Conceptualizing Willingness to Communicate in a L2: A Situational Model of L2 Confidence and Affiliation



Why do some students seek, while others avoid, second language (L2) communication? Many language teachers have encountered students high in linguistic competence who are unwilling to use their L2 for communication whereas other students, with only minimal linguistic knowledge, seem to communicate in the L2 whenever possible. Despite excellent communicative competence, spontaneous and sustained use of the L2 is not ensured. A colleague, who teaches a L2 and whose L2 competence is excellent, is well known to avoid “like the plague” L2 communication in social settings. A related observation is that many learners have noticed that their willingness to communicate (WTC) varies considerably over time and across situations. Our aim in this article is twofold. First we wish to provide an account of the linguistic, communicative, and social psychological variables that might affect one's “willingness to communicate.” As demonstrated in the text below, and examination of WTC offers the opportunity to integrate psychological, linguistic, and communicative approaches to L2 research that typically have been independent of each other. We view the WTC model as having the potential to provide a useful interface between these disparate lines of inquiry. Our second goal is to suggest potential relations among these variables by outlining a comprehensive conceptual model that may be useful in describing, explaining, and predicting L2 communication. In an effort to move beyond linguistic or communicative competence as the primary goal of language instruction, this article represents an overt attempt to combine these disparate approaches in a common theme, that is, proposing WTC as the primary goal of language instruction.