What is Foreign language anxiety? What’s its impact on language attainment?


Many of you have certainly experienced discomfort when speaking a foreign language which was not acquired in early childhood. You might have thought it was related to your personality and it was only your problem. Well, good news is that what you felt is largely felt from a large piece of the population who is learning a second or additional language. Language anxiety is a well researched academic topic. Read below to find out what researchers say.

stressful speech

The anxiety construct is a very complex issue and extensive research has been carried out. Previous investigations regarding second language acquisition reveal that language anxiety also called state anxiety is assumed to be a specific type of anxiety experienced in the classroom (Horwitz, 2001), rather than a trait anxiety which is thought to be an inherent characteristic of one’s personality (Scovel, 1978). Recent research demonstrates that language anxiety has a great impact on the way second language learners process input and produce output. According to Sheen (2008), language anxiety is actually able to affect the benefits that teachers’ recasts (implied corrective feedback) have on second language acquisition. Indeed, she empirically demonstrated that learners with a low level of anxiety benefit more from recasts than high level anxiety learners. Despite most of the research carried out showing that anxiety can have a negative impact on task performance, some early research demonstrates that anxiety can produce higher motivation which could increase the effort level the learners put into the learning process (Chastain cited in Sheen 2008). Likewise, Eysenck (1979) reckons anxiety encourages a greater effort and leads to a better achievement. Finally, there are some researchers who have put forward a “no effect” theory (Sparks and Ganschow cited in Sheen 2008) according to which the learning process is affected by the learner’s aptitude and deficient cognitive skills, rather than by anxiety. Both positions are in stark contrast with the most agreed upon view which sees language anxiety strongly related to a bad second language performance. In fact, Horwitz (2001) firmly asserts that anxiety has a negative effect on SLA (second language acquisition) after having reviewed empirical investigations showing negative correlations between the two. These studies have revealed that high levels of anxiety are related to (1) lower self perception as language learner (Cheng et al.,1999 cited in Baralt and Weiss, 2011 ); (2) speaking performance (Phillips, 1992 cited in Baralt and Weiss, 2011); and (3) final marks (Kim, 1998 cited in Horwitz, 2001). Moreover, teachers and students perceive anxiety to be a major obstacle to overcome when learning a foreign language (Horwitz E., Horwitz Michael B., Cope J., 1986). Further research shows that foreign language anxiety does not only apply to speaking. However, it seems like the majority of anxiety measurements such as the Foreign Language Classroom Scale (Horwitz and Al. 1986; FLCAS) are mainly measuring anxiety related to speaking interactions. Beat language anxiety with relaxing tuitionhttp://www.languagesalive.com/courses/one-to-one-and-small-group-tuition

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