How Much Of Your Self-Esteem Is Tied To Your Language Anxiety in a Second Language Learning

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Anxiety in a Second Language Learning

There are three types of anxiety in language learning. Anxiety is an affective factor and, like most affective factors, such as fatigue, anxiety and emotional disorders, anxiety can have an adverse effect on the learning of the second language

One type of anxiety is trait anxiety as Rod Ellis refers to “the disposition to be anxious” (1994). This is a general characteristic in the general personality of a person. The second type of anxiety is known as “state anxiety,” which is based on a student’s reaction to a specific learning situation such as taking an exam or giving an oral presentation. This is anxiety based on a specific learning situation. The third type is situational anxiety – specific that it is based on the general orientation of anxiety that is based on certain learning contexts in which a student does not perceive himself to be adequate or linguistically capable to acquire a skill in the context of speaking and/or reading. Anxiety can have a debilitating (increasing anxiety about learning) or a facilitating (alleviating anxiety about learning) effect. Ellis is related to anxiety as a result of the following factors:

1. Learners competitive nature

2. Teachers’ questions are threatened

3. Lack of a relaxed second language environment

Some students tend to switch off when confronted with a potentially threatening learning context. On the contrary, the switching off strategy can be employed by good students who find the material of language classes boring, not challenging enough, etc.

1. They try to find a gap in the teaching methodology and learning opportunities and therefore, they want to close that gap, but they are too anxious and therefore they cannot close the gap.

2. By switching off, they can either make their learning more enjoyable and opportunistic, or switch off completely due to the perceived threat.

In addition, students pursue the shutdown strategy to analyze a specific language learning task, function, element. Usually such students depend on the learning process and often let their emotions interfere in the learning process. The degree of anxiety can also be intensified by a few factors, which are often overlooked:

1. age – varies between adults and children and the learning context at hand.

2. Motivated – How motivated is the student to study the second language

3. Self-image. Does the student have enough self-confidence?

Because anxious students are usually bound by the emotional element(s), they often do not have enough self-awareness to regulate their learning and cannot return to a specific learning context. They are also unable to remember the content of the previous lesson.

Rod Ellis. (1994) Second language acquisition. Oxford University Press.

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