Willingness to communicate

GPE/Midastouch CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In many language teaching contexts, teachers work hard to help their students to dare to use the target language for spontaneous communication. Classroom culture is very different across the world, and learners are often unused to speaking in class at all, let alone in a language they are learning. The perceived risk of losing face is one aspect of this. Another is teacher and student beliefs about how languages are learned.

Peter D. MacIntyre applied the term Willingness to communicate (WTC), referring to the intention to speak or to remain silent given free choice, to second language learning. Since then researchers have investigated the relationship between WTC and other relevant concepts, such as self-confidence, classroom environment, personality traits, language anxiety, perceived communicative competence and motivation.


Henry, A., Thorsen, C., & MacIntyre, P. D. (2021). Willingness to communicate in a multilingual context: Part one, a time-serial study of developmental dynamics. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 1-20.

Shirvan, M. E., Khajavy, G. H., MacIntyre, P. D., & Taherian, T. (2019). A meta-analysis of L2 willingness to communicate and its three high-evidence correlates. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 48(6), 1241-1267.

Khajavy, G. H., MacIntyre, P. D., & Hariri, J. (2021). A closer look at grit and language mindset as predictors of foreign language achievement. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 43(2), 379-402.

Reading questions

  1. Is WTC different for learners of a third language than for learners of a second language? If so, is this related to their perceived communicative competence as suggested in Shirvan et al.’s article?
  2. How is WTC affected by factors in a) the learners, b) the teaching, or c) the context?
  3. How has the move to online teaching during the pandemic affected WTC?
  4. What can language teachers do to help learners build WTC?
  5. What is your experience as a language teacher or language learner of individual variation in WTC and its consequences?


 We are very happy to offer you an interview with Professor Alastair Henry from Högskolan Väst in Sweden, on the topic of his research into WTC and related matters.

During the interview Alastair mentions the work of Zoltan Dörnyei, specifically this book:

Dörnyei, Z. (2001). Motivational strategies in the language classroom. Cambridge University Press. It is not available as open access, but those with access to a Stockholm university account will find it as an e-book in the university library.

See also the second part of the research discussed in the interview:

Henry, A., Thorsen, C., & MacIntyre, P. D. (2021). Willingness to communicate in a multilingual context: Part two, person-context dynamicsJournal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 1-16.

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