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Malaysia was one of the countries accepted the arguments of planners and set about to build up its national language. English role and status of was reduced and Bahasa Melayu as official medium of government and education after Malaysia declared independent from British colonial rule. According to Kaur Gill (2005) cited that the transformation in the role and the status of national language and English over the next half century is influenced by politics, nationalism, economics and science and technology (Kaplan & Baldauf, 1997: 154; Martel, 2001: 35) which have exercise different degrees of influence. English become the dominant language of knowledge and intellect in science and technology. Today, English is an important language to acquire in order to be part of the world as many countries including Malaysia exercised English as a second language.
While the government will implement vigorously the teaching of Malay language, measures will be taken to ensure that English is taught as a strong second language. This is important if Malaysia is to keep abreast of scientific and technological developments in the world and participate meaningfully in international trade and commerce (Third Malaysia plan 1976- 80, 1976: 397).
In this statement, it is clearly stated that English has been given a special place in education because of its important role and value in international trade and commerce. Language policies have been changing due to political and economic as Malaysia continually develops, the use of the language expands rapidly. Maya Khemlani noted that;
Education has always been an important variable in language planning initiatives. It is one of the sectors where the implementation of the language policies normally starts. Students in schools, colleges and universities are taught the language and are encouraged to use the language in different domains of communication. Educators and other professionals in different fields are encouraged and motivated to write and publish books, articles and other written materials that will help to promote the language...(2005)
It is clearly shows that, the role of education are important as to enhance and promote the target language. Students who are about to pursue their first-degree courses in public institutions of higher learning in Malaysia are required to sit for MUET (Malaysian University English Test). This test is to measure pre-university students' proficiency level administered by the Malaysian Examination Council. The test includes listening, speaking, reading comprehension, and writing. Students are classified into six level of achievement which are Band 1 (below 100), Band 2 (100-139), Band 3 (140-179), Band 4 (180-219), Band 5 (220-259) and Band 6 (260-300). It is designed that students who scored poorly in MUET are required to attend several English classes as to attain to a certain level of proficiency. According to Hiu Luang Peng et al. cited that;
Many people assume that Band Three (Modest User) is the passing grade for MUET, but according to Malaysian Examinations Council (MEC) subject officer, Khatija Mohd Tahir, this is not the case. There is no pass or fail mark. MUET is a criterion-referenced test as students' ability is measured against a set of criteria in terms of language proficiency required of university undergraduates' in. "The results show that students who do badly in the test simply do not have the (English) language ability to cope with university-level studies." To be able to use English effectively in university, Khatija says undergraduates should have a minimum Band Four (Competent User) (New Straits Times 26 October 2003). (2004)
Most of the students who sit in these classes find that English is a difficult language to master especially in writing and speaking. These students feel shy, uncertain, and unsecure when they are asked to speak in English. Since English has been taught at primary school level, it supposed to be comfortable for them to communicate in English. Many research has been done on language learning area and found that anxiety can have a detrimental effect based on speaking performance yet numerous studies have found that anxiety is negatively related to language performance (MacIntyre 1999). Students' anxiety in the language classroom is a competence-based. The students become anxious because they are unconfident with their language abilities. They are concerned about how their use of the target language will be evaluated by the interculator or target community.
Anxiety is a normal, even for a native speaker and over time, individual may find ways to reduce it. Too much anxiety will reduce and affect performances. The psychologist interpreted anxiety in either three of ways; traits anxiety, state anxiety and situation specific anxiety. Traits anxiety refers to an anxious person which relatively stable personal traits. She or he will feel anxious every time. Whereas, state anxiety refers to temporary condition experienced at particularly moment for example, a student worried about the punishment after being caught skipping classes by the principle. Situation specific anxiety reflects a trait that happens in specific situation. A person is nervous when he or she has to speak in English in front of the whole class.
Theoretically distinction between anxiety, phobia and fear are based on the degree to which the emotion is specific to a stimulus, or it appropriateness to a situation. Anxiety consists of unpleasant feelings of tension, apprehension, nervousness ad worry which serve to alert us to need to cope with stress. Anxiety may thus be legitimately labelled "normal" by statistical norms because of common occurrence, since everyone goes through anxiety to some extent from time to time. Falling in love, getting married, having a baby, passing an examination, may all be pleasurable but the very excitement produced by them may disturb other things in life and, because of this make demands upon the powers of coping of the individual concerns. The final effect upon the individual is the summation of the effects of good and bad events, of trying to overcome difficulties and of driving oneself to increase achievement. Therefore, it is the combine effect of workload and the challenges of social life, which may bring not only the anxious face to face with difficulties, even the apparently thought, can reach the limitation of their coping ability. Anxiety is a vast used concept within the psychological literature yet it is often used to indicate diverse meanings. Fear, phobia, neurosis and anxiety are the terms that often used interchangeably, with definitional problems further complicated by the overlap in use of the terms anxiety and stress. Anxiety is not only presumed to underlie 'anxiety disorders' such as agoraphobia, panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post traumatic stress but anxiety also covers language learning anxiety. The terms anxiety thus has many meanings as reflected in both psychological definitions and lay description; it is possible to say that 'I am an anxious person', that 'I am anxious when at the dentist', that 'I feel anxious' or that 'I avoided the party because I was anxious about meeting people'. According to Edelmann (1992), he cited that, anxiety involves responses in three main behavioural systems; motor behaviour, linguistic expression and psychological states. Avoidance behaviour, increased or decreased gesturing, changes in posture and trembling are examples of motor responses. The linguistics expression component includes (verbal-cognitive systems by Lang 1968, 1971), which refers to 'cognitive events' or verbal reporting such events which includes all aspects of the individual's perception and evaluation of the stimuli concerned. Increases in heart rate, respiration, sweat gland activity, and muscle tone are generally assumed associated with psychological component. Language learning anxiety has a devastating effect on language learning process. According to Lindy Woodrow (2006), she cited that;
Language learning anxiety is too specific to be captured by general anxiety measures (2006).
In the statement, it is undoubtedly stated that general anxiety measures is different from learning anxiety. Learning anxiety is too specific and could not be captured by general anxiety measures which means learning anxiety and anxiety are different. Foreign language classroom anxiety scales (FLCAS) (Horwitz 1986; Aida 1994; Philips 1992; Cheng 1999), language class anxiety (Saito & Sammy 1996), French class anxiety and French use anxiety (MacIntyre & Gradner 1989) are the types of measure that have been used in the past studies.
The purpose of this research is to study the effect of anxiety towards language performance of students. The specific objectives are to determine the level of anxiety of students and to examine the relationship between the level of anxiety and speaking performance of students. For this purpose, we address ourselves to the following questions: what is the level of anxiety of the students? What is the relationship between the level of anxiety and speaking performance of students? This study will benefit the scholars, lecturers and students thus, can help learners to minimize the anxious feeling and perform better in speaking.