Dr. Peter MacIntyre

02A. Peter MDr. Peter D. MacIntyre 
Cape Breton University

Willingness to communicate: New directions and applications in real time

Second language (L2) communication is a remarkably fluid process, especially considering the wide range of skill levels observed among L2 learners and speakers. Whereas most people acquire a native language that allows for relatively smooth interpersonal interactions, second and additional languages present a number of challenges. If we add to the mix the widely accepted notion that learners must talk in order to learn a language, learners often find themselves in a position that requires the use of uncertain L2 skills. This is an unusual communication context that some people are more willing than others to accept. Beyond issues of competencies, using an L2 also evokes cultural, political, social, identity, motivational, emotional, pedagogical, and other issues that learners must navigate on-the-fly. The focus of this presentation will be on the remarkable integration of factors such as the ones named above whenever a language learner chooses to be a language speaker, that is, when the moment for authentic communication arrives. We are not talking here about broad patterns or general trends, but rather factors shifting moment-to-moment. Communicative events are especially important in understanding the psychology of the L2 learner. We will focus in particular on an innovative line of research that shows the dynamics behind differences in willingness to communicate operating in real time. We have developed the idiodynamic method to allow examination of an individual’s experience of events. Results are showing that complex emotion processes help to create the psychological conditions that allow a learner to both approach and avoid L2 communication. In this presentation, we will consider how fluctuating emotions, such as anxiety and enjoyment, integrate with assessments of competence, motivation, and language learning strategies. The research is taking new directions as familiar concepts such as language competence, learning strategies, and take on new meaning. In addition to novel concepts, research methods, and results, new types of research questions are emerging. In addition, when willingness to communicate is taken as a dynamic process, new applications emerge both within language classrooms and beyond.


Peter D. MacIntyre received his PhD. in psychology from the University of Western Ontario (now Western University) in 1992 with R. C. Gardner and is currently a professor of Psychology at Cape Breton University. The majority of Peter’s research examines the psychology of communication, with a particular emphasis on second language acquisition and communication. His books (co-authored or co-edited) include Capitalizing on Language Learners’ Individuality (2014), Motivational Dynamics in Language Learning (2015), Positive Psychology in SLA (2016), Innovative Practices in Language Teacher Education: Spanning the Spectrum from Intra- to Inter-personal Teacher Development (2017), and Optimizing Language Learners’ Nonverbal Behavior: From Tenet to Technique (2017).