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Language Learning Is A Complex Process English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 850 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Spielberger defined as the subjective feeling of tension, apprehension, nervousness and worry associated with an arousal of the autonomic nervous system. It is a psychological and physical response to a threat to certain values which the person holds as essential to his existence (May, 1977). Foreign language classes is perceived by many students as more anxiety provoking than other classes (Horwitz et al., 1986). Although some past researches suggested that foreign language anxiety may be facilitating (Chastain, 1975; Kleinmann, 1977), recent studies have proved that its effect is more debilitating to the language learning process (e.g. Philips, 1992; Aida, 1994; Donley, 1997; Von Wörde, 1998; Ando, 1999). In addition, MacIntyre and Gardner (1991) states that anxiety is really problematic to foreign language learners since it hinders the “acquisition, retention and production of the new language”.

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“Foreign language anxiety” (FLA) is a new term coined by Horwitz et al. (1986). It is a specific type of anxiety experienced by learners of foreign and second language learners. It is the feeling of stress and nervousness which affect non-native speakers while studying a foreign or second language. Horwitz, Horwitz, and Cope (1986) define FLA as a complex phenomenon which consists of “self-perceptions, beliefs, feeling, and behaviours related to classroom language learning arising from the uniqueness of the language learning process”. Young (1992) defined it as a complex psychological phenomenon specific to language learning. A more general definition of FLA given by MacIntyre and Gardner (1994) describes it as a type of situation-specific anxiety in speaking, listening, and learning that is experienced by learners in the context of second or foreign language learning. Moreover, MacIntyre (1995) pointed that anxiety may facilitate or debilitate the learner’s academic performance. According to Spielberger et al (2005) FLA is the fear that a person feels when using a second or foreign language in which he is not proficient. He describes it as the tendency of the individual to react nervously when using the second language in the different linguistics skills, (i.e. speaking, listening, reading and writing). Since then researchers have produced a considerable number of studies to prove that it is not merely an abstract issue, but a reality for foreign language students (e.g., Casado & Dereshiwsky, 2001; Coryell & Clark, 2009; Kostić-Bobanović, 2009; Liu, 2006; Liu & Jackson, 2008; MacIntyre & Gardner, 1994a; Tallon, 2009; Von Wörde, 2003).

According to Horwitz et al (1986) the main causes of foreign language anxiety to communication apprehension, fear of negative evaluation and test anxiety. Communication apprehension prevents the learner to develop communication skills in the target language. Likewise, fear of negative evaluation is the learners feeling that the teacher and other classmates may negatively evaluate their language ability (Horwitz et al.; 1986). According to Horwitz et al (1986), test anxiety is related to the performance of the learner. He considers the task or test as a threat instead of an opportunity to improve his language skills (Dörney, 2001).

Horwitz et al (1986) pioneered the first instrument to measure the foreign language anxiety named as the Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale (FLCAS). Since then, various studies have been conducted to define the relationship between foreign language anxiety and performance of learners. There is a general agreement that FLA has a negative effect on the language learning process and performance (Horwitz et al., 1986; MacIntyre & Gardner, 1991; Phillips, 1992; Young, 1991). Horwitz (2000) further adds, “countless language learners and teachers across the world identify with the experience of foreign language anxiety, and the potential of anxiety to interfere with learning and performance is one of the most accepted phenomena in psychology and education”. There is a general agreement among researchers that there is a consistent moderate negative correlation between FLA and learners’ performance (Aida, 1994; Horwitz et al., 1986; MacIntyre & Gardner, 1991; Phillips, 1992; Saito & Samimy, 1996; Coulombe , 2000; Kim , 1998).

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Foreign language speaking anxiety (FLSA) is specific type of anxiety which prevents the learner to communicate in the target language. Horwitz et al. (1986) suggested that FLA frequently occurs also in speaking in the form of a shyness characterized by fear of communicating in the foreign language. Tsiplakides and Keramida (2009) concluded that FLSA has a negative influence on students’ performance and they also proved that a decrease in anxiety automatically causes an increase in students’ motivation and hence performance is enhanced. However there are very few studies conducted to explore the reality FLSA and determine its impact on the learning process from the students’ perspective.


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