Self-efficacy in foreign language learning
Bandura defines self-efficacy as 'beliefs in one's capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments'
(1997, p. 3). In education, Ehrman interprets this as 'the degree to which the student thinks he or she has the capacity to cope with the learning challenge' (1996, p. 137).
According to Bandura (1997), this notion is constructed on the basis of four sources of information: mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, social persuasion, and physiological arousal. Mastery experiences means that successful outcomes are perceived as an indicator of personal capacity that constructs strong belief of self-efficacy, while failure lowers it. Vicarious experiences refer to the estimation of the learner's own capacities in relation to the others. The comparisons with people who have the same characteristics (age, sex, etc.) are the most likely to be the source of information. Social persuasion signifies that others' confidence about the individual's capacities gives a person a feeling of self-efficacy. Finally, physiological arousal refers to the individual's estimation of his/ her physical and psychological capacities to achieve an activity.
Research results based on empirical studies signal that 'self-efficacy is a key factor that affects learners' interest, persistence, extent of effort students invest in learning, the goals they choose to pursue and their use of self-regulated strategies in performing a task' (Raoofi, Tan, & Chan, 2012, p. 61). Mills (2014) found correlations between individual self-efficacy for self-regulation and self-confidence in personal achievement ability.
Self-efficacy thus constitutes an important factor, affecting learners' psychological condition in learning. The learners' confidence about their ability to learn and their expectation to achieve learning activities partially or entirely depend on their self-efficacy.
Second language learning in study abroad contexts
In studies of the factors which contribute to the improvement of competencies in L2 learning, Bialystok (1981) claims that contact with the target language in varied authentic out-of-class situations helps learners to achieve learning activities that they meet later and are crucial for the development of all linguistic skills.
In a review of a large number of studies on the effects of study or residence abroad on language acquisition, Kinginger (2009) notes that these mainly show positive effects on various aspects of language abilities, particularly the ones related to social interaction. But individual differences are significant; not all students studying abroad benefit to the same extent from their sojourns. Kinginger (2013) underlines the fact that study abroad amplifies individual differences: some students improve their second language repertoire, some do not, and some have lower proficiency scores after a sojourn abroad.