J Eng Teach Movie Media > Volume 24(1); 2023 > Article
Kitaoka: An Empirical Study of the Effect of Using Music on EFL Students’ Motivation, Willingness to Communicate, and Shyness


This study measured the effect of using music in the classroom on 42 Japanese EFL students’ motivation, willingness to communicate (WTC), and shyness, and attempted to examine how these three factors are related. The study also looked at ways of creating a more relaxing and enjoyable, as well as a more effective, classroom environment through the use of music in EFL lessons. For these purposes, a mixed-method research was conducted using webbased Google Forms questionnaires on the first and last days of the fall semester in 2018. Quantitative results showed significant effects on WTC and intrinsic motivation, but not on shyness. The content analysis of qualitative data also revealed that while most of the students were motivated by class activities such as pair work, presentations, and music, some students were not able to overcome their shyness. Both analyses indicate that some L2 learners, if not all, still have difficulty in overcoming the shyness that is associated with Japanese traditional culture. The findings of this study suggest that the cultural background of East Asian students needs to be carefully considered in order to further facilitate a classroom environment where Japanese and Korean students can relax and enjoy themselves.


To date, the significance of L2 learners’ emotional state in the classroom has been pointed out by various scholars (Dewaele et al., 2018; Dewaele & MacIntyre, 2014; Gregersen et al., 2014; Imai, 2010; Saito et al., 2018). It has been suggested that emotions and motivation are intertwined, as any motivated action includes certain negative and positive emotions (Teimouri, 2017). Enjoyment, for example, is considered one of the positive emotions in foreign language classrooms (Dewaele, 2011; Saito et al., 2018). Dewaele and MacIntyre (2014) postulate that the positive emotions, such as enjoyment, need to be studied more than negative emotions in foreign language learning, stating that “[p]ositive emotion can help dissipate the lingering effects of negative emotional arousal, helping to promote personal resilience in the face of difficulties” (p. 241).
Negative emotions such as anxiety, language anxiety, or foreign language anxiety have also been widely researched in the literature. These negative emotions that are considered affective variables on L2 willingness to communicate (WTC), defined as “a readiness to enter into discourse, at a particular time with a specific person or persons, using a L2” (MacIntyre et al., 1998, p. 547), influence individual difference variables of motivation (Gregersen, 2020; Horwitz & Young, 1991; MacIntyre, 1999; MacIntyre & Gardner, 1991). Learning foreign languages is a fundamentally emotional and psychological process undertaken by individual learners whose learning is affected by both personal traits and situational variables (Gregersen et al., 2014). Therefore, learning a foreign language in the classroom is not only challenging for students but also mentally and emotionally demanding, especially for L2 learners in East-Asian countries. In classrooms in East-Asian countries such as in Japan and Korea, where being silent or reticent is considered a favored attitude, students tend to shrink back and become silent when they are called on by teachers (King, 2013; Saito et al., 2018; Yashima et al., 2018).
The study of shyness as a negative emotion with influence on L2 learning has also been investigated by scholars. The cross-cultural studies conducted by Carducci and Zimbardo (1995) showed that approximately 60% of college students in Japan and Taiwan are considered shy, compared to only 30% of college students in Israel. It has been claimed that student shyness is specifically related to WTC as an affective variable at stages such as “I can speak English in front of the class” (MacIntyre et al., 1998). Therefore, the study of shyness must also be included in the research of WTC variables as one of negative emotions that may hinder the process of learning in the classroom. However, little attention has been paid to the relationship between WTC and shyness in the literature of negative emotions (Fallah, 2014). In this regard, the author conducted research to examine whether or not the enjoyable activity of music can potentially reduce shyness and thus increase students’ WTC and motivation.
This empirical study, therefore, has focused especially on the interrelationship among shyness, motivation, and WTC, and tried to seek ways of creating an enjoyable and effective classroom situation through music with the intention to reduce learners’ shyness.


1. The Study of Motivation

L2 motivation, discussed for many years among critics, is still considered one of the most significant affective factors in second language acquisition (SLA) (Agawa & Takeuchi, 2016; Deci & Ryan, 1985; Dörnyei, 2001; Dörnyei & Ushioda, 2009; Gardner, 1985; Noels et al., 1999; Ueki & Takeuchi, 2015). According to self-determination theory (SDT) (Deci & Ryan, 1985, 2002), L2 motivation can be classified into two categories: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. The former refers to the desire to perform an activity. Thus, students who are intrinsically motivated find the language learning process enjoyable and thereby become more deeply engaged in this process (Kormos et al., 2011; Yashima et al., 2009). The latter refers to a goal that is external to language learning activities and controlled by outside contingencies (Yashima et al., 2009). Extrinsically motivated learners engage in the language learning process mostly because they want to gain a good grade or reward, or to avoid subtractions from the total grade. Of the two types of motivation, intrinsic motivation is desirable and should ideally be reinforced in the classroom language learning process, since it is by autonomous motivation that learners engage in activities such as pairwork more volitionally (Deci & Gagne, 2005).
In terms of the relationship between motivation and emotions, much attention has recently been paid to the dynamic mechanism that emphasizes motivation’s effects on foreign language learning, including the L2 motivational selfsystem, since the future selves of L2 learners are affected by both personal and situational traits through different emotional reactions (Dewaele et al., 2019; Teimouri, 2017). The present study, therefore, examines L2 learners in a dynamic situation where they are challenged by many tasks slightly beyond their level of competence (Saito et al., 2018), and attempts to discover whether certain tasks can enhance their intrinsic motivation.

2. The Study of WTC

Many researchers have examined variables on WTC, and discovered new affective variables such as perceived communicative competence, age and sex (Kang, 2005; MacIntyre et al., 2002), and attitudes toward international posture in EFL classrooms (Yashima, 2002). Originally developed in first language communication research, the WTC construct has been modified to fit second language learning by adjusting to a wide range of uncertainty inherent in anxious situations (Weaver, 2005). Recent research has noted that various affective factors such as motivation, emotions, and classroom environment influence L2 learners’ WTC (Dewaele & Dewaele, 2017; Garcia & Mora, 2019). Indeed, L2 communication involves many affective variables that influence the development of language acquisition, including the psychological, social, and cultural aspects of L2 speakers with a person or persons with whom she or he talks. Therefore, recent research has investigated WTC as a complex dynamic system where the situational nature of WTC emerges while examining trait-like WTC patterns with both personality and situational traits as important variables of WTC (Peng & Woodrow, 2010; Yashima et al., 2018).
This study also investigates both personality and situational traits in a classroom environment in L2 WTC, and observes students’ willingness to engage in activities such as interviews, presentations, singing songs, and communicating with others in L2.

3. The Study of Shyness

Shyness is a controversial topic within the study of second language acquisition and the psychology of personality (Afshan et al., 2015; Crozier, 2005; Pilkonis, 1977; Sette et al., 2019). At universities, freshmen have the opportunity to meet new friends and teachers, and socialize with other members of their department. However, if students are shy, their difficulty in communicating with new people on campus causes them to become silent or inactive in a new environment. Consequently, shy students find it challenging to talk or socialize with new people.
Recent cross-cultural comparative studies in shyness have revealed that the level of shyness varies remarkably across different cultural groups and students from different countries, thereby raising the possibility that shyness is influenced by the culture where the students has grown up in (Afshan et al., 2015). As Griffiths et al. (2014) suggest, while mentioning the warning of generalization of people and cultures, students in East Asian countries such as Japan, China, or Korea have grown up in Confucian heritage cultures (CHC) and tend to be affected by its ideological base that emphasizes the importance of family, harmonious social relationship, and respect for elders, especially teachers. An investigation of oral participation apprehension in the EFL classroom in Taiwan also revealed that an interpersonal barrier to participation as a fear of speaking before others is caused by feelings of unease, nervousness, or shyness (Hsu, 2015). This study also considers that student shyness is one of the barriers to oral communication in the classroom, and, thus, is a significant variable effect to be eliminated. For that goal, the present study incorporates a definition of shyness suggested by Cheek (1989) as “a temporary emotional reaction triggered by encountering new people and situations” (p. xv), and attempts to identify methods to make classrooms more enjoyable and relaxing so that learners will be able to reduce their shyness and finally become willing to communicate with peers as well as teachers.

4. A Theory of the Use of Music

Music has been used in various forms in L2 classrooms for years, and its merit has been discussed among many researchers (Higgins et al., 2020; Larsen-Freeman, 1985; MacIntyre et al., 2012; Maley, 1987). MacIntyre et al. (2012) note that both music and language are strong markers of culture and can be considered complementary aspects of the human communication tool kit. They further suggest that playing music can be an effective method of creating a relaxing and enjoyable environment in the classroom. Garcia and Mora (2019) and Kitaoka (2021) posit that playing music is especially beneficial when accompanied by visual images of promotional videos by which L2 learners may have an opportunity to learn not only English pronunciation or expressiveness but also to gain a better understanding of cultural differences by seeing buildings, nature, visual images, as well as people living in the locations where the videos were filmed. Although the use of music in the classroom as a means of motivating L2 learners has been researched before, previous studies have not focused on the use of music and promotional videos that affect students’ motivation, WTC, and shyness. This study examines, therefore, the effectiveness of using music and the accompanying promotional videos to reduce students’ shyness and enhance motivation and WTC.

5. Research Questions

This study aims to reveal whether or not music and its accompanying promotional videos enhance students’ motivation and WTC and reduce students’ shyness in the classroom. Three research questions were addressed:
1) Can the use of music in classrooms motivate L2 learners?
2) Can activities using music and a related music video reduce students’ shyness?
3) Can activities using music and a related music video enhance students’ WTC?


To investigate students’ motivation, WTC, and shyness, this research used a mixed methods approach.

1. Participants and Class Procedures

A total of 42 students in two classes of a university in Japan participated in the study, with each class consisting of 21 students (female n = 22, male n = 20). Majoring in Human Life Science and Physics, the 42 participants were second-year students ranging in age from 19 to 22. The participants were allocated to the highest-level classes by the test they had taken the previous year. According to their self-assessments, their level of English proficiency varied from the third grade to the second grade on the EIKEN Test (Practical English proficiency) and from a score of 500 to 810 on the TOEIC test. Approximately 20% of the participants said that they had previously stayed or lived abroad. Their periods of stay ranged from two days to one month, with no students living abroad for more than one month.
Fifteen lessons were held within the 2018 fall semester in the CALL classroom. Each class was approximately 90 minutes in duration. From the second lesson to the eleventh lesson, students practiced basic English pronunciation. As well, students completed many pairwork tasks throughout the semester in order for them to become accustomed to talking with classmates and teachers in English, as well as to become interested in foreign cultures. The class procedures conducted in the research is shown in Table 1.

2. Task Procedure

1) The Use of Music

Music was played from the beginning to the end of every class to make the classroom environment more enjoyable and relaxing for students, except for when students needed to concentrate on vocabulary tests or other similar tasks. Music played in the classroom was selected from various genres such as pop music, electronic dance music (EDM), and rock music. For years, the author had introduced students to music from various genres and collected their feedback. Thus, the author is familiar with the types of music the students like, come to like, or do not like.
A song with an accompanying music video was also introduced at the end of every class to introduce new songs to sing or to motivate students’ learning and interest in foreign cultures. In order for students to be familiar with not only English-speaking countries but also other countries where various languages are spoken, music and accompanying videos filmed in various countries, such as in Holland, Bolivia, Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and more, were selected. After the video, the instructor asked students to write English words or phrases they had heard and their comments on the handouts that were distributed before the video was played (as shown in Figure 1).

2) Practice of Singing Songs

Singing songs in the classroom can be considered an enjoyable activity that L2 learners can appreciate (Dewaele & MacIntyre, 2014). However, singing songs in the classroom can also be extremely demanding, especially for students who consider themselves shy. To improve students’ English pronunciation skills, though, it is of vital importance for learners to practice pronouncing words in class following a model such as an instructor or a song. Therefore, the instructor first sang the song as a demonstration, followed by students singing and performing actions such as clapping or raising their hands to reduce their sense of shyness while singing. The author found that most, if not all, of the L2 learners imitated the performance successfully by the end of the activity. The specific procedure of using songs in the classroom was as follows:
(1) The instructor distributed a handout of the lyrics after introducing the song via YouTube. The instructor also told students that they would need to practice singing the song well and to memorize the first part of the song so as to be able to write the lyrics for their listening test.
(2) In the next class, the students brought the handout and the instructor played the song while advising learners to read the words/sentences carefully.
(3) Before singing the song, the instructor provided learners with easy performance techniques using their hands, such as clapping or making gestures. This activity emphasized classroom enjoyment and classroom conformity.
(4) After practicing all the lines, the learners and the instructor sang the song together twice.
(5) The listening test for each song was held on the last day of practicing the song. The author played the song twice, during which time students needed to write part of the lyrics on answer sheets. When the test was finished, students exchanged their answer sheets and counted how many words were written correctly. The instructor then introduced learners to the next song to sing.

3) Practice of WTC

After the instructor gave humorous accounts of daily life while playing music with English lyrics as background music at the beginning of class, students completed a pairwork interview task. During this time, students chatted in pairs using an interview sheet on which learners recorded their partners’ answers. The interview sheet was created based on the pedagogical concept that language needs to be learned through meaningful interactive communication, and was thus designed to teach students how to communicate with their friends in English in real contexts. Students were encouraged to speak only in English when talking with peers, although the instructor did not try to stop them from using their L1 when it was difficult for them to communicate in English.

4) Practice of Overcoming Shyness

Students were instructed to give two presentations in front of the class on the eighth, ninth, thirteenth, and fourteenth lesson days of the semester. Giving a classroom presentation can be one of the most anxiety-provoking of language activities for L2 learners (MacIntyre & Gardner, 1991; Peng, 2014; Young, 1991). Although this task was challenging and unpredictable for students, the task was selected for the present study because several studies have suggested that speaking in front of the class is anxiety-provoking but also enjoyable (Dewaele & Dewaele, 2020; Dewaele & MacIntyre, 2014). It is noted that presentations are also manageable and have the potential to even be enjoyable for learners as they are given an opportunity to overcome negative emotions such as shyness and language anxiety (Dewaele & Dewaele, 2020).
In the first presentation, the students described what they liked most in front of the audience, such as anime, drama, movies, or pets, and in the second presentation, they talked about the country they wished to visit in the future.

5) Practice of English Pronunciation

Before the presentations, students practiced basic English pronunciation skills in the classroom. This practice has often been neglected in Japan due to the highly prioritized university entrance examinations which, in general, do not test students’ speaking ability. Nevertheless, it is acknowledged that students need to acquire intelligible, if not nativelike, pronunciation for successful communication (Saito, 2012). In other words, the English pronunciation skill is the ability to be understood by interlocutors, without which L2 learners will have difficulty in communicating with others (Derwing & Munro, 2015). In this regard, this study conducted phonetic instruction in order for students to improve their L2 pronunciation, and to become confident in speaking English in front of others. The procedure of practicing English pronunciation is shown below:
(1) The instructor first showed the students the video of BBC Learning English: Pronunciation Tips (https://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/pron/) on the web. The instructor told the students to understand how to pronounce phonetics, such as sounds of [r], [l], [θ], [f], or [v], and to imitate the shape of the mouth (see Figure 2).
(2) The instructor showed the slides of word lists using PowerPoint. The word lists and the CD are taken from the textbook The Guidebook of Elementary School Education for Teachers edited by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT, 2009) in Japan. Sample slides used in the study is shown in Figure 3.
(3) The instructor played the sound of each English word attached on the PowerPoint, and students repeated the sound while clapping their hands along to the music originally recorded in the CD.
(4) The instructor then played pop music already attached to the PowerPoint file. Each student needed to raise their hand and read the word twice out loud.
(5) The instructor examined whether the student correctly pronounced the word or not. Since there were ten words on each slide, ten students could complete this practice before the music was automatically stopped.
This basic English pronunciation practice was conducted not only for the improvement of learners’ pronunciation but also for the purpose of classroom enjoyment and overcoming shyness. It was expected that by practicing English pronunciation skills, singing songs and completing pairwork activities, and conducting two presentations which most shy students wanted to avoid, they were finally able to pass “the river of Rubicon” (Dörnyei, 2001, p. 88) and some, if not all, were able to feel enjoyment in having done so, even if their accomplishment was not perfect.

3. Data Analysis

1) Quantitative Analysis

For quantitative analysis, surveys were conducted on the first day and on the final day of class (day 1 and day 15) in the fall semester of 2018. The questionnaire consisted of 43 items with a six-point Likert scale (from no. 1: I really don’t think so, to no. 6: I really think so, respectively), from which 21 items were used for the present study. Two open-ended questions were also included on the first questionnaire and three were included on the final questionnaire (see Appendix). The items employed in this study were adapted from previous studies. Specifically, five items were adapted from Nishida (2013) and designed to measure intrinsic motivation, five items were adapted from McCroskey and Richmond (1982) and designed to measure shyness, and five were adapted from Nishida (2013) and Yashima (2002) and used to measure L2 WTC. Six of the items were also designed to examine student attitudes toward music. These six items were originally adopted from a scale of motivation (Tanaka, 2009) and adapted by Kitaoka (2021), where the data were shown to have moderate to high reliability. Each questionnaire took approximately five to eight minutes to complete using Google Forms in the classroom. The participants were informed that their participation was voluntary, and that their responses would not affect their course grades. The participants were also informed that the results would be used for research purposes only.
For analysis of these variables, SPSS Ver. 23 was used. Reliability estimates were calculated as Cronbach’s alpha and shown for each variable (see Table 2). The variables were normally distributed. The reliability estimates were moderate to high, which are considered reliability thresholds. The questionnaire, therefore, was regarded as a reliable measure of motivation and other variables.
Survey data from 42 students were collected by Google Forms. Data of students containing missing data or incomplete responses and mistakes from answering the questionnaire were excluded, leaving a total of 30 participants. Values of negative items (i.e., shyness) were reversed before the aggregation. To discern whether the differences found in the responses in pre- and post-data are statistically significant, data were analyzed by the paired-path dependent t-test comparison and correlation analysis. The paired-path dependent t-test comparison is generally recommended over independent t-test comparison to find the significant differences and effect sizes between pre- and post-data of participants (Takeuchi & Mizumoto, 2019). Furthermore, correlation analysis is regarded as useful and meaningful for researchers to examine the effectiveness of the methods used in the study (Spring, 2022).

2) Qualitative Analysis

The questionnaire used in quantitative analysis also included two open-ended questions regarding motivation and WTC. The questions were no. 1: “Please describe the reason why you are studying English” and no. 2: “Please describe the reasons or the situations when you are willing to speak English.”
Students’ comments were carefully examined and run through the KH coder, following Higuchi (2016). This study used the correlational approach of content analysis and compared pre- and post-qualitative data separately to identify the differences in learners’ motivation before and after class. This analysis is henceforth referred to as qualitative dependent content analysis (QDCA).
First, words written by students were statistically analyzed by the KH coder. To avoid subjectivity on the part of the researcher, only the words mentioned more than twice were calculated and added to the data (Higuchi, 2016).
Second, after coding the words, the data were analyzed by cluster analysis where four to five categories were made for each result. The titles of concepts were named by the author after carefully examining the statistical data of the results. Students’ comments were written originally in Japanese, then translated by the author, and finally proofread by a native speaker who majors in English education.


1. Quantitative Results

Table 3 presents the results of descriptive statistics, including means, standard deviations, t-value, and effect-size.
The results of the quantitative analysis indicate that, on average, participants were motivated intrinsically by classroom activities involving music, pairwork, and presentations [t(29) = -3.12, p = .04, r = .50], showing a large effect size. Surprisingly, there was also a large size effect on the variable of WTC [t(29) = -4.23, p = .00, r = .62], while there was no significant difference in shyness [t(29) = -1.01, p = .32, r = .19]. The results suggest that although learners enjoyed the conversations with other peers and singing songs together, it was still difficult for them to reduce their shyness in the classroom.
This quantitative result, all in all, may suggest that the use of music and other activities involving music can increase students’ intrinsic motivation and enhance WTC within an environment where students can enjoy singing songs, listening to music, and watching accompanying entertaining videos. However, it seems that reducing shyness is more difficult.

2. Results of Correlation Analysis

Pearson’s correlation analysis was conducted using the data of post variables. The result is shown in Table 4.
After examining the scatterplots of each correlation, Pearson’s product-moment correlation analysis was conducted. There was a moderate positive correlation between IM and music (r = .62, p < .01), and a moderate correlation between WTC and music (r = .38, p < .05). It could be that students’ intrinsic motivation may have been influenced by music and by learning about foreign countries in their own presentations. Secondly, considering the correlation analysis in shyness variables, shyness has a moderate correlation with WTC (r = .39, p < .05). This may suggest that some learners were able to speak English with their peers without feeling too much shyness. However, there was no significant correlation between shyness and other variables.

3. Qualitative Results

1) Qualitative Results of Motivation

Students’ comments on question no. 1: “Please describe the reasons why you study English below,” were collected and analyzed by the cluster analysis, successfully providing four clusters in both pre- and post-results, below.
Participants answered the same questions at the beginning and at the end of the semester. It is clear that answers written by learners are slightly, or broadly, in some cases, different from the previous answers. One of the unique advantages in QDCA is the ability to find a significant difference between pre- and post-qualitative data, though this approach cannot be statistically calculated to present an effect size in each case.
In the first pre-section, some of the most frequently occurring words were “English” (16%), “future” (13%), and “necessity” (9%). It can be assumed that many students were describing their imagined use of the English language after graduation, such as in the representative comment, “I am not sure what I will do in the future, but I believe it will be beneficial to study English.” Since these students were allocated in the highest-level class, most, if not all, were motivated learners who considered learning English both beneficial and necessary. Therefore, this category was named “Ideal Use of English in the Future.”
In the post-questionnaire, some of the most frequently occurring words learners used were “English” (17%), “think” (14%), “future” (12%), followed by “necessity” (11%). The student who previously had commented “I want to work overseas” finally commented “I want to work for the company that is based in overseas from Japan.” The student who had previously commented in the above citation “I am not sure what I will do in the future, but I believe it will be beneficial to study English,” noted in the post-section, “The reason to study English is that it is the most practical, and it is more fun to study than other subjects.” It can be argued that some students came to discern a specific reason to study English, considering it is necessary to learn English. This is partly because L2 learners may come to realize the importance of practicing English in order to succeed via their speech in front of others. Therefore, this category was named “Recognizing the Need for Command of English.”

2) Qualitative Results of WTC

Students’ comments on question no. 2: “In what kind of circumstances or reasons would you like to speak English? Please write your answer below,” were collected and analyzed by the cluster analysis. The result of the content analysis of WTC is shown in Table 6.
Students were, all in all, interested in foreign cultures at the beginning of the class. Some of the frequent words used here were “overseas” (14%), “English” (10%), “foreign countries” (10%), and “traveling” (6%). Representative comments include “I want to communicate with foreigners” and “To talk with friends and researchers from overseas.” Therefore, this category was named “Interest in Traveling Abroad using English” (43%).
In the post-questionnaire, learners’ answers changed moderately, with more responses such as “traveling abroad” and “I want to go abroad.” Some of the most frequently used words were “overseas” (18%), “English” (11%), “traveling” (11%), and “speaking” (8%). Students chose “traveling and work abroad” as the situation where they would be mostly likely to speak English (44%). The next highest frequency category was “communication with peers in class” (32%). The student who had previously answered “to talk with friends and researchers from overseas” noted in the final comment the following: “When I talk with friends, go abroad, and in English class.” This change may suggest that learners had become accustomed to communicating with classmates in the classroom by completing many tasks in pairs.

4. Discussion and Limitations

The first research question addressed the relationship between motivation and music. Theorists have argued that authentic materials such as movies, music, or drama can improve learners’ motivation (Kadoyama, 2008). The results of this study were largely congruent with Tanaka (2009) and Garcia and Mora (2019) in that the use of authentic materials such as music was successful in motivating students and in relieving language anxiety or apprehension, provoking a wide range of emotions. However, music did not seem to help reduce shyness in this study, as the statistic result also showed there was not a significant effect in the correlation between music and shyness (r = .19). This result seems to suggest that most students remain shy mostly because they are influenced by the specific culture of Confucianism, where being silent or indirect is considered helpful toward creating harmony in society, although there have been many debates over the cultural attributes of East Asia in the literature (Ellwood & Nakane, 2009; Hsu, 2015).
In the same way that many other studies have shown that motivation is an indirect, key predictor of WTC (Peng & Woodrow, 2010; Yashima, 2002), WTC variables in the present study seem to show a correlation with learners’ motivation, and a moderate correlation to shyness (r = .39, p < .05). It could be pointed out that some, if not all, of the learners in the classroom were willing to communicate with other peers while reducing negative feelings, such as shyness, through classroom activities of singing songs and giving presentations.
One limitation of the present study is that it did not have a sufficient sample size (n = 30) to objectively show the effectiveness of using music in the classroom to enhance WTC and classroom enjoyment, and reduce shyness. Although recent studies show that classroom environment is the strongest direct predictor of L2 WTC (Fatemi & Choi, 2016), the conditions of feeling enjoyment are complex and there have been various discussions among researchers to clarify whether or not classroom enjoyment is beneficial to language learning (Brantmeier, 2008; Dewaele & Alfawzan, 2018; Schultz, 2012). Therefore, further research on classroom enjoyment is necessary.
Another limitation is that this study did not investigate the difference between the results of male and female students, as it has already been stated in other research studies that female learners have more positive attitudes toward language learning in general (Baker & MacIntyre, 2000; Gardner, 1985; MacIntyre et al., 2002).


This mixed-methods study aimed to find the interrelationship among shyness, motivation, and WTC, and seek ways of creating an enjoyable and effective classroom situation through music with the intention to reduce learners’ shyness.
To answer the first research question: “Can the use of music in classrooms motivate L2 learners?,” although there was no significant increase in music variables [t(29) = -1.96, p = .06, r = .34], there was a significant increase in motivation variables with a large effect size [t(29) = -3.12, p = .04, r= .50]. Also, correlation analyses found that there was a large, positive correlation between IM and music (r = .62, p < .01). This result reveals that the use of music in the classroom may have been functional in terms of triggering motivation of L2 learners who like music, but not to those who don’t like music
To answer the second research question: “Can activities using music and a related music video reduce students’ shyness?,” there was no significant difference in shyness from the pre- to post-test [t(29) = -1.01, p = .32, r = .19]. However, there was a moderate correlation between shyness and WTC (r = .39, p < .05). Furthermore, the qualitative analysis revealed that the word “shy” was seen in the final comments (N = 2, 3%). Summatively, this suggests that though music and classroom interventions can be motivating for students, shyness might be more challenging for L2 learners to overcome.
To answer the third research question: “Can activities using music and a related music video enhance students’ WTC?,” there was a significant difference with a large effect size between WTC scores on pre- and post-test [t(29) = -4.23, p = .00, r = .62]. Furthermore, because there was a moderate correlation between WTC and music (r = .38, < .05), one could claim that the inclusion in classroom activities of music and a related music video enhanced students’ WTC, especially for students who like music.
In conclusion, the present study reveals that classroom activities involving music were successful in enhancing students’ WTC and motivation, although it was not clear whether or not these activities were successful in reducing students’ shyness. One pedagogical implication emerging from the study is that the use of music in the classroom can be an important inspiration for motivation. However, more work is required to determine the activities or interventions that can realistically reduce students’ shyness.


An Example of Students’ Handout Used in the Study

Note. 3. “I know about Alan Walker and like his music. I was glad to know what the city of Hong Kong was like. I like the interlude of the song.” (Trans. by author)

A Sample Video From BBC Learning English1


Sample Slides in the PowerPoint Used in Phonetic Instruction

Table 1.
The Class Procedures
Week Procedure
1 Orientation
2-3 Song 1 Introduction Basic English Pronunciation Practice 1 (including pairwork)
Reading and Singing Music Video
4 Song 1 Final - listening test Review and Discussion, Music Video
5-7 Song 2 Introduction Basic English Pronunciation Practice 2 (including pairwork)
Reading and Singing Music Video
8 Song 2 Final - listening test Review and Discussion, Music Video
Presentation 1 (Week 8 and 9)
9-11 Song 3 Introduction Basic English Pronunciation Practice 3 (including pairwork)
Reading and Singing Music Video
12 Song 3 Final - listening test Review and Discussion, Music Video
13-14 Song 4 Introduction Presentation 2
Reading and Singing Music Video
15 Song 4 Final - listening test Review and Discussion, Music Video
Table 2.
Cronbach’s Alpha for Each Variable
Variables Cronbach’s Alpha
Intrinsic Motivation α = .91
WTC α = .88
Shyness α = .88
Music α = .85
Table 3.
Results of Descriptive Statistics of the Measured Variables (Paired-Path Dependent T-Test Scores)
Pre (n = 30) Post (n = 30)
No. of Items M SD M SD t p r
IM 5 22.23 4.58 24.73 5.10 -3.12 .04* .50
WTC 5 15.93 5.45 20.53 5.08 -4.23 .00** .62
Shyness 5 14.67 4.93 15.50 5.25 -1.01 .32 .19
Music 6 23.73 6.37 26.43 6.42 -1.96 .06 .34

. Note.

**. p < .01,

*. p < .05;

. IM = Intrinsic Motivation; WTC = Willingness to Communicate

Table 4.
Correlation Matrix of Pearson’s Product-Moment Correlation Analysis Using Post-Class Survey
IM WTC Shyness Music
IM -
WTC .28 -
Shyness -.07 .39* -
Music .62** .38* .19 -

. Note.

**. p < .01,

*. p < .05;

. IM = Intrinsic Motivation; WTC = Willingness to Communicate

Table 5.
Results of the Content Analysis of Motivation
Theme Frequency (Total) %
Pre Ideal use of English in the future 63 75
Interest in foreign countries and communication 9 11
Practical communication 9 10
Songs 4 4
Post Recognizing the need for command of English 37 55
Study for the opportunities to use English in the future 18 28
Communication with people from overseas 7 11
Interest in foreign countries 4 6
Table 6.
Results of the Content Analysis of WTC
Theme Frequency (Total) %
Pre Interest in traveling abroad using English 37 43
Talk with people from overseas in Japan 19 19
Interest in foreign countries and communication 22 23
Presentation of research in the future 7 9
Practical use of English 6 6
Post Traveling and work abroad 32 44
Communication with peers in class 23 32
Need in research and self in the future 13 18
Asking directions in foreign countries 4 6


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