Every learning depends on the zeal and willingness of learners. Without having a definite willingness to learn or to communicate, no learner of second language can acquire language and hence can communicate properly. Realising the importance of willingness to communicate (WTC), a good number of qualitative studies (e.g., Basöz & Erten, 2019; Peng, 2012; MacIntyre & Legatto, 2011), quantitative studies (e.g., MacIntyre & Doucette, 2010; Yashima, 2002) and mixed-method researches (Léger & Storch, 2009) have been carried out. However, the practical learning experiences of the students reckoning their real voices about WTC problems should be given more focus. Hence, this literature review insinuates WTC with a focus to analysing the prevailing studies pertinent to EFL learning.
2.1 Prevailing studies on WTC
A good number of studies by the scholars across the world have been carried out depicting the relationship between WTC and English language learning. Basöz & Erten (2019) have carried out a qualitative study where they interviewed 32 undergrad students in Turkey and found that factors like class size, vocabulary stock, teachers’ behaviour, classroom environment, L2 anxiety, lack of actual pronunciation, shyness, peers’ attitude, fear of making mistakes, etc. have a great influence on enhancing learners’ WTC. Yashima (2002) conducted a study on Japanese learners’ international attitude, where the researcher concentrates on WTC as well as the indicators which have impacts on learners’ oral English discourse. For instance, taking a sample of 62 college studying students, the empirical study of Nakatani (2010) found that two principal strategies like maintaining discourse as well as negotiation of meaning are helping students to develop the communication ability. Besides, maintaining discourse is very essential for the learners in WTC with a view to participating actively in communication activity.
Another study conducted by Provenzano and Yue (2011) analysing a sample of 114 students reveals that speaking homework is helpful to enhance the opportunity for using English. The participants believe that extra practice is helpful for improving their knowledge of discourse that augments the level of their confidence and proficiency in English. The same result was found in a research conducted by Shawer (2010) in which he used qualitative research and reported that communicative approaches practiced by the teachers are very fruitful in increasing the language skill of the learners. In a mixed method study by Al-Murtadha (2019) showed that the use of visualization in the classroom by the language teachers can improve L2 learners’ WTC in classes. In the context of Yemen, the researcher also suggested that teachers can implement various types of interesting activities to stimulate learners’ WTC.
Besides, Fushino’s (2011) study in the context of Japanese university students pointed out that learners’ English practice had a great impact on communication. He also noticed that hands-on experience helps learners in developing their real English usage outside the classroom. However, negative result was found in case of students of high school by the study of Watanabe (2013) in which he showed that the learners did not improve their English ability after studying 3 years. Even though a native English speaker was provided them with ample amenities, they, however, could not enhance their proficiency in speaking English. The learners only enjoy the lessons which actually do not indicate that they are learning. In fact, basic English teaching has different goals like meaning-focused in primary school and more form-focused in junior high school.
2.2. Factors Associated with WTC
Researchers find varied factors that affect WTC. The principal indicators which influence WTC are classroom environment (Peng, 2019), learners’ views (Trinder, 2013), learning motivation (Ma et al., 2019), metacognition of oral communication (Sato & Dussuel Lam, 2021), universal attitude (Yashima, 2002), teacher immediacy attributes (Sheybani, 2019), and communicative assurance (Fushino, 2010). Besides, a group of scholars like Zhou (2012), Carreira (2011), and Zhao (2012) consider inspiration as an important factor for L2 learning. Other scholars (Zhong, 2013; Lockley & Farrell, 2011; Knell & Chi, 2012) think the observed competency as an important factor for target language learning that is associated with WTC. In fact, the above researchers dealt their studies with quantitative study with not having real learners’ voices. The quantitative study conducted by Lee & Hsieh (2019) in the context of Taiwanese EFL undergraduate students shows that learners with perseverance and higher level of confidence have greater WTC. They also show that learners of the current and digital age always feel more comfortable with digitally equipped learning setting rather than traditional classroom settings.
However, they find that EFL learners’ L2 anxiety has a negative impact on learners’ WTC and this view is also supported by the study of Dewaele (2019) that took place in the context of EFL learners of Spain. On the other hand, foreign language enjoyment and use of English by the L2 instructors motivate students to enhance L2 learners’ WTC (Dewaele, 2019). Among many other factors, technology-based factors are seen to have positive impact on augmenting learners’ WTC. In this regard, the study carried out by Tai & Chen (2020) in the context of eighth-grade Taiwanese students shows that EFL learners’ WTC in English classes is very positively associated with the use of Google Assistant software. In addition to the above, boosting learners’ WTC makes them self-regulated learners where teachers’ need to monitor them less. Making learners self-regulated, teachers’ role by implementing various timely strategies plays a vivid role (Segaran & Hasim, 2021). It is noted that learners’ who are guided by strategic planning are seen more efficient in their oral production than those guided by no plan (Bakhtiary et al., 2021). Hence, teachers’ positive and direct involvement is also a dominating factor to enhance learners’ WTC. Synthesising all the findings of the past studies, a fruitful argument is required for the learners’ real voices for learning English and the way of developing their English speaking.
2.3. Grammar-based Learning
The amalgamation of grammar-based and communicative language teaching approaches are believed as the top methods in acquiring any language. Yet, grammar-based approach is regarded as one of the worst indicators for the students in the education system (Basöz & Erten 2019; Falout, Elwood, & Hood, 2009). Studies show that most of the high school students in the context of Japan do not like English and are less-focused to grammar learning as they think that grammar creates obstruction in their language learning (Kikuchi and Browne, 2009). Another study shows that learners feel more comfortable to learn the language in informal setting where grammar is taught inductively (Hasan et al., 2019).
2.4. Impact of Early Learning of English
It is generally believed that practice is essential to learn a language quickly. Learning L2 at the very early stage assists learners to be communicatively competent and learners L2 competence is very positively associated with their WTC (Zhou, Xi, & Lochtman, 2020). However, there is a debate about the exact time of starting practice of a language. Besides, the researchers are in a debate regarding the benefit on proficiency in early starting whether it would be in primary school or in junior high school. But early start is regarded as the most fruitful time for achieving the overall abilities in a language (Huang, 2011).
On the contrary, early starting has a little impact on proficiency in a language (Larson-Hall, 2008). Actually, the young students who are provided more amenities for learning a target language, they develop their oral skill very smoothly in communication with quality and quantity (Huang, 2011). The early start seems to be an easy issue but there are two groups of researchers who have shown their arguments with empirical data in favour of their studies
For instance, early starting of learning English in the govt. primary schools is not without antagonism. Actually, the education system of any country should give more concentration on its own resources and context related contents that will help students improve their communication skills. It does not mean that English is ignored but it can be taught at next levels like junior high school as well as college (Torikai, 2005). Besides, early start of learning a language helps the learners only in phonemic ability not morphological ability (Larson-Hall, 2008). Actually, it means early start of learning English only develops the pronunciation of some words in English not the formation of word to produce a language. Hence, the researchers are in a confusion regarding the advantages of early starting age as the input is very little like a few hours, a week, a month etc.