Cognitive and affective factors in teaching and learning of English as a foreign language


Cognitive and affective factors in teaching and learning of English as a foreign language

Factores cognitivos y afectivos en la enseñanza y aprendizaje del inglés como lengua extranjera



Naliet Angel Rodriguez1*
Georgete García Hernández2
Tatiana García Fernández3
José Mata Loy4


1"Marta Abreu" Central University of Las Villas. Faculty of Constructions. Research Center for Computational Mechanics and Numerical Methods in Engineering. Santa Clara. Villa Clara. Cuba.
2"Marta Abreu" Central University of Las Villas. Camajuaní Culture House. Villa Clara. Cuba.
3"Marta Abreu" Central University of Las Villas. Language Center. Santa Clara. Villa Clara. Cuba.
4Villa Clara University of Medical Sciences. Academic Vice-rectorate. Santa Clara. Villa Clara. Cuba.


*Author for correspondence. E mail:




Proficiency in English demands the acquisition of the student's communicative competence through the teaching-learning process in their attempt to meet the demands of a competent professional. Using it for communicative purposes is an increasingly demanded capacity in the competitive working world; but this purpose, like that of any foreign language, includes a long process of appropriation of the language, a path full of obstacles for the student who is acquiring grammatical, lexical, functional and cultural tools, and in turn They are developing the learning strategies and skills that allow them to increase their linguistic and communicative competence. The authors aim to socialize some cognitive and affective factors that favor this process, based on their teaching experiences.

MESH: learning; psychology; emotions; education, medical.


El dominio del inglés reclama la adquisición de la competencia comunicativa del estudiante a través del proceso enseñanza aprendizaje en su intento por satisfacer las demandas de un profesional competente. Utilizarlo con fines comunicativos es una capacidad cada vez más exigida en el competitivo mundo laboral; pero este propósito, como el de toda lengua extranjera incluye un largo proceso de apropiación del idioma, camino cargado de obstáculos para el alumno quien va adquiriendo herramientas gramaticales, léxicas, funcionales y culturales, y a su vez va desarrollando las estrategias de aprendizaje y habilidades que les permiten aumentar su competencia lingüística y comunicativa. Es objetivo de los autores socializar algunos factores cognitivos y afectivos que favorecen este proceso, a partir de sus experiencias docentes.

DeSC: aprendizaje; psicología; emociones; educación médica



Submitted: 08/07/2019
Accepted: 03/02/2020



From the moment on that man felt the need to learn a second language, and/or a foreign language, whether for cultural, economic or scientific reasons, studies have emerged on what processes or methods should be implemented for its learning. Thus, two of the most common methods that explain how an individual learns a second language or a foreign language have been identified: acquisition and learning, according to Paricio Tato's study.(1)

It is necessary to make a distinction between the terms second language and foreign language. Several authors(1,2) agree that the second language is the non-native language of a person or territory, that is, learned by a speaker after the period of acquisition of their mother tongue; while the foreigner is the language that does not belong to the native community of the individual who wishes to learn that other language, and that is acquired if the person learns it consciously in a school, language courses or self-taught.

In the teaching-learning process of a foreign language, there are several factors that can determine its quality, including those related to the activity of the teacher, for example: the conception of teaching and its approaches, its methodology and evaluation, and other cognitive and affective related to the constructive mental activity of the student in the school environment that directly affect their learning.

Among the cognitive ones are the students' conception of such learning, their attention and concentration in the process and the set of previous knowledge that will allow them to interpret, transform and update the new content. When it´s spoken of previous knowledge, it´s often thought of those the student has of a subject, but the procedural and attitudinal ones are also included; it is necessary to point out that the development of cognitive aspects in the student is not the priority in the teaching-learning process, but a complementary aspect in it, as previous research works, referenced by Pérez Morales in his thesis(3) confirm the individuality of each student to learn a foreign language, and the incidence of psychological aspects in this process.

Affective or emotional factors are those psychological elements that can affect the teaching-learning process of a foreign language and can be decisive in its quality. Méndez López(4) mentions self-esteem, motivation, anxiety and attitude.

Self-esteem is the generally positive assessment of itself, that is, how someone feels about itself. Hence, low self-esteem in the students who learn a foreign language, directly affect their learning, causes them to feel inhibited, participate little in classes and feel fear of error. In the practical experience of these authors, they are offered help by stimulating their successes and skills so that they feel proud of themselves, and although their mistakes are not minimized, they are encouraged to face them without trauma or complexes. They are shown that they can learn from errors too. Other authors(4,5) are of the criterion that they are not favored to feel constantly evaluated, because they will create their own defense strategies: they will constantly use the dictionary, become obsessed with grammatical exercises or use evasive strategies to hide their problems.

Motivation is vital for learning English as a foreign language; it is the driving force that leads to achieve and overcome goals, that is, the force that activates and directs behavior towards a specific objective in order to achieve it.

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations are two fundamental concepts to differentiate in learning a foreign language. According to Mena Benet:(5) "Extrinsic motivation stems from the desire to get a reward or avoid punishment; the focus is on something external to the activity of learning itself (...) the intrinsic one assumes that the learning experience is its own reward: intrinsic motivation is evident whenever the natural curiosity and interest of students enhance learning".

Internal stimuli influence learning more, since long-term external ones tend to reduce motivation. Coinciding with Mena Benet(5) the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations are not two opposite poles, but one influences the other and the rest of the factors, and their influence is direct on the performance and learning outcomes; emphasizes that they are key factors in the teaching-learning process for both the student and the teacher, who is conceived together with the student protagonist of the didactic act, because its influence goes beyond the class.

In the experience of these authors, teachers are called to be facilitators of the process in order to favor the autonomy of the student, encouraging it to take responsibility for its own learning. Taking didactic proposals and meaningful tasks into the classroom that connect with the personal reality of the students, fosters feelings of mastery, responsibility and competence in them by taking control of their own learning. A good example of these experiences is specified in the use of the language laboratory for the practice of different skills. There you can develop oral activities where the teacher acts simply as a facilitator and the student is not only a participant, but who directs them.

Another relevant affective factor is anxiety; this conditions any achievement that the student can achieve in the classroom, directly affects their academic performance and determines their success or failure in the process, involves the functioning of memory, acts and limits learning by reducing their potential, affects in a negative way cognitive ability in the acquisition of new knowledge and the processing of new information, which leads them to develop a demotivated attitude, which makes them give up on the path towards obtaining their goals, criteria that the author maintains in his thesis already mentioned.(5)

Nother of the emotional factors of importance is attitude: psychological disposition that all human beings have towards something or someone; they can be positive or negative as determined by behavior. In this process both students and teachers develop certain attitudes and in the case of teachers, it influences the way in which they teach. A shared opinion is that attitudes mediate the student's perception of the language, the speakers, the culture surrounding the target language, and even the language teacher.(3,5) Therefore teachers should encourage positive attitudes in his students and in himself, as this will influence motivation and academic performance.

The positive attitudes assumed by the language teacher influence the way they plan their classes, their performance in the classroom and the interaction with their students, criteria stated by Mena Benet(5) and shared by these authors. In the same way, it should influence the promotion of a positive attitude in their students by offering communicative strategies, for example, you can advise them to imagine talking fluently with speakers of the foreign language in question, so that they can train that skill and feel qualified to dialogue in these new contexts. The important thing is to make them notice that they have sufficient skills and intelligence to carry out any class-oriented task, and if they assume a positive attitude, they will condition a better performance in their language proficiency.

Obviously, it is easy to make a mistake when communicating in a foreign language, but this does not mean lack of aptitude, or attitude to learn it, error is part of the learning process. In correspondence with the previous ideas, the authors express that on the road to knowledge and improvement of English as a foreign language, there are always many obstacles, but none will overcome personal motivation, interest and desire to learn from students, if the teacher is able to encourage them. It is important to educate the student, enrich their learning in all aspects in a global and unifying way; in the words of Mena Benet:(5) "... uniting mind and heart in the classroom", to ensure that the teaching-learning process of English as a foreign language has the necessary quality.



1. Paricio Tato MS. Competencia intercultural en la enseñanza de lenguas extranjeras. Porta Linguarum [Internet]. 2014 [citado 28/05/2019];(21):[aprox. 12 p.]. Disponible en:

2. O'Shanahan I, Siegel LS, Jiménez JE, Mazabel S. Analizando procesos cognitivos y de escritura en niños hispano-parlantes que aprenden inglés como segunda lengua y niños canadienses de habla inglesa. Eur J Educ Psychol [Internet]. 2015 [citado 28/05/2019];3(1):[aprox. 15 p.]. Disponible en:

3. Perez Morales JI. La evaluación como instrumento de mejora de la calidad del aprendizaje. Propuesta de intervención psicopedagógica para el aprendizaje del idioma inglés [tesis]. Girona: Universitat de Girona; 2008. Disponible en:

4. Méndez López MG. Las emociones en el aprendizaje de una lengua extranjera: su impacto en la motivación. Rev Intern Leng Extranj [Internet]. 2016 [citado 28/05/2019];(5):[aprox. 20 p.]. Disponible en:

5. Mena Benet T. Factores afectivos que inciden en el aprendizaje de una lengua extranjera: la motivación [tesis]. Oviedo: Universidad de Oviedo; 2013. Disponible en:



Declaration of interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.



Authors' contribution

Naliet Angel Rodriguez: analyzed the information and wrote the article.
Georgete García Hernández, Tatiana García Fernández, José Mata Loy: they searched for the information and analyzed it.



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