson, 2012); however, to date, little is known about FLA in children. Also, while past research has shown how classroom and school factors affect FLA, they have not examined the potential influences of home literacy environment, especially parental literacy beliefs and practices. Without understanding how parental literacy beliefs/practices affect children’s FLA, it is extremely difficult to (a) identify beginning learners who are prone to FLA, (b) understand developmental trajectories of FLA, or (c) develop early interventions to reduce their FLA. Parents’ beliefs about English as a foreign language (EFL) learning (e.g., valuing English instruction) are expected to be more positive among those with higher education levels. These parents often create a more supportive English learning environment for their children by engaging them in literacy practices, such as reading English books with them, which in turn reduces their FLA in English directly, or indirectly through enhancing their English reading skills.We examine parents’ literacy beliefs/practices and children’s FLA with two mutually informative studies. First, we analyze 200 children’s and their parents’ surveys about parental literacy beliefs/practices, children’s FLA and their relations via a multilevel structural equation model with residual centering. Building on past studies (*Chow, Chui, Lai, & Kwok, 2017; Weigel, Martin, & Bennett, 2006), we develop and test a model positing the following: parental literacy beliefs are linked to parental literacy practices, which in turn are linked to FLA directly or indirectly via reading ability, accounting for parental factors (e.g., educational level and family income). Second, a controlled experiment tests whether (a) parent-child reading reduces children’s FLA, and (b) dialogic reading (an interactive reading method) reduces children’s FLA more than typical parent-child reading or a control group.These are the first research studies to investigate (a) parental literacy beliefs/practices and Chinese children’s FLA while learning EFL and (b) the effects of parent-child reading on children’s FLA, comparing dialogic reading and typical parent-child reading. Understanding these relationships is essential in helping to identify beginning learners who are prone to FLA, clarifying developmental trajectories of FLA, and informing early interventions to reduce FLA. 


Project number9042917
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/20 → …