ForumSPECIAL ISSUE ON CDST, Vol. 17, No. 1 (2017)

Why an Indirect Measure of L2 Learner’s Willingness to Communicate in L2 Writing Requires Cautious Inferencing

Peter Kim

Teachers College, Columbia University

Abstract

In Exploring the dynamics of willingness to communicate (WTC) in written communication, Choe’s (this issue) preliminary case study explores an area of WTC that has not been fully addressed by WTC scholars: an analysis of WTC in written communication. In 1998, MacIntyre, Dörnyei, Clément and Noels stated regarding WTC, “We propose to extend WTC to influence other modes of production [other than oral], such as writing and comprehension of both spoken and written language” (p. 546). However, since 1998, there has been little research conducted on WTC in L2 writing. Originally conceptualized as an L1 construct, WTC has been defined as the probability of initiating, continuing, and expending on oral communication with an interlocutor. The underlying psychological assumption was that the probability of WTC episodes reflected one’s internal motivation and willingness to communicate orally, which was viewed as a fixed, trait-like variable closely associated with one’s congenital nature such as sociable personality or degree of extroversion (MacIntyre et al., 1998). When the concept of WTC was applied to the L2 context, a negative correlation between L1 WTC and L2 WTC revealed a different nature of L2 WTC. L2 WTC was found to be fluid and dynamic, open and interactive with L2 learning context and a host of other factors both learner internal and external that self-organizes to emerge a changing WTC orientation that is situation-specific. In light of this, according to the Complex Dynamic Systems Theory (CDST) approach to second language acquisition (SLA), L2 WTC features layers of potential factors that comprise situation-specific influences at a given moment-in-time as well as stable, enduring influences that are more resistant to change. In short, in CDST, L2 WTC is seen as an emergent property of both the stable, intrinsic nature of the learner and the dynamic nature of the learner’s external conditions.