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  1. 1. Investigation of the factors that cause language anxiety for ESL/EFL learners in learning speaking skills and the influence it casts on communication in the target language. By MUHAMMAD TANVEER A Dissertation Submitted in Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree ofMaster of Education in English Language Teaching Pathway (M.Ed. ELT Pathway) Educational Studies, Faculty of Education, University of Glasgow AUGUST, 2007 i
  2. 2. AcknowledgementsI wish to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to my mum, dad, familymembers and friends whose prayers, love and best wishes were a source of inspiration,encouragement and motivation for me as I was successfully completing this study.I would also like to extend my special thanks to my brothers who have endured methroughout this period and financed my studies.I am deeply indebted to my supervisor, Ms. Julie McAdam, who read my draft copies,listened to my anxieties and whose stimulating suggestions and encouragement helpedme throughout the time I was researching and writing this dissertation.I owe a special note of gratitude to Dr. Esther Daborn for the assistance, guidance,generosity and advice I received from her throughout this project and for granting mepermission to access the participants.I would also wish to thank Ms. Carole MacDiarmid and Mr. Douglas Graham who wereinsightful and perceptive in their valuable suggestions and hints to complete thisresearch study.Finally, I am extremely thankful to all the participants who provided me rich anddetailed data for the study and lent breadth and value to the research findings. ii
  3. 3. Abstract Feelings of anxiety, apprehension and nervousness are commonly expressed bysecond/foreign language learners in learning to speak a second/foreign language. Thesefeelings are considered to exert a potentially negative and detrimental effect oncommunication in the target language. The use of modern communicative languageteaching approaches in the language classrooms and the wide-spread use of EnglishLanguage have increased the demand to learn good communication skills but existenceof such feelings in the learners may prevent them from achieving the desired goal.Consideration of learners’ anxiety reactions in learning to speak another language by alanguage teacher is deemed highly important in order to assist them to achieve theintended performance goals in the target language. This study has attempted toinvestigate the factors that language anxiety can possibly stem from, both within theclassroom environment and out of classroom in the wider social context, and hasrecommended a variety of strategies to cope with it. The past researchers, considering ita complex and multi-faceted psychological phenomenon, have suggested to use avariety of perspectives and approaches to investigate the subject. This study used aqualitative semi-structured interview format and focus-group discussion technique toinvestigate the issue. A total of twenty participants, six ESL/EFL learners, three highlyexperienced ESL/EFL teachers and eleven ESL/EFL practitioners participated. Thefindings suggested that language anxiety can originate from learners’ own sense of‘self’, their self-related cognitions, language learning difficulties, differences inlearners’ and target language cultures, differences in social status of the speakers andinterlocutors, and from the fear of losing self-identity. The pedagogical implications ofthese findings for understanding second/foreign language anxiety for enhancinglearners’ communication abilities in the target language were discussed, as aresuggestions for future research. Furthermore, considering the crucial role of teachers insecond or foreign language pedagogy, a need was felt to investigate the beliefs andperceptions of language teachers about learning and teaching a second or a foreignlanguage. iii
  4. 4. Definition of terms and some Abbreviations UsedFor clarity of meaning throughout the dissertation the following definitions andabbreviations are applicable.English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Learners and Teachers: are those who arelearning or teaching English while living in a community where English is not spokenas a first language.English as a Second Language (ESL) Learners and Teachers: are those who arelearning and teaching English while living in a community where English is spoken as afirst language.Note: As the participants of this research study fall into both of these categories, acombination of both the terms (ESL/EFL) will be used.First or Native Language (L1): The language a child learns from infancy. Manychildren learn more than one language from birth and may be said to have more thanone ‘First’ language.Second Language (L2): In this dissertation the term refers to any language other thanthe first language learned. For this reason, second (L2) or foreign language (FL) will beused with the same meaning.Language Acquisition and Language Learning: ‘Acquisition’ is the product of asubconscious process very similar to the process children undergo when they acquiretheir first language. Learning is the product of formal instruction and it comprises aconscious process, which results in conscious knowledge about the language, forexample knowledge of grammar rules (Krashen, 1985: 2-3).Note: In order to avoid confusion, the term ‘learning’ will be used in the dissertation,which encompasses ‘acquisition’ as well.Psycholinguistics: A term that links psychology and linguistics. That is to say it linkslearners’ psychological variables (personality traits, perceptions, beliefs, etc.) and thelanguage learning and speaking process. The aim of the psycholinguists is to find outabout the structures and processes, which underlie a human’s ability to speak (Aitchison,1998: 1) iv
  5. 5. Table of ContentsChapter 1 11.1: Introduction1.2: Difference between First and Second/Foreign Language Anxiety 31.3: Definition and Types of Anxiety 31.4: Second or Foreign Language Anxiety 41.5: What Causes Language Anxiety? 41.6: Statement of the Problem 51.7: Rationale for the Study 61.8: Research Aims and Objectives 71.9: Research Questions 71.10: Research Site and Subjects 81.11: Significance of the Study 8Chapter: 2 9Literature Review2.1: Introduction 92.2: Section I 10Background of the Study2..2.1: Previous Research 102.2.2: Conceptual Foundations: Components of Foreign Language Anxiety and Related 11Causal Factors (a) Communication Apprehension (CA) 11 (b) Test Anxiety 13 (c) Fear of Negative Evaluation 142.3: Section II 14Factors Associated with Learner’s own Sense of “Self” and “Language ClassroomEnvironment2.3.1: Self Perceptions 152.3.2: Learners’ Beliefs about Language Learning 152.3.3: Instructors Beliefs about Language Teaching 172.3.4: Classroom Procedure 182.4: Section III 19 Three Stages of Language Learning2.4.1: Input 202.4.2: Processing 202.4.3: Output 232.5: Section IV 24Socio-cultural Factors2.5.1 : Social Environnent for L2/FL Acquisition 242.5.2: Errors in Social Setting 252.5.3: Social Status, Power Relations and a Sense of Identity 252.5.4: Intercultural/Interethnic Communication Apprehension (ICA) 27 v
  6. 6. 2.5.5: Gender 292.6: Section V 29Manifestation of Language Anxiety and Its Effective Reduction2.6.1: Manifestation 292.6.2: Alleviation of Foreign or Second Language Anxiety 302.7: Summary 31Chapter 3 33Methodology3.1: Qualitative Study 333.2: Rationale of choosing Qualitative Strategy 333.3: Participants 333.4: Instruments 343.5: Interviews 35 3.5.1: Individual Interviews 35 3.5.2: Focus Group Interviews 363.6: Procedure 363.7: Data Analysis 37Chapter 4 39Findings and Discussion4.1: Introduction 394.2: Section I 40Cognitive and Linguistic Factors Related to Classroom Procedure4.2.1: Strict and Formal Classroom Environment 404.2.2: Presentation in the Classroom 414.2.3: Fear of Making Mistakes and Apprehension about Others’ Evaluation 424.2.4: Role of Language Instructors 444.2.5: Self-related Cognition; Variations in Individual’s “self-perceptions” 454.2.6: Linguistic Difficulties 474.2.7: Pronunciation 474.2.8: Grammar 494.2.9: Vocabulary 504.3: Section II 50Socio-Cultural Factors4.3.1: Social Environment and Limited Exposure to the Target Language 514.3.2: Cultural Differences 524.3.3: Social Status and self-identity 524.3.4: Gender 534.4: Section III 54Manifestation of Language Anxiety and Its effective Alleviation4.4.1: Manifestation 544.4.2: Strategies to Cope with Language Anxiety 554.5: Summary of the Chapter 58Chapter 5 59Issues, Conclusions and Recommendations5.1: Issues 59 vi
  7. 7. 5.2: Limitations of the Study 605.3: Conclusions 605.4: Recommendations 63Bibliography 66Appendices 73 vii
  8. 8. CHAPTER 11.1 IntroductionI always feel nervous when speaking English.I feel bad in my mind because I wonder why I can’t speak English very well.I never learned the preposition; I cannot learn this bloody language.My English appear is not good enough; I can’t express very well.I need to use English perfectly; I can’t make mistakes in front of my students.Sometimes I feel stupid, some people look at me, a strange man, cannot speak good. (Quoted from the transcripts of this study) Such statements are commonly uttered by foreign language learners and are toofamiliar to the foreign language teachers. These statements indicate an importantproblem that the majority of students face in learning and particularly speaking a secondor foreign language. Many learners express their inability and sometimes evenacknowledge their failure in learning to speak a second/foreign language. These learnersmay be good at learning other skills but, when it comes to learning to speak anotherlanguage, they claim to have a ‘mental block’ against it (Horwitz et al., 1986: 125).What, then, hinders or stops them to succeed in learning a second/foreign language? Inmany cases, students’ feeling of stress, anxiety or nervousness may impede theirlanguage learning and performance abilities. Theorists and second language acquisition(SLA) researchers have frequently demonstrated that these feelings of anxiety arespecifically associated with learning and speaking a second/foreign language, whichdistinguishes L2/FL learning from learning other skills or subjects. Both teachers andstudents are aware and generally feel strongly that anxiety is a major hurdle to beovercome when learning to speak another language. Learning a language itself is “aprofoundly unsettling psychological proposition” because it directly threatens anindividual’s ‘self-concept’ and world-view (Guiora, 1983 cited in Horwitz et al., 1986:28). 1
  9. 9. Two basic questions regarding language anxiety need to be addressed in theintroduction, which may otherwise cause some confusion in the minds of the readers.First, what kind of anxiety is language anxiety and how is it unique to learning andspeaking a foreign, in this case English language? Second, how is second or foreignlanguage anxiety different from the language anxiety experienced in the first language? In general, there are two approaches to the description of language anxiety: (1)Language anxiety in the broader construct of anxiety as a basic human emotion that maybe brought on by numerous combinations of situational factors (McIntyre, 1995;McIntyre & Gardner, 1989: cited in Tittle, 1997: 11). For example, (a) a shy studentmay feel anxious when asked to give a short talk in front of the whole class; (b)Language anxiety as a combination of other anxieties that create a separate form ofanxiety intrinsic to language learning (Horwitz et al., 1986: 128). The later approachbelieves that there is something unique to the language learning experience that makessome individuals nervous. When this nervousness or anxiety is restricted to thelanguage-learning situations, it falls into the category of specific anxiety. Psychologistsuse the term specific anxiety reaction to differentiate people who are generally anxiousin a variety of situations from those who are anxious only in specific situations (1986:125). Researchers appear to differ in their views about the definition and construct oflanguage anxiety but there is merit, as MacIntyre (1995: cited in Tittle, 1997: 11) opines,in discussing language anxiety as a unique construct because it classifies the source ofanxiety for the reader. Students may feel anxiety in learning other subjects likemathematics, statistics, etc. (Onwuegbuzie et al., 1999: 218) and the fundamentalmotivations behind being anxious may be similar for learners in various disciplines, butthe sources of anxiety will also be a unique experience for each learner (Tittle, 1997:11). The intrinsic nature of language anxiety poses an additional challenge tolanguage learners as well as teachers. Several recent approaches to foreign languageteaching, such as Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) and Suggestopedia (Seeappendix (1) for definition and more detail about Suggestopedia), are explicitly directedat reducing learner anxiety. These approaches lay emphasis on pair or group work andlearning through communication in the target language as a way to reduce languageanxiety. Conversely, the demand on communication in the modern language classes 2
  10. 10. may enhance students’ anxiety, as there are more chances for their weaknesses to beexposed in front of others. Consideration of learner anxiety in the modern languageclassroom is deemed highly essential in order to help learners develop theircommunication skills in the target language.1.2 Difference between First and Second/Foreign Language Anxiety Anxiety and speech communication appear to have a strong bond with eachother. Speaking, either in first (L1) or second/foreign (L2/FL) language in differentsituations, particularly the situations that demand public speech, tend to be anxiety-provoking. However, the anxiety experienced when speaking in a second/foreignlanguage seems to be more debilitating than the anxiety experienced when speaking inthe first language. Anxiety while communicating in other than L1 goes a step furtherwith the addition of the difficulties associated with learning and speaking a foreignlanguage. In a foreign language, a speaker has to look for suitable lexis, has to constructan appropriate syntactic structure and needs to use a comprehendible accent, plus thedemanding tasks of thinking and organizing ideas and expressing them at the same time.Daly (1991: 1) while discussing the reactions to second language learning from theperspective of first language communication apprehension expresses that the anxietyexperienced by many people while communicating in their first language seem to havemany logical ties to second language anxiety. Educators and second languageacquisition (SLA) researchers can get insight from the analogy of first language anxietyto cope with the second language anxiety. What ‘anxiety’ actually refers to and how can we define ‘foreign languageanxiety’ are also important questions to understand the construct of ‘language anxiety’.1.3 Definition and Types of Anxiety “Anxiety is a psychological construct, commonly described by psychologists asa state of apprehension, a vague fear that is only indirectly associated with an object”(Hilgard, Atkinson, & Atkinson, 1971 cited in Scovel, 1991: 18). 3
  11. 11. Anxiety, as perceived intuitively by many language learners, negativelyinfluences language learning and has been found to be one of the most highly examinedvariables in all of psychology and education (Horwitz, 2001: 113). Psychologists makea distinction between three categories of anxiety: trait anxiety, state anxiety, andsituation-specific anxiety. Trait anxiety is relatively stable personality characteristic, ‘amore permanent predisposition to be anxious’ (Scovel, 1978: cited in Ellis, 1994: 479)while state anxiety is a transient anxiety, a response to a particular anxiety-provokingstimulus such as an important test (Spielberger, 1983: cited in Horwitz, 2001: 113). Thethird category, Situation-specific anxiety, refers to the persistent and multi-facetednature of some anxieties (MacIntyre & Gardner, 1991a: cited in 2001: 113). It isaroused by a specific type of situation or event such as public speaking, examinations,or class participation (Ellis, 1994: 480).1.4 Second or Foreign Language Anxiety Anxiety has been found to interfere with many types of learning but when it isassociated with leaning a second or foreign language it is termed as ‘second/foreignlanguage anxiety’. It is a complex and multidimensional phenomenon (Young, 1991:cited in Onwuegbuzie et al., 1999: 217) and can be defined as “a subjective feeling oftension, apprehension, nervousness, and worry associated with an arousal of theautomatic nervous system” (McIntyre & Gardner, 1994: cited in 1999: 217). It has beenfound that the feelings of tension or nervousness centre on the two basic taskrequirements of foreign language learning: listening and speaking (Horwitz et al., 1986:29) because, in interaction, both the skills can not be separated.1.5 What Causes Language Anxiety? What causes language anxiety is a central question of this research study and isof interest to all language teachers and learners, as well as SLA scholars who areinterested in anxiety and learning. Considering anxiety as a highly influential constructin language learning, SLA researchers have tried to investigate the sources or reasonsthat language anxiety can stem from within both academic and social contexts, and havesuggested a variety of strategies to cope with it. The fact that language anxiety is apsychological construct, it most likely stems from the learner’s own ‘self’, i.e., as anintrinsic motivator (Schwartz, 1972; cited in Scovel 1991: 16), e.g., his or her self- 4
  12. 12. perceptions, perceptions about others (peers, teachers, interlocutors, etc.) and targetlanguage communication situations, his/her beliefs about L2/FL learning etc. Languageanxiety may be a result as well as a cause of insufficient command of the targetlanguage (Sparks and Ganschow; cited in Horwitz, 2001: 118). That is to say it may beexperienced due to linguistic difficulties L2/FL learners face in learning and using thetarget language. Within social contexts, language anxiety may be experienced due toextrinsic motivators (Schwartz, 1972; cited in Scovel, 1991: 16), such as different socialand cultural environments, particularly the environments where L1 and L2/FL learningtakes place. Also, the target language is a representation of another cultural community;there is a predisposition among some people to experience such anxiety because of theirown concerns about ethnicity, foreignness, and the like (Gardner cited in Horwitz &Young, 1991: viii). Social status of the speaker and the interlocutor, a sense of powerrelations between them, and gender could also be important factors in causing languageanxiety for L2/FL speakers. A further detailed investigation of these factors couldpotentially assist language teachers to alleviate anxiety in the classroom setting and tomake the classroom environment less anxiety-provoking and hence to improve learners’performance in the target language.1.6 Statement of the Problem We live in an educational world where orality is seen as a necessary, positivepersonal characteristic (Daly, 1991: 7). Worldwide expansion of English Language hasincreased this demand to acquire good communication skills in English. However,learners of English language often express a feeling of stress, nervousness or anxietywhile learning to speak English Language and claim to have, as mentioned above, a‘mental block’ against learning English. The problem exists among ESL/EFL learnersfrom beginning to more advanced levels. Even highly advanced ESL/EFL learners feelanxious while learning and particularly speaking English in some situations, both withinand out of the classroom settings. These learners wonder why they cannot speak Englishwell, because their compulsive efforts do not lead to their intended performance.Horwitz and Young (1991: xiv) – two well-known researchers in the area of ‘languageanxiety’ express, “we have been truly surprised at the number of students whoexperience anxiety and distress in their language classes”. Similarly, Campbell and 5
  13. 13. Ortiz (1991: 159) found language anxiety among university students to be ‘alarming’and estimated that up to one half of all language students experience debilitating levelsof language anxiety. Being an L2 learner as well as a practitioner of English Language Teaching, theauthor himself has not only experienced language anxiety but also observed thisphenomenon among students of varied nationalities while studying alongside them in aninternational context at the University of Glasgow, United Kingdom. The author wasinterested to know why ESL/EFL learners feel anxious while learning and particularlyspeaking English.1.7 Rationale for the Study While the previous research has done much to statistically demonstrate theexistence of second/foreign language anxiety, many researchers view that “even withoutempirical proof, the mere awareness of foreign language anxiety, even on an intuitivelevel, is testimony enough to its existence and worthy of fuller investigation” (Shams,2006: 14). Reviewing past research, Ohata (2005: 139) concludes that language anxietycannot be defined in a linear manner but rather it can be better construed as a complexpsychological phenomenon influenced by many different factors. Thus it seems to bemore appropriate to deal with this issue from a variety of perspectives or approaches(Young, 1992). For this reason, some research in this area has been descriptive in nature.Researchers such as Horwitz (1986), Price (1991), and Young (1990) have interviewedanxious students in order to have a better understanding of their experiences. Young(1992) conducted interviews with well-known language specialists such as Krashen,Omaggio Hadley, Terrell, and Rardin. Ohata (2005) considering teachers’ role and theparticular social context they create in the classroom interviewed seven experiencedESL/EFL teachers to investigate this phenomenon. Similar to the interview studies by the above researchers, this study is a furtherstep to investigate the factors that cause language anxiety for ESL/EFL learners from 6
  14. 14. three different perspectives: from the perspectives of ESL/EFL learners, ESL/EFLpractitioners, and ESL/EFL teachers. Thus, this study intends to be more comprehensivein nature as it looks at the issue from this variety of perspectives in an attempt toidentify the sources of language anxiety; focusing on the actual sources of anxiety, asShams (2006: 2) suggests, could prove an effective means of alleviating second/foreignlanguage anxiety, which unfortunately are not clear-cut (Horwitz, 2001: 118). In addition, this research was conducted in the context of the University ofGlasgow, with multi-lingual groups of students belonging to different cultures andnationalities. This allows the data to be compared to the body of literature on languageanxiety.1.8 Research Aims and Objectives The major purpose of the research is to find out why ESL/EFL learners feelanxious or embarrassed while learning to speak English Language and what influence itcasts on their communication in the target language. In other words, what are the factorsor sources that make speaking English more stressful in some situations than in others.This study seeks to discover the phenomenon of language anxiety from both within andoutside of the language classroom setting in a wider social context. This includesconsidering the factors originate from the learner’s own sense of self, from the languagelearning process, or from the situation or social environment he/she is a part of. Thesecond most important aim of this study is to find out and suggest some strategies forlanguage teachers in order to alleviate language anxiety in the learners. It will alsoinform the researcher of this study about the phenomenon, as a learner, as well as apractitioner in English Language Teaching. In addition, integrating the findings of thisresearch on language anxiety - regarding its nature, sources, effects and treatment - withthe existing literature is also an underlying consideration of the study.1.9 Research Questions1: What are the psycholinguistic factors that cause language anxiety for ESL/EFL learners in learning and speaking English Language?2: What are the socio-cultural factors that cause language anxiety for ESL/EFL 7
  15. 15. learners in learning and speaking English Language?3: How is language anxiety manifested in the learners?4: Which strategies can be used to successfully cope with language anxiety?1.10 Research Site and Subjects Research has been conducted in the EFL (English as a Foreign Language) Unitand Department of Education of the University of Glasgow, United Kingdom. Thesubjects were drawn from beginning to advanced levels of learners as well asexperienced ESL/EFL practitioners and teachers. Twenty subjects in total, from a rangeof nationalities, participated in the study. Six of them were EFL/ESL learners in theEFL Unit and eleven were EFL/ESL practitioners (enrolled in M.Ed. in EnglishLanguage Teaching and had been practicing teaching English in their home countries).Three highly experienced EFL/ESL teachers (whose first language was English) in theEFL Unit also participated in this research project. (Chapter 4 for more details)1.11 Significance of the Study The issue of language anxiety is being studied with increasing frequency inrecent years because of the influence it can have on second language learning,performance and ultimate achievement. This study will be of considerable interest tolanguage educators and students because of the potentially negative impact of foreignlanguage anxiety, not only on the various domains of language performance, but also onstudents’ attitudes and perceptions of language learning in general (Phillips, 1992, citedin Onwuegbuzie et al., 1999: 222). This study is also significant with respect to itsimplication for foreign or second language pedagogy, particularly in the context wherelearners come from a wide range of linguistic, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Theinvestigation of the anxiety-producing factors that arise while learning to communicatein the target language will hopefully broaden the insight into the issue of languageanxiety and will help language teachers in making the classroom environment lessstressful. 8
  16. 16. CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW2.1 Introduction Traditionally, the focus of research in second language acquisition (SLA) hasbeen primarily on issues such as language pedagogy (Grammar Translation Method,Audio-lingual, etc.), contents of pedagogical instructions, and ways to improve them.Consequently, the implications of this research remained restricted to the learning andteaching of the language itself; that is to say, to the cognitive domain with little attentionbeing paid to the affective variables learners bring with them into language classroom. Itwas only in late twentieth century, in the 1970s, that the SLA researchers began to studythe significant role played by personality and motivational variables in second languageacquisition (Shams, 2006: 5). They posited that, in order to gain a holistic understandingof this process, learners’ affective variables need to be taken into account to cater fortheir needs and interests (Samimy, 1994: 30). In addition, as the focus of L2/FLinstruction has shifted from the narrow concern for developing learners’ linguisticcompetence to the need for communicative competence, learners are challenged to beable to speak in the target language spontaneously in various social contexts. In order tomeet this challenge, attention has diverted to studying the role of affective variables like‘learning styles’, motivation, personality traits, etc. that can impede the process oflearning and speaking a second/foreign language. Among these affective variables,learner anxiety has come to be recognized as an important area of study in secondlanguage acquisition because of the negative influence it can have on students’performance. This chapter reviews literature on language anxiety from two broaderperspectives: psycholinguistic and socio-cultural. It has been divided into five sections.The first section, as a background to the study, (a) reviews the past research on languageanxiety, and (b) establishes the conceptual foundations of the construct of ‘LanguageAnxiety’ in terms of its three components: communication apprehension, test anxietyand fear of negative evaluation. These components have been discussed with relation tosome factors that cause language anxiety while communicating in the target language. 9
  17. 17. The second section (II) looks at the factors that stem from a learner’s own sense of ‘self’and from the ‘classroom environment’. The third section (III) deals withpsycholinguistic factors, i.e., the factors that contribute to anxiety by creatingdifficulties in the process of learning and speaking a foreign language. The next section(IV) attempts to explore the literature regarding socio-cultural factors; these are thefactors outside of the class in the broader social context. The final section (V) describeshow anxiety is manifested in the learners and presents some strategies to cope with it. 2.2 Section I Background of the Study2.2.1 Previous Research The academic literature has offered a somewhat confusing account of languageanxiety. Researchers have been unable to draw a clear picture of how anxiety affectslanguage learning and performance. Some researchers reported a negative relationshipbetween language anxiety and achievement, e.g. the higher the anxiety, the lower theperformance, (Clement, Gardner, & Smythe, 1977, 1980: cited in Onwuegbuzie et al.,1999: 218). Others reported no relationship, or a positive relationship (Pimsleur,Mosberg, & Morrison, 1962, Backman, 1976, Scovel, 1978: cited in 1999: 218). Morerecently, Horwitz (2001: 121) has reiterated that the issue of understanding therelationship between anxiety and achievement is unresolved. The reason for these mixedresults is perhaps, as stated by Philip (cited in Shams, 2006: 8), that “a comparison ofthe experimental research examining the relationship between anxiety and secondlanguage learning is, to a degree, perplexing, presenting some conflicting evidence andillustrating that anxiety is a complex, multi-faceted construct.” In addition to the negative effects of anxiety on language learning andperformance, anxiety has occasionally been found to facilitate language learning.Anxiety, in its debilitating and facilitating forms, serves simultaneously to motivate andto warn the learner. Facilitating anxiety “motivates the learner to “fight” the newlearning task; it gears the learner emotionally for approach behaviour” (Scovel 1991: 10
  18. 18. 22). Debilitating anxiety, in contrast, “motivates the learner to “flee” the new learningtask; it stimulates the individual emotionally to adopt avoidance behaviour” (1991: 22).2.2.2 Conceptual Foundations: Components of Foreign Language Anxiety andRelated Causal Factors Horwitz et al. (1986: 127), considering language anxiety with relation toperformance evaluation within academic and social contexts, drew parallels between itand three related performance anxieties: (1) communication apprehension (CA); (2) testanxiety; (3) fear of negative evaluation. Due to its emphasis on interaction, the constructof communication apprehension is also relevant to the conceptualization of foreignlanguage anxiety (McCroskey, 1977: cited in 1986: 127). The description of thesecomponents will lay the foundations for the concept of second/foreign language anxiety,providing an insight to comprehend the sources or causes it can originate from. As thefocus in this dissertation is on speaking skills, the first component (CA) will beexplained more than the other two components.(a) Communication Apprehension (CA) The speaking skill is so central to our thinking about language learning that when we refer to speaking a language we often mean knowing a language…. Many researchers have pointed out that the skill producing most anxiety is speaking (MacIntyre and Gardner 1991)…. This anxiety comes in part from a lack of confidence in our general linguistic knowledge but if only this factor were involved, all skills would be affected equally. What distinguishes speaking is the public nature of the skill, the embarrassment suffered from exposing our language imperfections in front of others. (Arnold, 2000: 3) One of the most studied topics in the field of speech communication is thetendency on the part of some people to avoid, and even, fear, communicating orally(Daly 1991: 3). Horwitz et al. (1986: 128) define communication apprehension (CA) as“a type of shyness characterized by fear or anxiety about communicating with people”.Most of the research in this area is based on McCroskey’s conceptualization of CA as 11
  19. 19. “an individual’s level of fear or anxiety associated with either real or anticipatedcommunication with another person or persons” (McCroskey’s 1997a, p. 78: cited inApaibanditkul, 2006: 3). Communication anxiety may be specific to just a few settings (e.g., publicspeaking) or may exist in most everyday communication situations, or may even be partof a general anxiety trait that arises in many facets of an individuals life (Friedman,1980: cited in Taylor, 1987: 1). Learners’ personality traits such as shyness, quietness,and reticence are considered to frequently precipitate CA. These feelings of shynessvary greatly from individual to individual, and from situation to situation. McCroskeyand Bond (1980, 1984: cited in 1987: 1) found seven factors that could result in a quietchild (this can equally offer explanation of adult CA); (1) low intellectual skills, (2)speech skill deficiencies, (3) voluntary social introversion, (4) social alienation, (5)communication anxiety, (6) low social self-esteem, (7) ethnic/cultural divergence incommunication norms. While communication apprehension is but one of these factors,the others can lead to communication apprehension. Daly (1991: 5) presents five explanations in the development of CA which canoffer an insight into the issue of understanding what causes language anxiety forEFL/ESL learners. In the first place, he explains CA in terms of ‘genetic disposition’indicating that one’s genetic legacy may be a substantial contributor to one’s anxiety.Later in 1997, McCroskey (cited in Apaibanditkul, 2006: 4) stated the same: thatchildren seem to be born with certain personality predispositions towards CA. Secondly,he explains CA in terms of reinforcement and punishment related to the act ofcommunication. He asserts that individuals who, from early childhood, are greeted withnegative reactions from others in response to their attempt to communicate develop asense that staying quiet is more highly rewarded than talking. This can suggest,according to behaviourist learning methodology, that the negative reactions to learners’errors by language instructors can reinforce their fear of making mistakes and futureattempts to communicate. (See appendix (2) for more detail about behaviourist theory.)Related to this cause is the inconsistent and random pattern of rewards, punishments,and nonresponses for engaging in the same verbal activity. Another explanation Daly(1991: 5) focuses on is the adequacy of people’s early communication skills acquisition. 12
  20. 20. Children who receive a wealth of early experience of talking are more likely to be lessapprehensive than those who receive less opportunities of communication. The lastperspective he emphasizes is that the children who have been exposed to appropriatesocial–interactive models of communication are generally less apprehensive than thosewho have been exposed to inadequate or less interactive models. All these fiveexplanations suggest that development of CA in individuals results from nature or theirsurroundings. In case of situational CA, the causes are numerous. According to Richmondand McCroskey “these causes vary from one person to another or from one situation toanother” (1998: cited in Apaibanditkul, 2006: 4). Buss (1980, cited in 2006: 4) listsnovelty, formality, subordinate status, conspicuousness, unfamiliarity, dissimilarity, anddegree of attention as the major sources of situational CA. Communication apprehension obviously plays a large role in second/foreignlanguage anxiety. People who are apprehensive speaking in dyads or groups are likelyto be even in more trouble when doing so in a second/foreign language class, where “inaddition to feeling less in control of the communicative situation, they also may feel thattheir attempts at oral work are constantly being monitored” (Horwitz, et al., 1986: 127).This apprehension is explained in relation to the learner’s negative self-perceptionscaused by the inability to understand others and make himself understood (MacIntyre &Gardner, 1989: cited in Ohata, 2005: 137). McCroskey (cited in Apaibanditkul, 2006: 4)labels this kind of apprehension - which Neer refers to as “apprehension aboutclassroom participation” (1987: cited in, 2006: 4) - as classroom communicationapprehension (CCA). The emphasis on group work and oral presentation in the moderncommunicative classroom can be particularly exacerbating for students who havecommunication apprehension (Shams, 2006: 9).(b) Test Anxiety An understanding of test anxiety is also pertinent to the discussion of foreignlanguage anxiety. Test anxiety, as explained by Horwitz et al. (1986), “refers to a typeof performance anxiety stemming from a fear of failure”. Test anxiety is quite pervasivein language classrooms because of its continuous performance evaluative nature. 13
  21. 21. Unfortunately, for highly anxious students, second/foreign languages, more than anyother academic subject, require continual evaluation by the instructor – the only fluentspeaker in the class (1986: 129). It is also important to note that oral testing has thepotential to provoke both test and oral communication anxiety simultaneously insusceptible students (1986: 127).(C) Fear of Negative Evaluation Fear of negative evaluation is an extension of the second component (testanxiety) of second/foreign language anxiety because it is not limited to test-takingsituations; rather, it may occur in any social, evaluative situation, such as interviewingfor a job or speaking in second/foreign language class (Horwitz et al., 1986: 127). It isalso broader in the sense that it pertains not only to the teacher’s evaluation of thestudents but also to the perceived reaction of other students as well (Shams, 2006: 10). Horwitz et al. (1986: 127-128) believe that, although communicationapprehension, test anxiety, and fear of negative evaluation provide useful conceptualbuilding blocks for a description of second/foreign language anxiety, it is more than justthe conglomeration of these three components: “we conceive foreign language anxietyas a distinct complex of self-perceptions, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors related toclassroom language learning arising from the uniqueness of the language learningprocess”. What makes language learning a distinct and unique process is its interactionwith the concept of ‘self’. 2.3 Section IIFactors Associated with Learner’s own Sense of ‘Self’ and ‘Language ClassroomEnvironment’ The previous section has established the conceptual basis of language anxietywith relation to its three components. All the three components are strongly linked withlearners’ sense of ‘self’, as it is learners’ ‘self’ which is at risk of failure or beingnegatively evaluated in any test-like situation or a situation which requirescommunication in front of others. This risk to one’s sense of ‘self’ frequently occurs ina L2/FL classroom. This section reviews literature on language anxiety related tolearners’ sense of ‘self’ and ‘language classroom environment’. 14
  22. 22. 2.3.1 Self Perceptions According to Horwitz et al. (1986: 128), perhaps no other field of study poses asmuch of a threat to self-concept as language study does. They believe that anyperformance in L2 is likely to challenge an individual’s self-concept as a competentcommunicator, which may lead to embarrassment. Self-concept is “the totality of anindividual’s thoughts, perceptions, beliefs, attitudes and values having reference tohimself as object” (Laine, 1987: 15). This self-concept forms the basis of the distinction,made by Horwitz et al. (1986: 128), between language anxiety and other forms ofacademic anxieties. They posited, “the importance of the disparity between the ‘true’ or‘actual’ self as known to the language learner and the more limited self as can bepresented at any given moment in the foreign language would seem to distinguishforeign language anxiety from other academic anxieties such as those associated withmathematics or science” (1986: 128). The term 1 ‘self-esteem’ has been used in much the same meaning as ‘self-concept’ and has been found to be strongly linked with language anxiety. Krashen (1980,15: cited in Young, 1991: 427) suggests, “the more I think about self-esteem, the moreimpressed I am about its impact. This is what causes anxiety in a lot of people. Peoplewith low self-esteem worry about what their peers think; they are concerned withpleasing others. And that I think has to do a great degree with anxiety”. Individuals whohave high levels of self-esteem are lees likely to be anxious than are those with low self-esteem (Horwitz et al., 1986: 129). According to Terror Management Theory (TMT),“People are motivated to maintain a positive self-image because self-esteem protectsthem from anxiety” (Greenberg et al., 1992: cited in Onwuegbuzie et al., 1999: 229).2.3.2 Learners’ Beliefs about Language Learning As language learning poses a threat to learners’ self-concept, in response learnersmay generate some particular beliefs about language learning and its use. Research on‘language anxiety’ suggests that certain beliefs about language learning also contributeto the student’s tension and frustration in the class (Horwitz et al., 1986: 127). Forexample, the followings are such reported beliefs:1 ‘Self-esteem’, refers to “a person’s evaluative attitudes towards self and indicates the extent to which anindividual believes himself to be capable, significant, successful, and worthy” (Laine, 1987: 16). 15
  23. 23. “I just know I have some kind of disability: I can’t learn a foreign language no matter how hard I try.” (Horwitz et al. 1986: 123) “Russian is too hard. I’ll never be able to learn Russian enough to go to Russia and talk to people” (Tittle, 1997: 15) Such beliefs have been found to cast a considerable influence upon the ultimateachievement and performance in the target language. The researchers use terms such as‘erroneous’ or ‘irrational’ to indicate certain widely held “beliefs about languagelearning which can be a source of anxiety” (Gynan, 1989: cited in Onwuegbuzie et al.,1999: 220). Horwitz (1988: cited in Ohata, 2005: 138) noted that a number of beliefsderived from learner’s irrational and unrealistic conceptions about language learning,such as 1) some students believe that accuracy must be sought before saying anything inthe foreign language, 2) some attach great importance to speaking with excellent native(L1)-like accent, 3) others believe that it is not ok to guess an unfamiliar second/foreignlanguage word, 4) some hold that language learning is basically an act of translatingfrom English or any second/foreign language, 5) some view that two years are sufficientin order to gain fluency in the target language, 6) some believe that language learning isa special gift not possessed by all. Similarly, Gynan (1989, cited in Onwuegbuzie et al.,1999: 221) reported that learners believe that pronunciation is the most importantaspect of language learning. These unrealistic perceptions or beliefs on language learning and achievementcan lead to frustration or anger towards students’ own poor performance in asecond/foreign language. According to Young (1991: 428), erroneous beliefs aboutlanguage learning can contribute greatly to creating language anxiety in students. In hisreview of literature on language anxiety, Ohata (2005: 138) explained that unrealisticbeliefs can lead to greater anxiety and frustration, especially when the beliefs and realityclash. He elaborates that if the learners start learning an L2/FL with the belief thatpronunciation is the single most important aspect of language learning, they will 16
  24. 24. naturally feel frustrated to find the reality of their poor speech pronunciation even afterlearning and practicing for a long time. These beliefs are most likely to originate fromlearners’ perfectionist nature. The perfectionist learners like to speak flawlessly, with nogrammar or pronunciation errors, and as easily as an L1 speaker – these high or idealstandards create an ideal situation for the development of language anxiety (Frost,Marten, Lahart, & Rosenblate, 1990: cited in Gregersen & Horwitz, 2002: 564). (Seeappendix (3) for more detailed description of perfectionism.)2.3.3 Instructors Beliefs about Language Teaching Just like learners’ beliefs about language learning, some instructor’s beliefsabout language learning and teaching have also been found to be a source of anxiety.Brandl (1987: cited in Onwuegbuzie et al., 1999: 220) asserted that instructors’ beliefthat their role is to correct rather than to facilitate students when they make mistakesexacerbates second/foreign language anxiety in students. Further, he stated that themajority of instructors considered their role to be “less a counselor and friend andobjected to a too friendly and inauthoritative student-teacher relationship”. Theresearchers also reported that students realize that some error corrections are necessarybut they consistently report anxiety over responding incorrectly and looking or sounding‘dumb’ or ‘inept’ (Koch and Terrell, Horwitz, 1986, 1988, and Young, 1990: cited inYoung 1991: 429). Young (1991: 429), realizing this phenomenon, stated that theproblem for the students is “not necessarily error correction but the manner of errorcorrection – when, how often, and most importantly, how errors are corrected”. In addition to error correction, some instructors have been reported not topromote pair or group work in fear that the class may get out of control, and think that ateacher should be doing most of the talking and teaching, and that their role is more likea drill sergeant’s than a facilitator’s; these beliefs have been found to contribute tolearner’s language anxiety (Young, 1991: 428). Recognition or awareness of thesebeliefs by both the learners, as well as the teachers, is essential for effective alleviationof language anxiety in learners. 17
  25. 25. 2.3.4 Classroom Procedure Different activities in the classroom procedure, particularly ones that demandstudents to speak in front of the whole class, have been found to be the most anxietyprovoking. For instance, Koch and Terrell (1991, cited in Horwitz, 2001: 118) foundthat more than half of their subjects in their Natural Approach classes – a languageteaching method specifically designed to reduce learner’s anxiety – expressed thatgiving a presentation in the class, oral skits and discussion in large groups are the mostanxiety-producing activities. They also found that students get more anxious whencalled upon to respond individually, ratherthan if they are given choice to respondvoluntarily. In addition, students were found to be more relaxed speaking the targetlanguage when paired with a classmate or put into small groups of three to six than intolarger groups of seven to fifteen students. Similarly, Young (1991: 429) found that morethan sixty-eight percent of her subjects reported feeling more comfortable when they didnot have to get in front of the class to speak. Earlier, Horwitz et al. (1986: 123) reportedthe same: “Sometimes when I speak English in class, I am so afraid I feel like hiding behind my chair. When I am in my Spanish class I just freeze! I can’t think of any thing when my teacher calls on me. My mind goes blank.” (Horwitz et al. 1986: 123) This suggests that any measure to treat language anxiety should not fail to exploitlearning environments where students feel relatively free of anxiety (Jones, 2004: 34).For this, Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) approaches are often recommendedby the researchers to provide such an unthreatening environment where students talk toone another and not exclusively to the teacher. This is deemed necessary because “therapport [the student] feels with the teacher as well as with….. classmates may be crucialin determining the success or failure of the venture [practice in communication]”(Svignon, 1972, p. 67: cited in Smimy, 1994: 30). It indicates that arousal of anxietyreactions is also likely to occur in interpersonal relations or communication. (Seeappendix (4) for more detail about anxiety in Interpersonal Relations.) 18
  26. 26. 2.4 Section III Three Stages of Language LearningThe previous sections have reviewed the findings of the past research on languageanxiety and its three basic components to establish the conceptual foundations of thetopic along with some causal factors within the learner’s own sense of ‘self’ and‘classroom setting’. This section discusses the psychological and linguistic reasons oflanguage anxiety that occurs at all the three stages of language learning: input,processing, and output. It is a fact that communication in L2/FL requires second/foreign languagelearning (MacIntyre & Baker, 2003: 67). However, the complexities or difficultiesinvolved in the process of learning a second/foreign language may also cause languageanxiety for EFL/ESL learners. From a linguistic perspective, “students’ anxiety aboutL2/FL learning is likely to be a consequence of their language learning difficulties”(Sparks, Ganschow, & Javorsky, 2000: 251). Appropriate use of ‘linguistic knowledge’-a part of the definition of ‘speaking skills’- is required to create an oral message thatwill be meaningful for the intended audience (Chastain 1988: cited in Arnold, 2003: 1).In their attempt to create and convey this oral message, an insufficient command oflinguistic knowledge enhances the possibilities of making mistakes, which leads tonegative evaluation and hence anxiety. In other words, “in the consciousness of thelearner, the negative evaluation of the learner may come from the linguistics mistakeshe/she makes” (Jones, 2004: 32). Language anxiety has been theorized to occur at all the three stages of languagelearning: input, processing and output. The description of these three stages withrelation to anxiety will point out why L2/FL learners make mistakes and the reasons oflinguistic difficulties L2/FL learners face in learning and using the target language. Thiscan offer an insight to help understand anxiety experienced while communicating in thetarget language. 19
  27. 27. 2.4.1 Input Input is the first stage of language learning. It activates ‘Language AcquisitionDevice’ (LAD) – an innate language-specific module in the brain (Chomsky cited inLightbown & Spada, 2006: 38), which carries out the further process of languagelearning. Anxiety at the input stage (input anxiety) refers to the anxiety experienced bythe learners when they encounter a new word or phrase in the target language. Inputanxiety is receiver’s apprehension when receiving information from auditory and visualclues. Krashen (1985: 3), considering input as a basic stage of language learning,asserted in his ‘Input Hypothesis’ that “speech cannot be taught directly but emerges onits own as a result of building competence via comprehensible input”. What causesincomprehensibility is learners’ ‘affective filter’, i.e. anxiety or lack of confidence – andthis prevents utilizing fully the comprehensible input. For successful languageacquisition, a learner’s affective filter needs to be lower, otherwise a tense, nervous orbored learner may ‘filter out’ input, making it unavailable for acquisition (Lightbown &Spada, 2006: 37). ‘Affective filter’ at the input stage may reduce the effectiveness of input byrestricting the anxious students’ ability to pay full attention to what their instructors sayand reduce their ability to represent input internally (Tobias, 1977: cited inOnwuegbuzie et al., 2000: 475). Learners’ with high level of input anxiety request theirinstructors to repeat sentences quite frequently compared to their low-anxiouscounterparts (MacIntyre & Gardner, 1994b: cited in 2000: 475). Input anxiety is morelikely to cause miscomprehension of the message sent by the interlocutors, which maylead to the loss of successful communication and an increased level of anxiety.2.4.2 Processing Anxiety at the processing stage, called processing anxiety, refers to the“apprehension students experience when performing cognitive operations on newinformation” (Onwuegbuzie et al., 2000: 476). Cognitivists like Segalowitz (2003: citedin Lightbown and Spada: 2006: 39) working on the ‘Information Processing Model’have tried to explore how these cognitive operations are performed in human brain and 20
  28. 28. have explained the learners’ inability to spontaneously use everything they know abouta language at a given time. These psychologists believe that learners have to process information and to‘pay attention’ to produce any linguistic aspect by using cognitive sources. However,they suggest that there is a limit to how much information a learner can pay attention toor, in other words, there is a limit to the amount of focused mental activity a learner canengage in at one time (2006: 39). Speaking, particularly in the target language, requiresmore than one mental activity at one time like “choosing words, pronouncing them, andstringing them together with the appropriate grammatical markers”, etc. (2006: 39). Inorder to perform these operations while communicating “complex and nonspontaneousmental operations are required” and failure to do so may “lead to reticence, self-consciousness, fear, or even panic” (Horwitz et al., 1986: 128). Similarly, with respectto listening, Chen (2005: 10) reported that students face difficulties in recognizing andmatching the pronunciation of the spoken words due to the slow mental processingabilities of some students. “The pronunciation is familiar to me but I forgot what theword is”, as one of his subjects said. (See appendix (5) for more detail related tolearners’ listening difficulties.) Where limited processing mental capacity may cause anxiety, conversely,anxiety may restrict this operational capacity of the mind, and both together may causeimpaired performance or altered behaviour. Researchers have found a recursive orcyclical relationship among anxiety, cognition and behaviour (Leary, 1990; Levitt, 1980:cited in MacIntyre, 1995: 92). 21
  29. 29. Anxiety Behaviour Cognition Figure: 2 Recursive relations among anxiety, cognition and behaviourSource: MacIntyre 1995, p. 93,Figure: 2 shows that anxiety, behaviour and cognition are mutually inter-related.MacIntyre (1995) explains this relationship as follow: For example, a demand to answer a question in a second language class may cause a student to become anxious; anxiety leads to worry and rumination. Cognition performance is diminished because of the divided attention and therefore performance suffers, leading to negative self-evaluations and more self deprecating cognition which further impairs performance, and so on. (p. 92) The Cognitive Processing Model can also explain the difficulty learners feel inremembering and retrieving vocabulary items while communicating in the targetlanguage - another important source of language anxiety for the EFL/ESL learners.MacIntyre and Gardner (1991b, cited in MacIntyre, 1995: 93), found a significantnegative correlation between language anxiety and ability to repeat a short string ofnumbers and to recall vocabulary items. This demonstrates that anxiety can limit the use 22
  30. 30. of both short term and long term memory. According to Tobias (1977, cited inOnwuegbuzie et al., 2000: 475), “processing anxiety can impede learning by reducingthe efficiency with which memory processes are used to solve problems”.2.4.3 Output Anxiety while communicating in the target language is more likely to appear atthe output stage, which entirely depends upon the successful completion of the previousstages: input, and processing. Anxiety at the output stage refers to learners’ nervousnessor fear experienced when required to demonstrate their ability to use previously learnedmaterial (Onwuegbuzie et al., 2000: 475). According to Tobias output anxiety involvesinterference, which is manifested after the completion of the processing stage but beforeits effective reproduction as output (1977: cited in 2000: 475). ManIntyre and Gardnerasserted, “High level of anxiety at this stage might hinder students’ ability to speak… inthe target language” (1994b, cited in: 2000: 475). All the three stages of anxiety have been found to be somewhat interdependent;each stage depends on the successful completion of the previous one, which may helpdefining language-learning process as follows: Language learning is a cognitive activity that relies on encoding, storage, and retrieval processes, and anxiety can interfere with each of these by creating a divided attention scenario for anxious students. Anxious students are focused on both the task at hand and their reactions to it. For example, when responding to a question in a class, the anxious student is focused on answering the teacher’s question and evaluating the social implications of the answer while giving it (MacIntyre, 1995: 96). In short, “acquisition of deviant linguistic forms”, as Krashen (1985: 46)believes or faulty input and “slow and nonspontaneous mental processes” (Horwitz,2001: 114) can explain the difficulties involved in the process of L2/FL learning. Thisfurther demonstrates the sources/causes of anxiety experienced by the ESL/EFLlearners at the output stage, particularly while speaking in the target language. The 23
  31. 31. description of this process can suggest many implications for language teachers whodemand quick answers or expect learners to speak fluently. Teachers’ or learners’ ownexpectations to speak fluently and the slow process in the mind result in apprehensionand reticence in the learner. 2.5 Section IV Socio-cultural Factors Language anxiety stems primarily from social and communicative aspects of language learning and therefore can be considered as one of the social anxieties. (MacIntyre & Gardner, 1989, 1991b: cited in MacIntyre,1995: 91) In the previous section, it has been viewed that difficulties in leaning L2/FL canexplain the potential causes of language anxiety at the output stage of language learningwithin the classroom setting. However, language anxiety may also be an outcome ofsocial and communicative aspects of language learning. This section reviews theliterature on language anxiety from a socio-cultural perspective of language learningand its use.2.5.1 Social Environnent for L2/FL Acquisition L2 or FL can take place in two different kinds of social environments: a) wherethe target language is not used as L1 in the community, and b) where it is used as L1.The first kind of environment provides L2/FL learners only limited and sometimesfaulty input. As Krashen (1985: 46) states, for such learners, “the only input is teachers’or classmates’ talk - both do not speak L2 well”. Learners in such environments areexposed to the language only in the classroom where they spend less time in contactwith the language, covering a smaller discourse type. The limited exposure to the targetlanguage and lack of opportunities to practice speaking in such environments do not letthe communicative abilities of L2/FL learners fully develop and result intoembarrassment or stress for them when they are required to speak both in and out of theclass. 24
  32. 32. In contrast, the second kind of environment provides learners with greaterexposure to the target language. However, even in this case, some researchers’ view thatlearners’ use of cognitive skills and metalinguistic awareness (world and socialknowledge) may interfere with language learning and they may not be able to achievenative (L1)-like proficiency as is gained by a child (Lightbown and Spada, 2006: 30).Krashen explains this child-adult difference in ultimate attainment in terms of thestrength of ‘affective filter’. He believes that ‘affective filter’ may exist for the childL2/FL acquirer but it is rarely high enough to prevent L1-like levels of attainment, andfor adults, it rarely goes down enough to allow L1-like attainment. Older learners mayhave increased inhabitations and anxiety and may find themselves afraid to make errors(Richard, 1996: 2).2.5.2 Errors in Social Setting Although it is axiomatic that language learning cannot be without errors, errorscan be a source of anxiety in some individuals because they draw attention to thedifficulty of making positive social impressions when speaking a new language(MacIntyre & Gardner, 1989: cited in Horwitz & Gregersen, 2002: 562). Errors in socialsettings are mostly overlooked if they do not interfere with meaning because peopleconsider it impolite to interrupt and correct somebody who is trying to have aconversation with them. Interlocutors only react to an error if they cannot understandthe speech and try to adjust their speech with the speaker in their effort to negotiate formeaning (Lightbown and Spada, 2006: 32). It is only in the classroom environment thatfeedback on errors is provided frequently; this leads many learners to frustration andembarrassment by making them conscious about their deficiencies.2.5.3 Social Status, Power Relations and a Sense of Identity From a socio-cultural perspective, status is an important consideration inpeople’s interaction with one another in social relationships. Within any social context,there exists a status relationship between interlocutors that carries a significant impacton language and language use and this is an important aspect of social interaction, forexample, “what can be said, the ways it can be said, and possibly, what language to use,and even how much must be said” (Carrier, 1999: 70). Carrier, considering the role of 25
  33. 33. status on L2 listening comprehension, asserts that the listener must consider the statusrelationship as part of the social context in order to determine the appropriateness of theverbal behaviour for delivering the response to the spoken messages. In addition, heraises a crucial question as to whether in face-to-face interaction receiver apprehension(anxiety) can be triggered by the particular status relationship between the interlocutors(p. 69). He states: The effects of status in terms of perceived power over another can also effectively silence a person in a conversation; for example, where there are large power differentials, as in White-Black relations in South Africa, the potential threat of loss of face may cause the person of lower of status to do nothing in the conversation even when instructions are not fully understood. (Chick, 1985: cited in Carrier, 1999: 72). Sociolinguists posit that social relationships can have a deep impact onconversational interaction. Wolfson (1989: 131), in her Theory of Social Interaction,postulates that inequality of status or social distance “disfavour attempts at negotiation”.Leary & Kowalski (1995: 1), working on the construct of ‘social anxiety’, also assertthat, when speaking in interaction with one’s boss, someone high in status or power,and also when dealing with complete strangers, feeling of anxiety, uncertainty andawkwardness are often the consequence of such encounters. Similarly, studies ofclassroom interaction on the pattern of social relationship found that the socialrelationship between teachers and students gives them an unequal status relationship asinterlocutors that can hinder “successful second language comprehension, production,and ultimately acquisition” (Pica, 1987: 4). Earlier research of Doughty and Pica (1986:cited in Carrier, 1999: 74) also showed that there was less interaction when therelationship was unequal, such as, teacher-to-students, than when the relationship wasequal, for instance, student-to-student. A sense of power, social distance and self-identity exists in interaction between L1 and L2/FL speakers, as reported by Peirce: 26
  34. 34. I feel uncomfortable using English in the group of people whose English language is their mother tongue because they speak fluently with out any problems and I feel inferior (Peirce, 1995: 21). In such an interaction, L2/FL speakers may feel anxious due to the fear of socialembarrassment and a threat to their social identity. Language, in this regard, seemscrucial because it is used to convey this identity to other people. Particularly whenspeaking in a second/foreign language “our self image becomes more vulnerable whenour expression is reduced to infantilised levels, which inevitably leads to anxiety”(Arnold, 2000: 3). L2/FL speakers’ fear of losing self-identity and retaining positiveself-image is aggravated when their attitudes towards the target language communityand culture are hostile (Dewaele, 2002: 26). (See appendix (6) for more detail about therole of attitudes.)2.5.4 Intercultural/Interethnic Communication Apprehension (ICA) Communication anxiety can also be triggered during intercultural or interethniccommunication. When a person interacts with people of other cultures and encounterscultural differences, he or she inclines to view people as strangers. Situation of this kindmay lead to intercultural communication apprehension; this can be defined as “the fearor anxiety associated with either real or anticipated interaction with people of differentgroups, especially cultural and ethnic and/or racial groups” (Neuliep & McCroskey,1997: 145). ICA is more likely to occur in initial acquaintance. Gudykunst (1995, citedin Carrier, 1999: 71), in his Uncertainty Management Theory, maintains (a) thatinitial uncertainty and anxiety about another’s attitudes and feelings in aconversational interaction are the basic factors influencing communication betweenindividuals and (b) that uncertainty inhibits effective communication. Neuliep &Ryan (1998: 93) identify several potential factors that could influence interculturalcommunication by summarizing previous work on ICA. (See figure 2.) 27
  35. 35. Figure: 2. Potential Effects on Inter-Cultural Communication ApprehensionSource: Neuliep & Ryan (1998) Figure 2 indicates that one’s ability to cope with anxiety and uncertainty canresult in effective intercultural communication (Gudykunst, 1995: cited in Kwok et al.,2001: 3). Uncertainty Reduction Theory (URT) posits that when two people interact forthe first time, uncertainty exists (Berger and Calabrese, 1975: cited in 2001: 3).Furthermore, Kwok et al. (2001: 3) state that the higher people perceive an uncertainty,the higher they feel anxiety. Gudykunst (1988; 1995: cited in 2001: 4) found that thereare at least five factors that may influence the amount of uncertainty experienced byinteractants during an intercultural communication: (1) expectations; (2) socialidentities; (3) degree of similarities between interactants; (4) shared communicativenetworks; and (5) the interpersonal salience of the contact with ‘stranger’. Suggestinghow this type of anxiety can be controlled, McCroskey and Richmond (1996, cited in 28
  36. 36. 2001: 4) claim that assertiveness and responsiveness, as two dimensions of socio-communication orientation, may reduce intercultural communication apprehension.2.5.5 Gender Gender has also been found to cause anxiety in male and female interaction bothwithin and out of the classroom settings. Carrier (1999: 70) states that past research hasrevealed that gender affects communication between L2/FL dyads and L1 and L2/FLspeaker dyads (e.g., Pica, Holliday, Lewis, Berducci, & Newman, 1991, cited in 1999:70). He deems it necessary to consider whether the gender of the L1 speakerinterlocutor has an effect on the listening comprehension of the L2/FL speakerinterlocutor. Gobel and Matsuda (2003) asserted that gender-related anxiety research hasyielded conflicting results. Spielberger (1983: 19), in her study on state anxiety found,“females are more emotionally stable than males in their reactions to highly stressfuland relaxing circumstances”. Similarly, in Kitano’s study (2001, cited in Gobel andMatsuda, 2003: 23) of Japanese college students, male students have been found to feelmore anxiety when they perceived their spoken Japanese less competent than that ofothers; however, such a relationship was not observed among female students. On thecontrary, Machida (2001: cited in 2003: 23) examined FL Japanese language classanxiety based on gender and found that female learners are more anxious than malecounterparts. 2.6 Section V Manifestation of Language Anxiety and Its Effective Reduction2.6.1 Manifestation SLA researchers and foreign language teachers have decoded a number ofsymptoms and behaviours manifested in anxious learners. Negative consequences oflanguage anxiety manifest in the form of changed behaviour, such as responding lesseffectively to language errors (Gregersen, 2003: cited in Gregersen, 2007: 210);engaging in negative self-talk and ruminating over poor performance, which affectsinformation processing abilities (MacIntyre & Gardner, 1994: 285); exhibiting 29
  37. 37. avoidance behaviour by missing class, having unrealistic high performance standards(Gregersen & Horwitz, 2002: 563); freezing up in role play activities, participatinginfrequently (Horwitz et al., 1986: 129); and ultimately receiving low course grades(Gardner, 1985: cited in Gregersen, 2007: 210). In addition, Harrigan et al. (2004: citedin 2007: 210) posited that anxiety can be accurately decoded both through prosodic(stress and intonation pattern), paralinguistic (non verbal) features of vocalcommunication and through visual non-verbal cues. Gregersen (2005, cited in 2007:210) in her study on nonverbal behaviour of anxious and non-anxious language learnersfound that “anxious learners manifested limited facial activity, including browbehaviour and smiling, maintained less eye contact with the teacher, and were morerigid and closed with their posture”. (See appendix (7) for more signs of students’anxiety and Leary’s three categories of behaviour arising from social anxiety.)2.6.2 Alleviation of Foreign/Second Language Anxiety Identifying anxiety producing factors for L2/FL learners and recognizing learnermanifestations of this anxiety while communicating in the target language are importantfirst steps in coping with language anxiety. An extensive body of research has suggesteda variety of strategies to cope with language anxiety in academic settings, which canalso offer an understanding of how to deal with it in the broader social contexts. Ingeneral, the remediation of such anxiety has focused on cognitive, affective, andbehavioural approaches (Hembree, 1988, p. 67: cited in Ying-Ling & Kondo: 2004:259). The cognitive approach holds that the thinking disturbances that occur in theclassroom are the primary sources of anxiety. The researchers recommend a ‘cognitivemodification (CM)’ method for its treatment which focuses on changing the students’own cognitive appraisals (Mejias et al., 1991, 97). Students are encouraged to developmore positive and facilitating self-talk and are taught to manage their self-evaluationmore realistically. The affective approach attempts to change the negative involuntaryassociation between the classroom and anxiety, and assumes that emotional arousal(physiological responsiveness) is the main concern (Ying-Ling & Kondo, 2004: 259).Researchers suggest taking steps to control bodily reactions and stress in order toalleviate anxiety and recommend systematic desensitization therapy (SDT) as atreatment method. The students are taught how to relax in the presence of the anxietystimuli and, thus, the anxiety is reduced in the subsequent oral communication situations 30
  38. 38. (Mejias et al., 1991, 97). Those who take the behavioural approach presume pooracademic skills as the main source of anxiety (Ying-Ling & Kondo, 2004: 259). For itstreatment, the researchers recommend skills training (ST) method where the students aretaught the behavioural skills required for success in particular oral communicationcontext (Mejias et al., 1991: 97). Research on language anxiety suggests a variety of techniques to reduce orsuccessfully cope with language anxiety. Foss and Reitzel (cited in Young, 1991: 430)hold that the recognition of students’ irrational beliefs or fears and their unrealisticexpectations can help students interpret anxiety-producing situations more realisticallyand adopt an approach rather than ‘avoiding behaviour’. They recommend verbalizationor articulation of any fears as a strategy to cope with language anxiety. Young (1990: 1)also offered some suggestions in this regard such as; (1) using an anxiety graph topinpoint the highest level of anxiety of a given interaction; (2) for anxieties stemmingfrom learner’s personality, providing supplemental instruction or a support group; (3)for anxieties stemming from classroom procedures, using more pair and group work; (4)playing language games with an emphasis on problem-solving; and (5) role-playingwith preparatory activities to instill class rapport. Furthermore, he found that thestudents felt more at ease when the instructors’ manner of error correction was not harshand when they were friendly, patient, and had a good sense of humour. So, it can also besuggested that equal status relationship between teacher and student is an importantaspect for anxiety alleviation. Hauck and Hurd (2005) offered a list of eleven suchstrategies; See appendix (8) for the list.)2.7 Summary of the Chapter The chapter has reviewed the past research on the construct of language anxiety,which has been asserted as inconclusive and unresolved by the researchers, and has triedto present the literature on the theoretical contentions of language anxiety proposed byHorwitz et al., (1986) with relation to three performance related anxieties:communication apprehension, test anxiety, and fear of negative evaluation. These threecomponents have been further expanded with the help of relevant literature in order tohighlight some anxiety exasperating factors related to them. The chapter has alsodiscussed learners’ perceptions about their own sense of ‘self’, about language learning 31
  39. 39. and communication, students’ high performance expectations, and language instructors’beliefs and overall classroom procedure with relation to L2/FL anxiety. In the later parts,the chapter has looked at the three stages of language learning: input, processing, andoutput, in order to explain the difficulties EFL/ESL learners may face in learning tospeak a second/foreign language. It has been found that lack of sufficient input forlearning FL/L2 in the environment where the target language is not the first language,and lack of opportunities to frequently process the limited (sometimes filled with errors)input, can cause language anxiety at the output (speaking) stage for ESL/EFL learners.The chapter has also explored the literature on socio-cultural aspects of languagelearning and has discussed social status, power relations and sense of identity, L1 andL2/FL speakers’ interaction, attitudes towards target language and its culture,intercultural communication, and gender as some of the factors linked with languageanxiety. In addition, the literature on how anxiety is manifested in the learners and howit can be aptly allayed has also been reviewed in the final section of this chapter. 32
  40. 40. CHAPETR 3 METHODOLOGY3.1 Qualitative Study Feelings of tension or nervousness - as Horwitz et al. (1986) define ‘languageanxiety’ while learning and speaking a second/foreign language - is a subjectiveexperience, which varies from individual to individual. In order to capture the diverserange of subjects’ experiences, a qualitative approach was considered an appropriatestrategy as “it begins with individuals and sets out to understand and interpret theirexperiences of a particular phenomenon” (Cohen et al., 2000: 23). How studentsexperience language anxiety, what they think are the causes of such an experience, andhow teachers perceive this phenomenon was investigated using qualitative researchstrategy. This allows the researcher to understand the subjective world of humanexperience by making an effort to get inside the person and to understand from within(2000: 22).3.2 Rationale of choosing Qualitative Strategy Investigations of second/foreign language anxiety have been, for the most part,quantitative studies, primarily correlational studies (Price, 1991: 101). In a series ofthese correlational studies, the researchers have been unable to draw a clear picture ofthe relationship between anxiety and overall language acquisition, performance andproficiency (see Horwitz, 1986; Scovel, 1991; Ellis, 1994; Tittle, 1997; Horwitz, 2001). A different approach to studying the construct of language anxiety is needed inorder to gain deeper insight into the issue. One such approach is the qualitative researchthat was used in this study, as it allows the researchers to obtain descriptive informationon variables not easily assessed through empirical research and can provide a way toview phenomena from the point of view of the subject (Price, 1991: 101).3.3 Participants The twenty subjects in the EFL (English as a Foreign Language) Unit andDepartment of Education at the University of Glasgow, who participated in this research 33
  41. 41. can be divided into three categories: 1) ESL/EFL learners; 2) highly experiencedESL/EFL teachers; 3) ESL/EFL practitioners (they were also experienced teachers, asmentioned in chapter 1, who had been practicing teaching English in their homecountries). Of the twenty subjects, nine were males and eleven were females. Their ageranged between twenty two to sixty. The teaching experience of both teachers andpractitioners ranged between one to thirty seven years in various contexts. (see appendix(9), category (1), (2), and (3) for details about participants). The six ESL/EFL learners (one female, five males) were enrolled in the pre-entry programme in the EFL Unit at intermediate/upper intermediate (IELTS 5.5), upperintermediate/lower advanced (IELTS 6), and advanced (IELTS 6 +) levels. They hadcompleted approximately eight months of this English language programme and hadbeen learning English in their home countries for approximately six to nine years. Twostudents from each level were selected in order to get a range of experiences related tolanguage anxiety at different levels of language learning. The eleven ESL/EFL practitioners (eight females and three males) were enrolledin M.Ed English Language Teaching (ELT) programme in the Department ofEducational Studies at Glasgow University. The three experienced ESL/EFL teachers(two females and one male) were currently teaching in the EFL Unit. The rationale ofincluding them in this study was two fold; first, to gain more relevant and in-depth databecause of their wealth of teaching experience across the globe and, second, to gainadditional guidance in order to ensure that the research was being conductedappropriately.3.4 Instruments Considering the constraints, like limited time period and the fact that only oneresearcher was undertaking this study, it was considered most appropriate and beneficialto carryout semi-structured and focus-group interviews in order to reach the core of thematter rather than administrating questionnaires. Furthermore, written questions aresomewhat rigid in nature and the complete lack of personal contact prohibitsverifications of views and knowledge. 34
  42. 42. 3.5 Interviews Similar to the interview studies by Price (1991), Young (1992) and Ohata (2005)concerning the perspectives of students, language specialists and language teachers onlanguage anxiety respectively, this study also used a qualitative semi-structuredinterview format to investigate the factors that cause language anxiety from students’,ESL/EFL teachers’ and practitioners’ perspectives. The rationale behind the use of interview as a data collection tool was that it canprovide access to things that cannot be directly observed, such as feelings, thoughts,intentions, or beliefs (Merriam, 1998: cited in Ohata, 2005: 140). It also providesparticipants with opportunities to select, reconstruct, and reflect upon details of theirexperience within the specific context of their lives (2005: 141). Given that the primary goal of this study was to explore the sources of languageanxiety, interviews seemed appropriate as a means to understand the experiences of thesubjects about language anxiety because they allow for given points to be clarified andelaborated upon where required. Two types of interviews were conducted: individual,and group interviews.3.5.1 Individual Interviews A semi-structured face-to-face interview technique was preferred as it wasessential to ensure that the researcher was “in a position of being able to access thedegree of the interviewee’s interest and involvement” (Robson, 2000: 90). It was alsoappropriate because of “its flexibility balanced by structure and the quality of the dataso obtained” (Gillham 2005: 70). Initially nine subjects, including six language learners and three teachers, wereindividually interviewed within the period of two weeks. Later the four ESL/EFLpractitioners who could not participate in the focus group discussion were alsoindividually interviewed. The interview lasted approximately 15-20 minutes. All theinterviews were conducted in English and were tape-recorded with the subject’spermission. Initially, the subjects were asked open-ended questions to establish a 35
  43. 43. rapport with the subjects. Later, a semi-structured question format was used as aguideline to ask questions and to encourage the interviewees to talk in their own way.The interviews contained a balance of open and closed questions, the latter asserting thecontrol of the interviewer, the former offering the interviewees a wide range of choicewithin a question. (see Appendix (10) and (11) for interview questions.)3.5.2 Focus Group Interviews The group interview technique in the form of focus group discussion was alsoutilized to lend breadth and richness to the data. Its implication was that “groupinterviews can provide different kinds of data from individual interviews” (Gillham,2005: 61). Instead of asking questions to each person in turn, “participants areencouraged to talk to one another: asking questions, exchanging anecdotes, andcommenting on each others’ experiences and views, and thus generating data throughinteraction” (Barbour & Kitzinger, 1999: 4). To keep the discussion on track, a groupleader moderates the discussion. The eleven ESL/EFL practitioners were invited for focus group discussion.Seven of them participated in the discussion and the rest, as mentioned above, wereindividually interviewed. The discussion lasted about 40-50 minutes on questionsprovided beforehand (see appendix (12) for focus group questions). These questionswere generated following the informal discussion with ESL/EFL students, teachers andpractitioners. The discussion proved very fruitful as the participants, being experiencedteachers (referred to as practitioners here), were themselves undergoing the process oflearning and teaching English both in L1 and L2/FL contexts and were well aware ofthe phenomenon under discussion (some of them were teaching part-time in the UK).The discussion was moderated by the researcher himself as a co-participant and anattempt was made to ensure “an even participation” by encouraging the hesitantparticipants “to make contribution, as well as managing those who seek to dominate theproceedings” (Gillham, 2005: 66).3.6 Procedure Access to the potential subjects was made via course convenor of M.Ed. E.L.T.and the relevant class teachers. During the initial contact with the participants, the 36
  44. 44. nature of the study was explained: that it was voluntary, and that all interviews would beconducted in English and would be tape-recorded for accuracy and transcriptionpurposes. They were ensured that all the recordings would be deleted and theinformation gained through them would be kept strictly confidential. For theirsatisfaction, they were also informed that permission had been sought to contact themfrom the Faculty of Education Ethics Committee of the Glasgow University. Thevolunteer students were also scheduled for interviews. Afterwards, they were contactedthrough mobile text messages, e.mails, and phone calls. Access to the native and non-native teachers (M.Ed. E.L.T students) wascomparatively easier. They were contacted personally as well as through e-mails. Inorder to ensure the participation, M.Ed. E.L.T students were also invited to a smallrefreshment party after the focus group discussion. All the participants were given a‘Plain Language Statement’ sheet, a ‘Consent Form’ (see Appendix (13) & (14)), andthe research and interview questions with some helping points to trigger their thoughtsabout the topic. The signed consent forms were received prior to the interviews. As a research procedure, the main areas to be covered were worked out inadvance and a presentation was given to an informed audience including M.Ed. E.L.T.students, the supervisor of this study, and two teachers who were also supervising someother students. Furthermore, prior to contacting research subjects, research, focus-groupand interview questions, were piloted in informal interviews and focus group discussionand by sending them abroad electronically to some of the supervisor’s colleagues. Thepurpose was to give the interviews a trial run and to glean information from the pilotedinterviewees about how they interpreted and reacted to the questions posed. Thenrefinements to the questions and interview schedule were made accordingly.3.7 Data Analysis The interview data was analysed and interpreted following the grounded theorydata analysis techniques and procedures. The grounded theory approach is a qualitativeresearch method that “uses a systematic set of procedures to develop an inductivelyderived grounded theory about a phenomenon” (Davidson, 2002: 1, accessed fromhttp://az.essortment.com/groundedtheory_rmnf.htm, 17/08/07). Its primary objective is 37
  45. 45. “to expand upon an explanation of a phenomenon (language anxiety) by identifying thekey elements of that phenomenon, and then categorizing the relationships of thoseelements to the context and process of the experiment” (2002: 1). The audio-recordedinterviews, both individual and group, were listened and transcribed, which itself is aprocess of data analysis and interpretation” (Gillham 2005: 121). The data wastranscribed comprehensively and the comments of the subjects were written down in therelevant section; sections were divided on the basis of the three subject categories foridentification purposes (ESL/EFL learners, teachers and practitioners). In grounded theory, data analysis and the later stages of data reduction likecoding, synthesis, etc. operate iteratively. Coding is a process of simultaneouslyreducing the data by dividing it into units of analysis and coding each unit (Calloway etal., 1995: 2. accessed from csis.pace.edu/~knapp/AIS95.htm, 17/08/07). The raw datathat emerged from subjects’ experience about language anxiety was reduced into ‘unitsof analysis’ on the basis of common themes and by analysing the language patterns ofthe participants. These units were codified by giving them suitable headings like ‘beliefsabout language learning’, ‘fear of making mistakes’, ‘cultural differences’, etc. Forfurther reduction, these categories were integrated and synthesized into four sets of corecategories (1995: 3): psycholinguistic, socio-cultural, manifestation of anxiety, andalleviation strategies. These categories were used to explain the phenomenon underinvestigation (language anxiety), which is the theory developed based on the data. 38