Foreign learners’ characters, and classroom environment. As a matter

Foreign language speaking anxiety


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The literature on anxiety
generally distinguishes three types of anxiety: trait, situation-specific, and
state anxiety (MacIntyre & Gardner, 1989, 1991; Spielberger, 1966).
Horwitz, Horwitz, and Cope (1986) defined foreign language anxiety as “a
distinct complex set of self-perceptions, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors
related to classroom language learning arising from the uniqueness of the
language learning process” (p.128).

Some researchers (Horwitz,
Horwitz, and Cope, 1986) suggested that foreign language
anxiety should be viewed as a situation-specific anxiety unique to foreign
language learning and independent of other types of anxieties. They also
identified three anxieties related to foreign language anxiety – communication
apprehension (McCroskey, 1970), fear of negative evaluation (Watson &
Friend, 1969), and test anxiety (Sarason, 1978) – to help language teachers and
scholars understand the nature of foreign language anxiety. In addition, they
offered an instrument, the Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale (FLCAS), to
measure foreign language anxiety.)

Students who exhibit communication
apprehension do not feel comfortable communicating in the target language in
front of others, due to their limited knowledge of the language, especially in
relation to speaking and listening skills. Students who experience fear of
negative evaluation do not consider language errors as a natural part of the
learning process, but as a threat to their image, and a source for negative
evaluations either from the teacher or their peers. As a result, they are
silent and withdrawn most of the time, and do not participate in language
activities (Ely 1986). Students who experience test anxiety consider the
foreign language process, and especially oral production, as a test situation,
rather than an opportunity for communication and skills improvement.

Dörnyei (2005) adds that two
important anxiety distinctions are usually made in the literature: beneficial/facilitating
vs. inhibitory/debilitating anxiety. As the names suggest, beneficial
anxiety triggers action and excitement and it facilitates the way for success;
however, debilitating one places a barrier in front of a successful
performance. Scovel (1978) notes that an ordinary individual has both
facilitating and debilitating anxiety at the same time. Such type of combined
anxiety motivates the individual for any new phenomenon in language learning.

Factors associating with foreign
language anxiety:

Young (1991) stated that language
anxiety involves a complex, multifaceted reality which may affect the learners
in terms of their culture, previous language learning process, learners’
characters, and classroom environment. As a matter of fact, Six types of
sources of foreign language classroom anxiety have been identified (Young,
1991): personal and interpersonal anxieties, learner beliefs about language
learning, instructor beliefs about language learning, instructor-learner
interactions, classroom procedures, and testing.

Speaking in foreign language is
considered to be the most anxiety inducing factor (Zhang & Zhong, 2012,
p.30; as cited in Chowdhury). Factors responsible for foreign language speaking
anxiety are as follows:

Lack of competence in foreign language
linguistic items:Fear of being inferior:Fear of performance in test situation:Competitive attitudes in language class:Fear of interaction with proficient speaker:Fear of being prominent:Social factors:Teacher persuaded language anxiety:Role of learners’ background knowledge:Learners’ high ambition:

Speaking anxiety

Anxiety has a debilitating effect
on any kind of learning process including second/foreign language learning
which is highly affected by various affective variables (Horwitz, Horwitz,
& Cope, 1986; MacIntyre & Gardner, 1991). State anxiety is considered,
by many researchers, to be more detrimental to learners than situational

Speaking has been generally
recognized as the most anxiety- provoking skill associated with foreign
language learning. For example, Horwitz, Horwitz and Cope (1986) identified
communication apprehension to be conceptually relevant to foreign language
anxiety. Palacios (1998) found that speaking caused the most anxiety among the
learners. Price (1991) reported that for learners the most anxiety-provoking
thing in learning a foreign language is speaking in front of their peers as
they are afraid of making mistakes and being laughed at. Similar results were
obtained by Pertaub, Slater and Carter (2001) stating that anxiety is fostered
when speakers have to deliver a speech in the foreign language or talk to
foreigners as they experience the fear of being judged or humiliated by others.

Tunaboylu (1993) stated that there
are many reasons why students tend to be silent listeners rather than active
speakers in oral English classes. The most important reason is the
psychological pressure of making mistakes in the presence of their classmates
and the second reason is their poor vocabulary. McCroskey et al., (1999)
examined levels of Communication Apprehension (CA) among
Japanese students in native and second language (English). The results
indicated that Japanese students have high (CA) in both languages.

Meihua Liu (2007) reported the
result of a case study on anxiety in oral English classrooms in a Chinese
university. The study revealed that anxiety was experienced by a considerable
number of students when speaking English in class, the students reported to be
the most anxious when singled out to speak English in class or giving
presentations at the front while the least during pair work, and most of the
students felt helpless about being anxious when speaking English in class.

Horwitz, et al (1991) stated that
a student’s performance in the language classroom is not only graded by the
teacher, but commented on by fellow students in the same classroom as well.
Students may be sensitive to the evaluations, either real or imagined, of their
peers. Koch and Terrell (1991) indicated that Learners speaking in front of
their peers is another source of anxiety in learning a foreign language.
MacIntyre & Gardner (1991) stated that fear of negative evaluation was
closely related to communication apprehension. It’s a significant cause of
communication apprehension. Students with fear of negative evaluation are
worried that others might not understand the content they are talking about in
the second language.

Price’s study (1991) indicated
that learners are afraid of making pronunciation errors in classroom. Young
(1991) argued that the reason why learners do not participate in the classroom
activities is the fear of committing a verbal error. Koch and Terell (1991)
concluded that activities such as giving oral presentations, doing role-plays
and defining words are among the most anxiety provoking factors in the
classroom setting. Jones, (2004) found that the participants frequently
expressed that learners feel afraid, and even panic because of the fear of
committing mistakes or errors in front of others, or because of “a fear of
appearing awkward, foolish and incompetent in the eyes of learners’ peers or

A study conducted by Liu and
Jackson (2008) reported that foreign language anxiety has negative impact on
the willingness of students to communicate in classrooms. The two research
studies showed that factors such as lack of vocabulary, low English proficiency
and memory disassociation lead to anxiety.

Cheng et al. (1999) examined the
relationship between FL classroom anxiety as well as their association with FL
speaking and writing achievement. The findings suggested that FL classroom
anxiety is a more general type of anxiety whereas FL writing anxiety is a more
language skill specific one. Finally, low self-confidence was an influential
factor in both types of anxiety. In addition, research has also highlighted
impact of speaking anxiety on other domains, including, language achievement,
learners’ actual proficiency and performance, gender, prior foreign language
experience, negative evaluation and self-evaluation.

Dalk?l?ç (2001) examined the
relationship between the FL anxiety and achievement of Turkish freshmen EFL
learners in their speaking courses. His findings revealed a strong correlation
between the participating students’ anxiety levels and their success in the
course. In addition, Ay (2010) stated that students feel more anxious when they
are required to speak without being prepared.

Another factor which is closely
related to FL anxiety is learners’ actual proficiency and performance. The
research findings have shown conflicting results. In the study on the
relationship between proficiency level and degree of FL speaking anxiety conducted
by Balemir (2009), a moderate level of speaking anxiety among Turkish EFL
university students was found.

Gender also seemed to play a
pivotal role in FL anxiety. The obtained results of the studies conducted by
MacIntyre et al. (2002) and Park and French (2013) reported that female
learners regard FL speaking as more nerve-wrecking than their male
counterparts. Similarly, in Turkey, the findings of Öztürk and Gürnüz’s (2012)
study revealed that gender has impact on foreign
language speaking anxiety; particularly females are more anxious while speaking
in the target language. In contrast, in a study performed by Kitano (2011) male
students were more anxious as they perceived themselves less competent.

Furthermore, a number of studies
emphasized the relationship between anxiety and prior language learning
experience (Baker & MacIntrye, 2000; Gardner et al., 1979) the findings
revealed that anxiety level decreases after students spend some time in the
target language environment. In other words, students show more confidence and
higher perceived competence after being engaged in immersion programs.

Kitano (2001) carried out another
study looking at the two causes of anxiety namely, negative evaluation and
self-perceived speaking ability. Data collected from the Japanese university
students showed that the stronger the individual
student’s fear of negative evaluation was, the higher his/her anxiety was and
also the findings reported that the fear of negative evaluation and
self-perceived speaking ability did not interact and had no influence on the
individual student’s anxiety level.

Fang-Peng and Don (2010)
investigated the factors regarding spoken English anxiety among Chinese college
students and suggested some recommendations to reduce anxiety in oral production:
cultivating the students to be accustomed to listening to English and thinking
in English, asking students to imitate the recordings, promoting student’s
self-correction as well as encouraging them to speak English to enhance their

Tianjian (2010) also investigated
the speaking anxiety of Chinese EFL learners as well as the relationships of
speaking anxiety with other domains, including trait anxiety, unwillingness to
communicate, language achievement, speaking self-efficacy, language class
risk-taking, and language class sociability. The findings of the study
indicated that over 50% of the students reported undergoing moderate or high
levels of speaking anxiety. Moreover, this affective problem did not differ
significantly over gender, but differed significantly over proficiency groups.
Personality factors were also found to be the primary grounds of speaking
anxiety; and mutual impacts occur between language achievement and speaking