Learning Anxiety in the Language Classroom

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Language Learning Anxiety The effect of anxiety on a students’ learning – how are teachers able to help, and what are some suggestions for the classroom. Anxiety can be defined as a subjective feeling of tension, apprehension, nervousness, and worry associated with an arousal of the autonomic nervous system (Pappamihiel, 2002). When anxiety is limited to the learning of a language, it falls into a category known as “specific anxiety reactions” (Horwitz, Horwitz & Cope, 1986). Language anxiety can be defined as fear or apprehension occurring when a learner is expected to perform in the second or foreign language and is seen as a distinct complex of self-perceptions, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors related to classroom language learning arising from the uniqueness of the language learning process (Gardner and MacIntyre, 1993, Pappamihiel, 2002). Students, who have a specific learning anxiety relating to learning a language, often have feelings of worry, dread, or feel as if though they have a mental block when it comes to understanding the language. All of these feelings can lead to a student’s avoidance behaviour. They may procrastinate when it comes to homework and assignments, avoid talking and answering questions in class, and may even begin to skip class in order to avoid the feelings of anxiety (Horwitz, Horwitz & Cope, 1986). There are three main components to language anxiety within students, which are apparent through communication apprehension, fear of negative social evaluation, and test anxiety or apprehension over academic evaluation (Sarason, 1984). Difficulty when speaking in class is one of the most cited concerns students have when discussing their anxiety about learning a language (Curran, 1976). Amongst the ot... ... middle of paper ... ... 276–295 Oxford, R. (1990). Language learning strategies (1st ed.). Boston: Heinle & Heinle. Pappamihiel, N. (2002). English as a second language students and English language anxiety: Issues in the mainstream classroom. Research In The Teaching Of English, 36(3), 327--355. Sarason, I. (1984). Stress, anxiety, and cognitive interference: reactions to tests. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 46(4), 929. Steinberg, F., & Horwitz, E. (1986). The effect of induced anxiety on the denotative and interpretive content of second language speech. Tesol Quarterly, 20(1), 131--136. Tudge, J. (1990) Vygotsky, the zone of proximal development and peer collaboration: Implications for classroom practice. In L. Moll (Ed.), Vygotsky and education: Instructional implications and applications of sociohistorical psychology (pp. 155-172). New York: Cambridge University Press.
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