One of my principal concerns with teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in Korea is the learner’s “affective filter.” Lightbrown & Spada (2013) write the following description of the affective filter hypothesis:
Krashen’s affective filter hypothesis is proposed to account for the fact that some people who are exposed to large quantities of comprehensible input do not necessarily acquire language successfully. The ‘Affective filter’ is the metaphorical barrier that prevents learners from acquiring language even when appropriate input is available. Affect refers to feelings of anxiety or negative attitudes that … may be associated with poor learner outcomes. A learner who is tense, anxious, bored may filter out input, making it unavailable for acquisition. (p.106)
Hence, one can understand my concern, as skillfully immersing studious learners in the target language (TL) in no way guarantees acquisition. Not only must the learner be motivated but the TL must be shared in such a way that it does not increase the learner’s affective filter. Although anecdotal, I have attempted three foreign languages with mixed results, and through these experiences came to realize that learner anxiety played a major role. I did best when I played the part of the clown and just had fun with the learning process, although this was not always appreciated by those teaching. And of course there are many variables and concerns when it comes to EFL acquisition, but my current focus is on reducing learner anxiety.
I am not alone in this concern and was, therefore, pleased to encounter Yue Dong’s (2015) paper “Using digital storytelling to support EFL learning in China” as what he shares about EFL in China parallels with what I have already experienced, and will likely experience here in Korea. Dong’s research is excellent and he shares it in this well organized seventy-seven-page paper. The section that drew my attention is titled “Promoting motivation and lowering the affective filter.” Dong details how EFL learners in China keep quiet as they feel vulnerable and fear losing face if they make mistakes in front of their peers, which greatly inhibits their EFL learning. Dong links this to Krashen’s affective filter hypothesis and describes it as “second language anxiety.” He goes on to explain how students who experience overwhelming anxiety may even give up on the learning experience. He cites Lence (2013) who states, “Research confirms that digital storytelling helps to build a conducive learning environment where language learners are highly motivated and feel relaxed and safe.” Dong then references Yoon (2012) when he writes, “Yoon explored the change in Korean ELL learners’ learning attitude after attending 12-week digital storytelling-based English classes. Results revealed that Korean ELL learners strongly felt less anxious and stressed in a digital storytelling project, which arouses greater learning interests and contributed to more active class participation” (Dong, 2015, p. 17).
Dong not only explores the positive outcomes of digital storytelling on Chinese students but further cites Yoon, who researched the impact on Korean EFL learners. The more I research digital storytelling and second language learners the more positive news I encounter. I will continue to explore this topic and also delve deeper into Dong’s excellent paper when time permits. Teaching EFL using digital storytelling is definitely in my future.
Dong, Y. (2015). Using digital storytelling to support EFL learning in China (2015). Retrieved September 12, 2016, from https://dspace.library.uvic.ca/handle/1828/6035
Lightbown, P., & Spada, N. M. (2013). How languages are learned. Oxford University Press.