Language Anxiety Has Been Given Great Concern English Language Essay

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Language anxiety has been given great concern in the foreign language research over the last decades. It was conceptualized into a unique type of anxiety named "foreign language anxiety" (FLA) by Horwitz et al. in 1986. This dissertation is concerned with a specific type of foreign language anxiety in the speaking skill of learners named "foreign language speaking anxiety" (FLSA). It seeks to find the effect of FLSA on learners' achievement at university level. More specifically, it endeavors to measure university students' foreign language speaking anxiety (FLSA) by focusing on its main causes, understanding how it affects the learning process and determining the extent of its influence on students' achievement. As an Arabic teacher, I teach Arabic Language as a foreign language to non-Arabic speakers at different levels. I have observed that the FLSA is an important issue and can be a real obstacle which hinders the achievement of the set aims goals and objectives of the learning process. It prevents students to participate in oral classroom activities. It has a direct impact on the student's attitude and motivation and hence it adversely affects the whole learning process. Since many students experience this anxiety, I thought it interesting to investigate students' perspective of FLSA in higher studies.

1.2. Problem Statement

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Language learning is a complex process which requires a huge amount of effort (Young, 1991). It consists of several core issues such as the content of the language, cognition, learning behaviours, prior language experience, learner personality, classroom circumstance, culture, pragmatics, and intergroup relations (Young, 1991; Moraes, 1996; Huebner, 1998). Other factors such as the nature of the target language and its relationship with the learner's native language play important roles in the foreign language learning process. All these may complicate the language learning process by causing students frustration and anxiety. Although there are several factors which influence language learning, it is a fact that some language learners are more successful than others. In order to explain this difference in language learning, Gass and Selinker (2008) mention a number of cognitive and affective factors such as affect, social distance, age, aptitude, motivation, personality, and learning styles and strategies, which influence the language learning process. While some of these factors are fixed such as aptitude, there are others that can be changed to enhance language learning, such as the affect. The affective or emotional factor is as important as the cognitive aspect (Arnold & Brown, 1999). According to Arnold and Brown (1999) learner's "anxiety is quite possible the affective factor that most pervasively obstructs the learning process", and if it is given the due attention it deserves, it can enhance the learning process.

Spielberger (1983) 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".

"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).

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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).

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.

1.3. Research aims and objectives

The aim of this study is to find the relationship between the foreign language speaking anxiety (FLSA) and the learners' achievement. This aim is further divided into the following objectives:

To assess the level of foreign language speaking anxiety among foreign language students at the UTM.

To identify the major factors that cause foreign language speaking anxiety among those learners.

To assess the effect of foreign language speaking anxiety on students.

To find out students' view on the solutions to decrease the foreign language anxiety.

1.4. Research questions

Following the aims and objectives set above, this study has five research questions:

1. What is the level of FLSA of UTM students as foreign language learners?

2. What are the main causes of FLSA?

3. What are the effects of FLSA on foreign language learners of UTM?

5. What can be done to allay the FLA?

1.5. Significance of the research

Foreign language class is considered as one of the most stressful course by many students (Horwitz & al; 1986). The students face a specific type of anxiety called the foreign language anxiety (FLA) which hinders the learning process and impedes the attainment of expected learning outcomes. Thus foreign language teachers have to locate students affected by FLA, especially in the speaking skill, and then take the necessary remedial steps to provide a better language learning environment.

In this study FLSA was examined from different aspects and its relationship with the students' achievement was defined. Thus, the findings of this study will be of special interest to all the different stakeholders of foreign language learning such as teachers, curriculum developers and language program directors and language specialists. Its significance is even greater since different educational and professional institutions, both public and private, are involved in foreign language learning to meet the growing demand of existing and emerging sectors such as communication and journalism, tourism and hospitality, translation and interpretation and the fast-growing business processing outsourcing (B.P.O.) sector.

Moreover the results of this study will shed more light on the existing FLSA issue and will definitely add to the existing knowledge of FLA, FLSA and students' achievement. Likewise, this study will motivate foreign language program developers to take the necessary remedial and preventive measures to find solutions for this issue. Finally, this study is really significant since it comes at the right time where educational and professional institutions are moving towards innovative pedagogy driven by technological tools such as e-learning, blended-learning, mobile-learning or even the language laboratory. Therefore the findings of this study can gear the integration of new technology and pedagogy towards bringing solutions to FLSA in order to provide the most suitable learning environment to the learners and hence optimize efficiency and effectiveness of the foreign language learning courses.

1.6. Organisation of the research

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This dissertation includes six chapters:

Chapter 1 has outlined the background, problem statement, research aim and objectives, research questions, and significance of this study.

Chapter 2 briefly reviews the related literature in the fields of foreign language learning, foreign language anxiety, and the causes of FLA and the related coping strategies. It firstly provides a general picture of anxiety and language learning, then a further review of the theories concerning foreign language anxiety and foreign language learning or performance, the research on the sources of FLA, and the significance of FLSA research. This chapter ends with a discussion of the research gaps that this study aims to fill.

Chapter 3 discusses the research methodology employed in this study. It starts with an introduction of the participants in the study. After that, the two research instruments - questionnaire surveys and group interviews - are introduced in turn, and the data collection procedures, data analysis methods, and the considerations for validity and reliability of each instrument are discussed in some detail.

Chapter 4 presents the results and findings of the research.

Chapter 5 discusses the results and findings yielded in this study and compare them with those in the previous research.

Chapter 6 concludes with a discussion of the contributions, implications, and limitations of the present study, ending with some suggestions for future research.