Does Emotional Intelligence Affect English Learning?

Emotional Intelligence (EI) could be described as “the ability to perceive and understand emotions accurately, the ability to manage emotional reactions, the ability to appraise emotions in situations and identify them in others and the ability to use emotions for reasoning, so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth” (Mayer & Salovey, 1997). It has been characterized as an essential aspect of creating successful learning processes and developing confident and competent students.

During the process of language acquisition, students need to be involved cognitively as well as affectively, so that they control both feelings and behavior and manage to reach the deep processing levels needed. As a matter of fact, high intelligence in the traditional sense measured by IQ tests may not be the goal while learning a foreign language, as much as it is to be able to recognize and express emotions and act independently. Likewise, there is evidence claiming that learning a language is more germane to emotional intelligence than more “logical” subjects as math or science, due to the fact that foreign language learning has been found to be emotionally driven.

In an EFL classroom, a range of emotions are experienced, as communication is the primary goal and interpersonal and intrapersonal skills are considered to be highly beneficial towards a more effective learning atmosphere. Moreover, emotions have been recognized as significant not only for facilitating or improving cognitive function, but also as a development tool, especially in the case of learning a foreign language, which is tied with interpersonal communication. For instance, emotionally intelligent language speakers seem to be less anxious when using the L2 to communicate, as they have the ability to figure out the state of the interlocutor and behave accordingly. Additionally, individuals who have higher emotional intelligence tend to acquire effective study habits and participate more, putting more effort towards language achievement. EI also seems to be closely related with motivation and the formation of a positive to be the foundation of motivation, thus cultivating them may serve as a tool against demotivation, in times of frustration and negative thoughts while learning a foreign language. Under the same scope, several experts have argued that reinforcing emotions makes students believe in their potential and increases their empathy, which then leads to higher motivation and language achievement. Finally, apart from facilitating motivation, cognitive function and communication, emotional skills may serve as the foundation for the ethical stances of an individual, hence proposing EI as an alternative to wholly educating students.

All the previous research findings reinforce the necessity for teachers to include the exploration of emotions in the language classroom aiming at the overall development of students. At the end of the day, it all comes down to Aristotle’s saying that “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all!”

Katerina Vachaviolou

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