Researchers in the fields of psychology and education, especially language learning, consider several definitions of attitude which mention different meanings from different contexts and perspectives. Based on the theory of planned behavior, Montano and Kasprzyk (2008: 71) state:
“Attitude is determined by the individual’s beliefs about outcomes or attributes of performing the behavior (behavioral beliefs), weighted by evaluations of those outcomes or attributes. Thus, a person who holds strong beliefs that positively valued outcomes will result from performing the behavior will have a positive attitude toward the behavior. Conversely, a person who holds strong beliefs that negatively valued outcomes will result from the behavior will have a negative attitude.”
Gardner (1985) also points out that attitude are an evaluative reaction to some referent or attitude object, inferred on the basis of the individual’s beliefs or opinions about the referent. “Attitude is thus linked to a person’s values and beliefs and promotes or discourages the choices made in all realms of activity, whether academic or informal.” Gardner’s argument led Wenden (1991) to present a comprehensive definition of the attitude concept. He classified the term “attitude” into three interrelated components namely, cognitive, affective and behavioral. The cognitive component involves the beliefs, thoughts or viewpoints about the object of the attitude. The affective component refers to the individual’s feelings and emotions towards an object, whether he/she likes or dislikes. The behavioral component involves the tendency to adopt particular learning behaviors.
Reid (2003: 33) declared, “Attitudes are important to us because they cannot be neatly separated from study.” Attitude is considered as an essential factor influencing language performance (Visser, 2008). Achievement in a target language relies not only on intellectual capacity, but also on the learner’s attitudes towards language learning. This means that learning language should be approached primarily as a social and psychological phenomenon rather than as a purely academic one.
Besides the intellectual perspective, the nature of language learning has psychological and social aspects and depends primarily on the learners’ motivation and attitude to learn the target language (Padwick, 2010). Gardner and Lambert (1972) have concluded that the ability of the students to master a second language is not only influenced by the mental competence or, language skills, but also on the students’ attitudes and perceptions towards the target language. They also advocated that attitude concept could enhance the process of language learning, influencing the nature of student’s behaviors and beliefs towards the other language, its culture and community, and this will identify their tendency to acquire that language.
In 1992, Baker proposed a comprehensive theoretical model, focusing on the importance of conducting attitudinal research in the field of language learning. Baker (1992: 9) states that, “In the life of a language, attitudes to that language appear to be important in language restoration, preservation, decay or death.” Recently, De Bot et al. (2005) assert that language teachers, researchers and students should acknowledge that high motivation and positive attitude of students facilitate second language learning. Thus, if a learner does not have the interest and tendency in acquiring the target language to communicate with others, this learner will possess a negative attitude and will not be motivated and enthusiastic in language learning. Therefore, learners’ attitudes could incorporate in language learning because it may influence their performance in acquiring the target language.