Self-esteem, Grammatical Accuracy


Learning a foreign language requires both cognitive and affective factors involvement. However, in recent years, the importance of affective issues has become a matter of debate and extensive research among language teachers, linguists and researchers; and some variables were found as having a great impact on success in EFL learning. One of these affective factors is self-esteem; research has shown that a student who feels good about himself is more likely to succeed. Holly (1987, as cited in Andres, 2003) gathered a summary of many studies and pointed out that most indicated that self-esteem is the result rather than the cause of academic achievement. Considering the equal importance of cognitive and affective factors in language learning, it can be state that in recent years, affective factors like anxiety, inhibition, motivation and self-esteem have been regarded more significant. It seems obvious that learners with high selfconfidence and controlled stress and anxiety are more motivated and eager in language learning which further lead to their emotional relief and academic success. Considering affective factors during learning can be helpful in foreign language learning settings. By controlling and administrating affective factors that are critical in academic contexts, teachers can guide their students in the way of success. Learning a foreign language includes mastery in four skills among which the writing skill seems more challenging and demanding for EFL learners. Writing is a complex skill that requires an interaction between the reader and the writer; writers must be able to convey their intentions, knowledge and sometimes emotions to the readers in the most explicit way possible to them. It is called a complex process because the writer needs to pass different stages to reach the final format (i.e., prewriting, writing and editing). Moreover, it includes mental processes, thinking and rethinking, editing and evaluating sentences. However, “writing is usually defined as products (essays, formal reports, letters …etc.)”. When it is defined as a process, the other involved aspects are usually ignored, such as grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, organization and so on. Writing is the process that includes several subcomponents. They include “…awareness and knowledge of audience, purpose of writing, prewriting activities, organizing, drafting, collaborating, revising, features of written products and types of written products” (Pawlikowska-Smith, 2002, p.45) Arnold (2007) claimed that recent years have seen the growth of interest in affective factors, which influence the process of language learning in different ways. These may have facilitating or inhibiting nature and can often determine the outcome of this process. Learners’ selfconcept – their perception of themselves, what they see when they look “inside”-and their self-esteem– their evaluation of this self-concept and their affective experience of it- are closely related to their learning. Lack of appropriate level of self-esteem can create great problems among learners and may lead to their failure and disappointment; however, it can be easily detected in weak and uncreative outcomes of the learners in the form of written or spoken skills. Written products of EFL learners like their compositions are usually similar to each other that reveal lack of creativity in making sentences and inability of using innovative tools. Most of learners prefer to memorize and use readymade structures and chunks of others. They may think that their writings lead to what is beyond words and can reveal their characters and language skills. Sledd (1993) and Trembley (1993) maintained that the roots of students’ fear go deep when the topic is composition. The main purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between EFL learner’s self-esteem, and grammatical accuracy in their written discourse.

Materials and Methods

In the present study three instruments were used to collect data. The first instrument was Preliminary English Test (PET), which is Cambridge English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) exam for EFL learners. This test consisted of three main parts: Reading, Writing and Listening. The first section was a test of reading including 5 parts and 35 items. The second section was a writing test consisting of 3 parts with 8 questions; part 1 was a grammar transformation task; in part 2 the candidates were required to write a short informal letter (about 35-45 words); and in part 3, they were required to write a story or an informal letter of about 100 words. And the third section was a listening test including 4 parts with 25 items. The total score for the mentioned three sections was 85. The second instrument administered in this research was Coopersmith (1967)’s standardized questionnaire of selfesteem, including 58 questions with 2 options (yes or no) for each question. It was presented in Persian to avoid any confusion for the learners. In this questionnaire 8 questions (6, 13, 20, 27, 34, 41, 48, 55) were “lie detector” type; that is to say, if a participant got more than four scores from these eight questions, this would show that the test had low reliability and the participant tried to show himself better than what he was in nature. But the scoring way of other questions (2, 4, 5, 10, 11, 18, 19, 21, 23, 24, 28, 30, 32, 35, 36, 47, 45, 57) was different; for yes answers the participant received one score and for no answers they got no scores. The rest of questions were scored reversely. Therefore, the minimum score that could be obtained from this questionnaire was zero and the maximum score for a participant was 50. As this questionnaire involved two choices in answering each question, its reliability was examined by Richardson code; the obtained reliability was 0.69 which was acceptable. Moreover, the validity in this questionnaire which was face validity was detected by consulting two professors. The third instrument was a picture description test (beginners’ composition writing through pictures) from Heaton’s book. This instrument included six pictures and the participants were requested to write a description about each picture. The reliability of Coopersmith’s self-esteem questionnaire was examined by Richardson Code. The estimated reliability was 0.69. In addition, the reliability (which was inter-rater reliability) of the picture description used for writing part was examined through calculating the correlation between two scores given to the written texts by two teachers. These scores were given initially by the first teacher who was the researcher herself to the collected texts from participants and then the same texts were asked to be corrected by another teacher; after calculating the correlation between two scores it became clear that these scores were correlated and had acceptable reliability. In the main study, the revised questionnaires were distributed among 60 advance learners in Iran Language Institute (ILI); also they were also asked to complete the writing task in which they had to look at six pictures given to them and write a description for each of the pictures. After collecting the written texts, the researcher was supposed to correct these texts in terms of their grammatical accuracy. In order to score the accuracy, the researcher used a writing scale based on analytical writing scale developed by the Hungarian School-leaving English Examination Reform Project and Scoring Profile of Jacob, Zingraf, Wormuth, Hartfield and Hughey (1981) and Wang and Liao (2008). Correcting and scoring the written texts can be done by examining every T-unit (Terminable unit) in texts. The term T-unit was coined by Kellogg Hunt in 1965. It is defined as the “shortest grammatically allowable sentences into which writing can be split or minimally terminable unit.” Often, but not always, a T-unit is a sentence. More technically, a T-unit is a dominant clause and its dependent clauses; as Hunt (1965) said, it is “one main clause with all subordinate clauses attached to it” (p.20). T-units are often used in the analysis of written and spoken discourse, such as in studies on errors in second language writing For the actual scoring in this study the number of T-units, grammatical mistakes and numbers of linked words were counted to score accuracy. For scoring accuracy, the numbers of grammatical mistakes were divided by the number of all T-units in every text. After collecting data, Pearson correlation coefficient was administered to analyze the data and answer the research questions to find out the relationship between Iranian advanced EFL Learner’s self-esteem, and grammatical accuracy in their written discourse.


In this part, the distribution of self-esteem, and grammatical accuracy is illustrated.

Distribution of self-esteem among the participants of this study

According to the self-esteem rating scale that is based on Coopersmith’s self-esteem questionnaire, the participants who gained the score 26 and scores less than this, are classified as having low self-esteem, the participants with the scores between 27-43 are in average level and scores more than 44 are related to highly self-esteemed participants. Table 1 illustrates the descriptive statistics of self-esteem in this study. Accordingly, the mean score of self-esteem is 25.63, the standard deviation is 2.91 and the skewedness is 0.09. The minimum score is 21 and the maximum score is 31. Consequently, as the mean score of self-esteem of the participants is 25.63, it can be argued that the learners of this research are in low level of self-esteem.

Table 1: Distribution of self-esteem

Valid 60
Missing 0
Mean 25.6333
Std. Deviation 2.91674
Skewness .097
Std. Error of Skewness .309
Range 10.00
Minimum 21.00
Maximum 31.00


Figure 1: Distribution of self-esteem

Distribution of grammatical accuracy of participants

Table 2 shows that the mean score of grammatical accuracy is 3.41 with the standard deviation of 0.71 and skewedness of 0.82. The minimum score is 1 and the maximum score is 5.

Table 2: Distribution of grammatical accuracy

N Valid 60
Missing 0
Mean 3.4167
Std. Deviation 0.71997
Skewness -0.825
Std. Error of Skewness 0.309
Range 4
Minimum 1
Maximum 5


Figure 2: Distribution of grammatical accuracy

In order to examine the relationship between self-esteem and grammatical accuracy in the students’ written discourse in this study, the researcher examined the null hypotheses which have been developed on the basis of research questions. The rejection of null hypotheses provides a positive answer to the research questions. The level of significance for the rejection of the null hypotheses in this study is 0.05. In the following sections the hypotheses are examined one after the other. As, self-esteem, and grammatical accuracy are quantitative variables, for estimating the correlation between the variables Pearson correlation coefficient is administered.

Hypothesis Testing

There is no relationship between Iranian advanced EFL learners’ self-esteem, and the grammatical accuracy of their written discourse

Based on the obtained findings, the null hypothesis about relationship between Iranian advanced EFL learners’ self-esteem, and grammatical accuracy of their written discourse was rejected, that is to say, the results show that there is a relationship between learners’ self-esteem and grammatical accuracy of their written discourse. Results from Pearson correlation coefficient test table 4.5 demonstrate that r= 0.27 and the significance level is 0.03 and as it is less than 0.05 it can be argued that there is a direct and weak relationship between two variables of self-esteem and grammatical accuracy.

Table 3: Correlation between self-esteem and grammatical accuracy

Grammatical accuracy Self-esteem
G.A Pearson Correlation 1 .276(*)
Sig. (2-tailed) . 0.033
N 60 60
Self-esteem Pearson Correlation .276(*) 1
Sig. (2-tailed) 0.033 .
N 60 60

* Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tail)

Figure 3 presents linear regression. According to this diagram R-square equals R2= 0.08. This implies that we can predict the grammatical accuracy of participants’ texts in this research, for 8%.


Figure 3: Correlation between self-esteem and grammatical accuracy


One of the most popular constructs in the field of psychology and language learning is self-esteem. The relationship between self-esteem and academic achievement is one that is regarded by many educators as a well-established fact. Various scholars have studied the influential factor of self-esteem. This study aims at investigating the relationship between self-esteem and grammatical accuracy among advanced EFL learners in ILI. The findings related to the degree of self-esteem among the participants in this research was estimated by Coopersmith’s (1967) questionnaire; in this questionnaire the maximum score that could be received was 50 (based on the Coopersmith’s rating scale); however, the resulted mean score of participants was 25.63, which clarified that the EFL learners of this research had very low self- esteem. Among the participants the maximum score of self-esteem questionnaire was 31. In this regard, Lim, Saulsman and Nathan (2005) stated that self-esteem refers to how we view and think about ourselves, and the value that we place on ourselves as a person. Low self-esteem is having a generally negative overall opinion of oneself, judging or evaluating oneself negatively, and placing a general negative value on oneself as a person. Low self-esteem can have a negative impact on a person (self-criticism and high distress) and a negative impact on their life (work, education, relationships, recreation time, self-care). Similarly, it can affect a person’s performance at work or at school. They might consistently achieve less than they are able to because they believe they are less capable than others. They might work and study extremely hard and push themselves to do more because they believe they need to make up for, or cover up, their lack of skill. On the other hand Karacan (2009) believed that people with high self-esteem differ from low self-esteem people as they concentrate their positive aspects of self; being brighter, more attractive, or more skillful. Low self-esteem people do not appreciate their core worth and realize what is right about them; hence, self-acceptance is blocked. Many studies examined the relationship between selfesteem and academic achievement and relationship between self-esteem and writing performance. Al-Hattab (2006) investigated the relationship between self-esteem and writing achievement of EFL third-year secondary Saudi students; the outcomes revealed that participants have average self-esteem in general, and self-esteem is one of the drives that affect learners’ writing performance. He also concluded that Saudi third-year secondary learners’ writing level is low in general, and it should be given a serious consideration. Gheedjz (2010) examined the relationship between personality type, test anxiety, self-esteem and academic achievement. The study was conducted at a university in Indiana using undergraduate students. He administered a scale from the MBTI to determine personality types (introvert or extrovert), also Rosenberg’s 10-item scale was used to measure self-esteem, and Spielberger’s test estimated anxiety. The hypothesis was that extraverts who have a higher self-esteem, and low test anxiety would have better success with academic achievement than those who are introverts with low self-esteem and high test anxiety. The findings demonstrated that there was no significant relationship between personality type, test anxiety, selfesteem and academic achievement. Moqbel (2006, as cited in Bagheri, & Faghih, 2012) investigated the relation between self-esteem and writing. A questionnaire of self-esteem including 3 sections and English writing achievement test were administered to 81 students. Pearson coefficient correlation was used to show correlation. The results indicated that there’s a positive relation between self-esteem and writing in general. Generally, the results of this study revealed that there is a positive and weak relationship between self-esteem and and grammatical accuracy in the participants’ writings. Accordingly, it can be argued that self-esteemed learners can perform better in academic field related to their writing skills; these learners can produce written texts that are cohesive and grammatically accurate. As a result, teacher can use the results of this study as one way to improve learners’ writing skill by increasing and paying attention to their self-esteem.


The present study attempted to investigate the relationship between self-esteem and grammatical accuracy among EFL learners in ILI. The results of this study evidently revealed that advanced EFL learners participated in this study had low self-esteem which was estimated by Coopersmith’s questionnaire. The findings from Heaton’s picture description that was administered to estimate learners’ writing skill, illustrated that grammatical accuracy of the texts was more than the mean score. In order to test the hypothesis, correlation between the scores on the Coopersmith self-esteem inventory and the scores on text accuracy was measured. Regarding this hypothesis, the results showed a significant positive and weak relationship between the scores of self-esteem and grammatical accuracy score by using Pearson correlation. Based on the above mentioned findings, it can be concluded that here is a relationship between self-esteem and grammatical accuracy of written texts of EFL learners participated in this study.