Anxiety In Learning A Language


by C. Ozcan - Date: 2007-07-19 - Word Count: 1107 Share This!

Some people come across with many difficulties when learning a second language.It is believed that there are some emotional factors in foreign language learning which affect our learning abilities.These are mainly thought to be intelligence, motivation, attitudes and anxiety. Among these, anxiety stands out as one of the main influential factors for effective language learning.This foreign language anxiety is defined by some authors as "a feeling of tension,apprehension and nervousness associated with the situation of learning a foreign language."

Initially, I would like to point out that a lot of researches were held in order to understand the reason of that anxiety.According to these studies, there are some internal and external factors which increase or decrease the level of anxiety one feels when learning a second language.There are also some personality traits which increase anxiety in language learning.In my paper, I tried to examine some journal articles of different writers to reach up some outcomes about that kind of anxiety. While studying on them, I found various causes of anxiety and I started to wonder about ways in order to overcome this feeling.

In this paper, I studied on different works of authors in order to understand the relationship between anxiety and achievement. Elaine K.Horwits in her work "Language Anxiety and Achievement" explains this relationship and tells about an instrument to measure this anxiety.She goes on her work by clarifying that type of anxiety and offers some solutions to both instructors and learners. Furthermore, in the text "Anxiety in the College Japanese Language Classroom" by Kazu Kitano we as readers are confronted with a specific research made among college students in United States learning Japanese. We are given some research questions and in the end we are able to evaluate the results. As a result, we draw a conclusion that anxiety in learning a foreign language may differ according to some factors such as age,gender, student's current level etc. The last text I studied was named "Language Anxiety: Differentiating Writing and Speaking Components" by Yuh-show Cheng, Elaine K.Horwitz and Diana L.Schallert. Here, writing and speaking anxieties are taken separetely and a research was made concerning these. The writers focused on the results and explained the reasons why they found that kind of a research incomplete.

All in all, I would like to say that in my work I tried to find the causes of anxiety in language learning. I examined the researches made by some writers and I have thought about some possibilities in order to overcome this feeling in language learning. I will explain some researchers' thougths about this topic. Moreover, I will end up my paper by suggesting my own ideas.

To begin with, I would like to mention about Elaine K.Horwitz's text, "Language Anxiety and Achievement" She and her colleagues name language anxiety specific and call it Foreign Language Anxiety.Owing to that fact, they offer an instrument to measure it which is the Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale (FLCAS). This article mainly discusses the relationship between anxiety and achievement.Firstly, she sees anxiety as a psychological construct.As it is associated with the nervous system, it negatively influences our motions,especially it has a deep impact in learning.The writer talks about the early perspectives on anxiety and language learning.She explains Scovel's theory who believes in separating the different kinds of anxiety by making specific researches in order to identify the type of anxiety they are measuring.Since then, studies have started to be made by using the FLCAS and other particular measures.Studies show that there is a negative correlation between anxiety and achievement when final grades are concerned.In the first place they evaluated the final grades; but then gave up that idea and started to use more current achievement measures.Consequently, they reached up a point that the relationship alters according to some factors such as 'instructional levels' and ' different target languages'.Some researchers namely Sparks and Ganschow propose the Linguistic Coding Differences Hypothesis (LCDD) to question whether the foreign language anxiety is independent of language achievement.They want to know if anxiety is a cause or result of poor achievement in language learning.They wonder if shortcomings in first language learning causes this failure. They believe that people who have poor language learning abilities will have foreign language anxiety.Contrary to that belief, MacIntyre and Horwitz argues that there is no tie between these.Afterwards,Elaine enumerates the conditions in which anxiety level changes.The teacher is seen as one of the most important factors.He/she is given many alternatives to make a harmonious environment.To conclude, she recommends to distinguish the role of anxiety in language learning from its role in language performance.She talks about an unresolved issue in which it is difficult to determine if anxiety has really interfered with learning. She still wonders if anxious learners are capable of having difficulties in acquiring a second language.To what extent anxiety negatively affects learning a language is still a question to be answered.

Secondly, the text "Anxiety in the College Japanese Language Classroom" by Kazu Kitano gives us some ideas about the relationship between anxiety and language learning. In his work, he talks about a research made among college learners of Japanese.This study wanted to find out the sources of that anxiety in the classroom. Mainly, this study found out that there are two sources of that anxiety in foreign language learning. These are mainly individual student's fear of negative evaluation and his or her self-perceieved speaking ability. Many students are afraid of being evaluated negatively. They are afraid of making mistakes while pronouncing a word.As they are sensitive to such assessments they choose not to speak in front of their peers. Furthermore, they compare their speaking ability with other students, teachers and native speakers.To sum up,the author states that there is an interaction between fear of negative evaluation and self-perceieved ability which affects anxiety level.

There are many factors which influence anxiety level. For instance, instructional level of the student, the instructor, gender,age, native language,usage of foreign language, the length of time he/she studies the second language,final grades, previous experience, instructor-learner interaction, classroom procedures and so on.

Taking everything into account, this research emphasizes the importance of teacher's role in language learning.It offers them many ways which can be applied in their classes. For example, first they can identify their students so that some individual differences will not be noticeable so much. They should make positive reinforcement by making positive comments and show specific consideration to those having fear of negative evaluation. They should bear in mind that there is not such a rule saying that an advanced or experienced student will not be anxious. For the above mentioned reasons, anyone can feel anxious due to internal and external factors.

Related Tags: anxiety, learning, language, achievement, foreign, nervous, esl, calm, learner, foreigner

C. Ozcan - is the author for Site Insaat Inc. Please visit Turkiye Mimarlar ve Müteahhitler ve Şirketler for more information about Turkish contracting and construction services in Turkey.

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