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What does anxiety look like
What does anxiety look like
What does anxiety look like
What does anxiety look like
What does anxiety look like
What does anxiety look like
What does anxiety look like
What does anxiety look like
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What does anxiety look like

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  • 1. What does Anxiety look like?Mary found class difficult. Reading out dialogues and drills after the teacher wasnt too difficult, but whenhaving to say something in front of the whole class, she often got stage fright and performed badly.John knew it was best to get out on the street and practice what he had learnt in class. However, whenoutside and seeing someone just about to talk to him in Chinese, he would freeze and found it difficult tograsp what they were trying to say.Whether its the thought of standing up in front of a large audience or waiting nervously to attempt our firstparachute jump, there are times when we all feel anxious to some degree or other.Some of the signs or symptoms of anxiety are: physically, we may have butterflies in our stomach or feelour heart beating faster; psychologically we may feel frightened or panicky. We start to have anxiousthoughts about the very real possibility of making a complete fool of ourselves (again!) and theconsequent loss of face that this will bring. We dont like to be thought of as a failure.But the real problem with anxiety is that, in order to avoid feelings of discomfort - feeling frightened or asense of failure - we may choose to avoid situations which have the potential to cause us discomfort andrather stay in the safety of our own homes. But the result of avoidance is that it can gradually reduce ourself-esteem.We need to understand that our level of self-confidence is much more vulnerable than we often think it is.We rely on relationships to foster positive feelings about ourselves, so any breakdown in theserelationships can significantly affect our self-esteem. Furthermore, when we start to avoid situations, ourguilt increases, anxiety worsens, and we are more likely to avoid other similarly potentially anxiety-producing situations.How does anxiety affect Language Learning?Research has shown that two of the key factors which relate to success in language learning are: a. Self-confidence and a good self-image (i.e. belief in our own capability). b. Low anxiety.It is important, therefore, to understand how anxiety and low self-image interact to negatively affectprogress in learning a foreign language, how certain personality traits increase anxiety, and how anxietyhinders recall.As regards the language learners self-image, anxiety can affect us both internally and externally.Internally - regarding feelings about myself - Im concerned that I might lack the capability needed to learnChinese ("Ive never been any good at languages").Externally - regarding my feelings about interacting with other people - Im concerned what they might bethinking of me. "Hes so dumb - he cant even say simple sentences correctly!" -- and the consequentshame and loss of face that this brings.Those with higher self-esteem are more able to withstand threats to their existence and thus theirdefenses are lower. Those with weaker self-esteem maintain walls of inhibition to protect their fragile egoor lack of self-confidence. However, these walls or defenses hinder language learning, and their removalinvolves self-exposure to a degree required in few other tasks. This can make certain language learnersvery anxious.
  • 2. Learning Chinese may, therefore, be seen as an affront to our self-esteem. It can be an extremelyhumiliating experience struggling with mastering new sounds and grammar patterns. We dont wish to beseen as jabbering idiots. And so adult language learners may try to keep their self-esteem afloat (i.e.maintain face) by avoiding risk-taking or by rationalization ("I need to spend more time writing thosecharacters") - defence mechanisms by which our ego protects its own self-image.Anxious students feel a deep self-consciousness when asked to risk revealing themselves by speakingthe language in the presence of other people. As mature adults, we dont like being laughed at or makinga fool of ourselves in public. The feeling of using a new language can be like that of wearing fancy dress.Children do not fear fancy dress - they enjoy wearing it. Adults vary tremendously - some feeling veryself-conscious. However, the more childlike an adult language learner can be, the more easily they canlearn a new language.As adults, we can get very upset and frustrated when, even after several months of learning Chinese, weare still unable to communicate even fairly basic ideas. As one student said, "You feel frustrated andhumiliated because you know you are an interesting adult and yet you sound like a babbling baby." Youthink to yourself, "Im an intelligent adult, Ive mastered other subjects with relative ease, so I should beable to master Chinese too, but I cant." The discrepancy between effort and results can be veryfrustrating.Certain personality traits may increase anxiety in language learning. Perfectionists are often too hard onthemselves when they fail to master some point of the language. Their critical self is forever punishingtheir performing self: "You know you ought not to still be making such elementary mistakes!" Thenanother type of person is the one who is overly concerned about what others think of them and how theyare performing. They can feel very self-conscious when trying to master a difficult language like Chinese.When they fail to grasp some aspect of the language in, according to their standards, an appropriateperiod of time, they feel very inferior, resulting in a lowered self-image.A basic problem which can intensify our anxiety is that, when we are anxious, a barrier goes up whichimpedes the flow into and out of the part of the brain responsible for language acquisition. We know thatwe know the word, but are surprised that we failed to recall it at the vital moment. The feeling of anxietyand sense of failure which follows can be debilitating for the nervous student. As one linguist put it, "Theiranxiety brings on the very failure which so concerns them."What can be done to alleviate the debilitating effects of anxiety?A. The ClassroomIs the classroom a safe and secure place for learning Chinese or is the teachers approach to teachingthe language causing us to feel anxious?In one approach to language teaching (Community Language Learning), the teacher takes the role of acounselor and the student is the counselee or client. So instead of the teacher being the stern all-knowingauthority figure before whom we quake and tremble lest we make the slightest mistake, rather shebecomes the counselor who wants to encourage us to take bold steps in faith in a safe and secureenvironment where we wont be jumped on or laughed at at the slightest mistake. This avoids defensivelearning where the student, in order to avoid humiliation and embarrassment, hides behind defensemechanisms for protection of their self-esteem (e.g. not volunteering to answer the teachers questions forfear of answering incorrectly and feeling humiliated). With Community Language Learning, the naturalchild in us - creative, spontaneous, curious, free of fear - is therefore allowed to emerge freely andopenly, not being under the parental gaze of the critical teacher. Instead, it rests in an accepting warmthand understanding where defensive learning is unnecessary.Teachers therefore play a significant role in the amount of anxiety students experience. If your teacher ismaking you unduly nervous, excuse yourself from his or her class and study with a tutor. If you are easily
  • 3. anxious, you need teachers who are more like friends helping you to learn and less like authority figuresgoading you to perform.B. The CommunityIn order to try to alleviate the debilitating effects of anxiety, we can: i. avoid potentially embarrassing situations. Sometimes, this is sensible, e.g. a crowded post office! However, if this results in our staying indoors and hardly having any contact with local people, it will hinder progress, make it harder to go out later on, and create guilt feelings as we know what we ought to be doing! ii. try jumping in at the deep end by forcing ourselves to go outside to search for people with whom we can practice the language. However, this can take away all joy in learning the language as "going out to practice" becomes a daily dread, and everyday ends with memories of failure which in turn increase our anxiety. iii. create safe and secure places for practicing Chinese where it is okay to make mistakes, where our defenses can come down, and where we wont be humiliated or embarrassed. All language learners make mistakes. Lots of mistakes. Its just that the anxious student feels so bad about making them while others dont seem to mind so much!Anxious language learners have a great fear of public embarrassment - making a fool of themselves infront of other people. So they need to find some friendly Chinese with a gentle, empathetic personalitywhere in a safe and secure environment they can do what they so desperately want to do - communicatein Chinese. If you have difficulty finding the right person, maybe a colleague can help you find someone.We also need to adjust our expectations as to how soon we ought to be mastering the language. We areall going to make mistakes, and we need to see that errors are a useful source of information about thelanguage. So try not to feel so bad when you dont get it right the first time (- or the one-hundred-and-firsttime, for that matter!).It is also helpful to look for stallholders and shopkeepers who are warm and friendly and shop with them.Your colleagues should be able to help you locate these people. We all have to purchase dailynecessities, and these people will make the experience more enjoyable for us.Another, somewhat extreme suggestion is to buy a pet - goldfish, cat, dog - and talk to it in Chinese. Verynon-threatening!SummaryIn order for you to understand what is going on inside you, you need to analyze your fears and develop apersonal strategy for overcoming them. There is no point in telling yourself not to be anxious! Rather, youshould be spending time with people who have a gentle, warm and non-threatening personality. Thesepeople provide a safe and secure environment where you feel relaxed and are able to talk freely andconfidently.Questions to ask yourself: 1. Concerning my self-image: How do I feel about myself and my capabilities? In particular, how do I feel about my capabilities as a language learner? On what do I base these feelings? 2. Concerning inhibition: Do I feel easily inhibited and defensive about learning another language? If so, can I identify what Im afraid of, or what I am protecting? 3. Concerning anxiety when interacting with others: How much am I willing to become as a little child? In what situations do I most easily feel threatened or embarrassed?
  • 4. What does Anxiety look like?Mary found class difficult. Reading out dialogues and drills after the teacher wasnt too difficult, but whenhaving to say something in front of the whole class, she often got stage fright and performed badly.John knew it was best to get out on the street and practice what he had learnt in class. However, whenoutside and seeing someone just about to talk to him in Chinese, he would freeze and found it difficult tograsp what they were trying to say.Whether its the thought of standing up in front of a large audience or waiting nervously to attempt our firstparachute jump, there are times when we all feel anxious to some degree or other.Some of the signs or symptoms of anxiety are: physically, we may have butterflies in our stomach or feelour heart beating faster; psychologically we may feel frightened or panicky. We start to have anxiousthoughts about the very real possibility of making a complete fool of ourselves (again!) and theconsequent loss of face that this will bring. We dont like to be thought of as a failure.But the real problem with anxiety is that, in order to avoid feelings of discomfort - feeling frightened or asense of failure - we may choose to avoid situations which have the potential to cause us discomfort andrather stay in the safety of our own homes. But the result of avoidance is that it can gradually reduce ourself-esteem.We need to understand that our level of self-confidence is much more vulnerable than we often think it is.We rely on relationships to foster positive feelings about ourselves, so any breakdown in theserelationships can significantly affect our self-esteem. Furthermore, when we start to avoid situations, ourguilt increases, anxiety worsens, and we are more likely to avoid other similarly potentially anxiety-producing situations.How does anxiety affect Language Learning?Research has shown that two of the key factors which relate to success in language learning are: a. Self-confidence and a good self-image (i.e. belief in our own capability). b. Low anxiety.It is important, therefore, to understand how anxiety and low self-image interact to negatively affectprogress in learning a foreign language, how certain personality traits increase anxiety, and how anxietyhinders recall.As regards the language learners self-image, anxiety can affect us both internally and externally.Internally - regarding feelings about myself - Im concerned that I might lack the capability needed to learnChinese ("Ive never been any good at languages").Externally - regarding my feelings about interacting with other people - Im concerned what they might bethinking of me. "Hes so dumb - he cant even say simple sentences correctly!" -- and the consequentshame and loss of face that this brings.Those with higher self-esteem are more able to withstand threats to their existence and thus theirdefenses are lower. Those with weaker self-esteem maintain walls of inhibition to protect their fragile egoor lack of self-confidence. However, these walls or defenses hinder language learning, and their removalinvolves self-exposure to a degree required in few other tasks. This can make certain language learnersvery anxious.
  • 5. Learning Chinese may, therefore, be seen as an affront to our self-esteem. It can be an extremelyhumiliating experience struggling with mastering new sounds and grammar patterns. We dont wish to beseen as jabbering idiots. And so adult language learners may try to keep their self-esteem afloat (i.e.maintain face) by avoiding risk-taking or by rationalization ("I need to spend more time writing thosecharacters") - defence mechanisms by which our ego protects its own self-image.Anxious students feel a deep self-consciousness when asked to risk revealing themselves by speakingthe language in the presence of other people. As mature adults, we dont like being laughed at or makinga fool of ourselves in public. The feeling of using a new language can be like that of wearing fancy dress.Children do not fear fancy dress - they enjoy wearing it. Adults vary tremendously - some feeling veryself-conscious. However, the more childlike an adult language learner can be, the more easily they canlearn a new language.As adults, we can get very upset and frustrated when, even after several months of learning Chinese, weare still unable to communicate even fairly basic ideas. As one student said, "You feel frustrated andhumiliated because you know you are an interesting adult and yet you sound like a babbling baby." Youthink to yourself, "Im an intelligent adult, Ive mastered other subjects with relative ease, so I should beable to master Chinese too, but I cant." The discrepancy between effort and results can be veryfrustrating.Certain personality traits may increase anxiety in language learning. Perfectionists are often too hard onthemselves when they fail to master some point of the language. Their critical self is forever punishingtheir performing self: "You know you ought not to still be making such elementary mistakes!" Thenanother type of person is the one who is overly concerned about what others think of them and how theyare performing. They can feel very self-conscious when trying to master a difficult language like Chinese.When they fail to grasp some aspect of the language in, according to their standards, an appropriateperiod of time, they feel very inferior, resulting in a lowered self-image.A basic problem which can intensify our anxiety is that, when we are anxious, a barrier goes up whichimpedes the flow into and out of the part of the brain responsible for language acquisition. We know thatwe know the word, but are surprised that we failed to recall it at the vital moment. The feeling of anxietyand sense of failure which follows can be debilitating for the nervous student. As one linguist put it, "Theiranxiety brings on the very failure which so concerns them."What can be done to alleviate the debilitating effects of anxiety?A. The ClassroomIs the classroom a safe and secure place for learning Chinese or is the teachers approach to teachingthe language causing us to feel anxious?In one approach to language teaching (Community Language Learning), the teacher takes the role of acounselor and the student is the counselee or client. So instead of the teacher being the stern all-knowingauthority figure before whom we quake and tremble lest we make the slightest mistake, rather shebecomes the counselor who wants to encourage us to take bold steps in faith in a safe and secureenvironment where we wont be jumped on or laughed at at the slightest mistake. This avoids defensivelearning where the student, in order to avoid humiliation and embarrassment, hides behind defensemechanisms for protection of their self-esteem (e.g. not volunteering to answer the teachers questions forfear of answering incorrectly and feeling humiliated). With Community Language Learning, the naturalchild in us - creative, spontaneous, curious, free of fear - is therefore allowed to emerge freely andopenly, not being under the parental gaze of the critical teacher. Instead, it rests in an accepting warmthand understanding where defensive learning is unnecessary.Teachers therefore play a significant role in the amount of anxiety students experience. If your teacher ismaking you unduly nervous, excuse yourself from his or her class and study with a tutor. If you are easily
  • 6. anxious, you need teachers who are more like friends helping you to learn and less like authority figuresgoading you to perform.B. The CommunityIn order to try to alleviate the debilitating effects of anxiety, we can: i. avoid potentially embarrassing situations. Sometimes, this is sensible, e.g. a crowded post office! However, if this results in our staying indoors and hardly having any contact with local people, it will hinder progress, make it harder to go out later on, and create guilt feelings as we know what we ought to be doing! ii. try jumping in at the deep end by forcing ourselves to go outside to search for people with whom we can practice the language. However, this can take away all joy in learning the language as "going out to practice" becomes a daily dread, and everyday ends with memories of failure which in turn increase our anxiety. iii. create safe and secure places for practicing Chinese where it is okay to make mistakes, where our defenses can come down, and where we wont be humiliated or embarrassed. All language learners make mistakes. Lots of mistakes. Its just that the anxious student feels so bad about making them while others dont seem to mind so much!Anxious language learners have a great fear of public embarrassment - making a fool of themselves infront of other people. So they need to find some friendly Chinese with a gentle, empathetic personalitywhere in a safe and secure environment they can do what they so desperately want to do - communicatein Chinese. If you have difficulty finding the right person, maybe a colleague can help you find someone.We also need to adjust our expectations as to how soon we ought to be mastering the language. We areall going to make mistakes, and we need to see that errors are a useful source of information about thelanguage. So try not to feel so bad when you dont get it right the first time (- or the one-hundred-and-firsttime, for that matter!).It is also helpful to look for stallholders and shopkeepers who are warm and friendly and shop with them.Your colleagues should be able to help you locate these people. We all have to purchase dailynecessities, and these people will make the experience more enjoyable for us.Another, somewhat extreme suggestion is to buy a pet - goldfish, cat, dog - and talk to it in Chinese. Verynon-threatening!SummaryIn order for you to understand what is going on inside you, you need to analyze your fears and develop apersonal strategy for overcoming them. There is no point in telling yourself not to be anxious! Rather, youshould be spending time with people who have a gentle, warm and non-threatening personality. Thesepeople provide a safe and secure environment where you feel relaxed and are able to talk freely andconfidently.Questions to ask yourself: 1. Concerning my self-image: How do I feel about myself and my capabilities? In particular, how do I feel about my capabilities as a language learner? On what do I base these feelings? 2. Concerning inhibition: Do I feel easily inhibited and defensive about learning another language? If so, can I identify what Im afraid of, or what I am protecting? 3. Concerning anxiety when interacting with others: How much am I willing to become as a little child? In what situations do I most easily feel threatened or embarrassed?
  • 7. This chapter considers the literature on language learning anxiety in an effort to clarify the relationshipbetween anxiety and second language learning. It will first argue that language anxiety is a specificanxiety — rather than a trait anxiety — and discuss how this conceptualization has helped clarify theresearch literature. After Horwitz, Horwitz, and Cope (1986) proposed that a specific anxiety constructwhich they called Foreign Language Anxiety was responsible for students uncomfortable experiences inlanguage classes and offered an instrument, the Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale (FLCAS), tomeasure this anxiety, findings concerning anxiety and language achievement have been relativelyuniform, indicating a consistent moderate negative relationship between anxiety and achievement.However, some researchers (Sparks and Ganschow and their colleagues) have suggested that poorlanguage learning is a cause rather than a result of language anxiety. This review concludes that anxietyis indeed a cause of poor language learning in some individuals and discusses possible sources of thisanxiety, including difficulty in authentic self-presentation and various language teaching practices. Inaddition, it reports on new trends in language anxiety research that attempt to identify aspects oflanguage learning (e.g., reading anxiety or writing anxiety) which provoke anxiety for some individuals.Foreign language anxiety is the feeling of uneasiness, worry, nervousness and apprehensionexperienced by non-native speakers when learning or using a second or foreign language. Thesefeelings may stem from any second language context whether associated with the productiveskills of speaking and writing, or the receptive skills of reading and listening.[1]Foreign language anxiety is a form of what psychologists describe as specific anxiety reaction.Some individuals are more predisposed to anxiety than others and as such may feel anxious in awide variety of situations. Foreign language anxiety, however, is situation specific and so canalso affect individuals who are not characteristically anxious in the aforementioned, moregeneral, situationsCauses of foreign language anxietyAlthough all aspects of using and learning a foreign language can cause anxiety, listening andspeaking are regularly cited as the most anxiety provoking of foreign language activities.[1][2]The causes of foreign language anxiety have been broadly separated into three main components;communication apprehension, test anxiety and fear of negative evaluation.[2] Communicationapprehension is the anxiety experienced when speaking with or listening to other individuals.Test-anxiety is a form of performance anxiety associated with the fear of doing badly, or indeedfailing altogether. Fear of negative evaluation is the anxiety associated with the learner’sperception of how other onlookers; instructors, classmates or others; may negatively view theirlanguage ability.[edit] Effects of Foreign Language AnxietyThe effects of foreign language anxiety are particularly evident in the foreign languageclassroom and anxiety is a strong indicator of academic performance. Anxiety is found to have adetrimental effect on students’ confidence, self-esteem and level of participation.[2]
  • 8. Anxious learners suffer from mental blocks during spontaneous speaking activities, lackconfidence, are less able to self-edit and identify language errors and are more likely to employavoidance strategies such as skipping class.[3] Anxious students also forget previously learnedmaterial, volunteer answers less frequently and have a greater tendency to remain passive inclassroom activities than their less anxious counterparts.[2][4]The effects of foreign language anxiety also extend outside the second language classroom. Ahigh level of foreign language anxiety may also correspond with communication apprehension,causing individuals to be quieter and less willing to communicate.[5] People who exhibit this kindof communication reticence can also sometimes be perceived as less trustworthy, less competent,less socially and physically attractive, tenser, less composed and less dominant than their lessreticent counterparts.[edit] Measures of Foreign Language AnxietyA number of tools have been developed in order to investigate the level of foreign languageanxiety experienced by language learners.The Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale (FLCAS)[2] is a 33 question, 5 point Likertscale survey which is widely used in research studies. The measure investigates participants’communication apprehension, test-anxiety and fear of negative evaluation; and focuses onspeaking in a classroom context. The instrument has been translated and used in severallanguages including Spanish and Chinese.

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