In countries where people see English as a foreign language (EFL), English is merely used in public communication and EFL learners usually experience emotional issues like speaking anxiety and reflect a lower level of emotional intelligence (EI). Although previous studies have found a positive correlation between EI and EFL speaking, few studies explain how EI affects learners’ EFL speaking in terms of their contextual influence. This study aims to explore the effects of EI on English speaking in the context of China’s universities. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews with two participants and was analysed through thematic narrative analysis. Findings suggest that the English-speaking environments in China’s universities are less than supportive. In this situation, when EFL learners are situated in a low-stress learning environment, they are more inclined to embrace happiness and optimism by developing specific interests to enhance their spoken English skills. However, with the stress of the test looming, they often show negative emotions such as uneasiness before exams and fear during exams. Findings highlight that EI, especially adaptability and interpersonal capability can help EFL students cope with their emotional issues, regulate their behaviours, and participate in and profit from non-interactive and (partially) interactive English-speaking practices.


narrative inquiry, emotional intelligence, speaking English as a foreign language, China’s universities

Author Bio(s)

Ms Chenyang Zhang is a Ph.D. student at the School of Languages and Linguistics, University of Melbourne. Her research interests include language testing, language policy, and language education. Please direct correspondence to czzhang4@student.unimelb.edu.au.

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