Vol.1 No.1 July - December 2013 ISSN: 2321 - 6530

THE DEGREE OF JORDANIAN LEARNERS' FOREIGN LANGUAGE ANXIETY



DR. Mohammad Yahya Bani Salameh(From Jordan)
Department of English, Faculty of Arts, Ajloun National University
And
DR. Faiq Mahmoud Salameh(From Jordan)
Etisalat Academy,Dubai,Sr. Manager, business training


Introduction

Foreign language learning anxiety has been the subject of a growing body of research that indicates anxiety routinely affects many language learners. Although in the past there were few studies of classroom anxiety of Asian learners. Foreign language anxiety has been of interest to language educators for decades. The psychological construct of foreign language anxiety multidimensional (Horwitz, Horwitz,& Cope, 1986; Young, 1992). Foreign or second language learning, unlike many other subjects, can leave learners feeling vulnerable and personally at-risk for feeling inadequate, unskilled, or unintelligent. “To study how we learn a new language is to study how the body, mind, and emotions fuse to create self-expression” (Young, 1999, p.13). At the core of learning a new language a student learns how to communicate his or her own personally meaningful and conversationally appropriate messages through new phonological, syntactic, semantic, and sociolinguistic structures (Horwitz, 1999). Many people believe that anxiety in new language learning situations stems from previous experiences in similar settings. The following paragraphs describe language education’s path over the past half century. It seems that in the Iranian EFL (English Foreign Language) contexts, little research has been done in the areas FL anxiety. So, the main purpose of this study was to detect Iranian EFL learners’ foreign language anxiety.

Methodology

This study employed descriptive research method aiming at comparing EFL anxiety. In view of the purpose of this study, the research questions are addressed as follows:

Research Questions
In order to achieve the purpose of the study, two research questions are addressed as follows:

  1. What kinds of in-class activities are high anxiety-provoking to Jordanian EFL learners ?
  2. What kinds of in-class activities are less anxiety-provoking to Jordanian EFL learners ?
  3. What are pedagogical implications ?

Participants
The participants in this study contained fifty Jordanian EFL learners’ intermediate level, (second year) at Ajloun National University in Jordan. After the administration of 32 questionnaires to all the learners’ and who agreed to participate in this study.

Data Analysis
The data of this study were analyzed with a percentage value. Data collected from the Learners questionnaires were analyzed.


The High Anxity - Provoking Activities
Table 1. The High Anxiety – Provoking Activities

Item Description Mean
2. I feel embarrassed when I don't say English words correctly. 58%
3. Students practice conversations Individually with the instructor. 64%
6. I can feel my heart pounding when I am going to be called on in my language class. 54%
7. Students have English oral tests. 68%
9. In my language class, I keep thinking that the other students are better at English than I am. 52%
10. Students have debates in class. 66%
11. Students are called on by the instructor to give an answer. 82%
14. I am afraid that the other students will laugh at me when I make mistake. 40%
16. I never feel quite sure of myself when I am speaking English in my language class. 40%
17. I get upset when I don't understand what the teacher is correcting. 54%
18. Students work in groups of 2 or 3 to do role-plays. 66%
20. In my language class, I get so nervous that I forget things I know. 78%
21. I don't volunteer answers in my language class because I am afraid of making mistakes. 58%
24. Students make English oral presentation in front of the class. 82%
25. Students introduce themselves in English in front of the whole class. 86%
30. In my language class, it embarrasses me to volunteer for answers I know. 38%
31. It frightens me when my English teacher is ready to correct every mistake I make. 52%
32. I get nervous when I cannot speak English correctly in my language class. 90%


As shown in Table 1, the following items 10, 24, 32 the high anxiety-provoking classroom activities extracted were all sorted as oral-oriented activities. They all required EFL learners’ exposure to the public speaking situation, and involved in the risk of being evaluated by others, such as the activities that asked learners to make oral presentations in front of the class, or do role-plays. It appeared that the learners often treated these public-speaking classroom practices as potentially threatening pressure that leaded to their high level of anxiety. Most EFL learners were afraid of speaking English in public because they thought they would be overseen, and judged by the audience (e.g., their teacher and peers) while speaking or performing in English.

Not surprisingly, the students’ reactions on those anxiety-provoking activities were in line with their statements they reported on the practice that they disliked to experience in the research question one. For example, the following three activities, 10, 24, 32 (e.g., having an impromptu, debates, and English oral presentations in front of the class) were the ones that the students disliked the low-preference group. It is understandable that the learners disliked these activities because they thought they would suffer in an anxious and uneasy climate when doing these activities. According to the statistical data, around 60% of the students reported that they were situated at an anxious or even a great anxious level when exposing to these three activities (e.g., 66%, 82%, and 90% for the activity of having unprepared speeches, debates and, oral presentations, respectively).

(Column Chart 1)

(Area Chart 1)


The Less Anxity - Provoking Activities
Table 2. The Less Anxiety – Provoking Activities

Item Description Mean
1. Students learn English in group of 3 or 4. 62%
4. I feel confident when I speak English in my language class. 80%
5. The instructor translates the sentence patterns. 82%
8. I don't understand why some people get so upset over language classes. 68%
12. I don't get upset when I am corrected by the teacher in my language. 68%
13. I don't worry about working in my English class. 74%
15. Students do the exercises in the book. 86%
19 I feel very self-conscious about speaking English in front of my classmates. 66%
22. Students do "strip strong" activities. 68%
23. Students have follow-up discussions after watching films. 88%
26. Students interview each other and practice conversations in pairs. 62%
27. The instructor teaches various festivals. 65%
28. Students give feedback or correct "peers" oral and written errors. 58%
29. The instructor directly gives on oral and written errors. 76%


As shown in Table 2, the following activities are less anxiety-provoking activities, 1, 26, 28 belonged to the form of oral activities which found to be group-oriented activities This finding suggested that group learning activities tended to lower learners’ anxiety. It appeared that the EFL learners in the oral training classes would not easily experience high level of anxiety if there were companions to work with them. Undoubtedly, the results from previous research have shown that group-related techniques and materials put great concern for affective dimension of the FL or second language learning process. Much research indicated that the affective advantages were likely to accrue from applying group-oriented activities that the learners would practice language more but feel less anxious. The following statements from the open-ended questions in the questionnaire express the students’ viewpoints on the benefit of producing less anxiety when doing those group-oriented activities.

(Column Chart 2)

(Area Chart 2)


Conclusion

They preferred receiving the teacher’s translation and immediate error correction, but they also favored communicative activities, such as group work and festival teaching activities. Oral-oriented classroom activities, like having debates and oral presentations, were revealed to be anxiety-provoking in that they shared certain features in common which required the learners’ exposure to a public speaking situation and involved in the risk of being evaluated by others.

Implications

Whether a student experiences anxiety that stems from a language learning disability, from negative language experiences in his or her past, from cultural or personal experience influences, or from personal expectations or other individual-specific explanations, anxiety is something that impacts the affective domain of learning in a very real way. The very uncomfortable experience of this emotion must be acknowledged and validated in the educational environment by the researcher, the instructor, and the learners themselves. Current language teaching philosophies include more naturalistic approaches to language acquisition, low-anxiety classroom instruction, and connection to individual prior knowledge, previous experience, and cultural background. Essentially, more research is necessary to understand better what language anxiety is and how it affects or is affected by a variety of situations and personal factors. And to accompany those studies, new work must be done to construct methodologies and strategies to create language classrooms that provide safe and natural, yet challenging, language acquisition opportunities, encouraging teacher’s exploration and awareness of learners’ in-class activity preferences and mismatches on activity preferences. To understand what their learners enjoy and want in their oral classes so that they can connect this information to find out what activities will motivate their learners and to cultivate learners’ speaking ability. Moreover, this study also encourages teachers to be aware of the initial conflicting views between their learners and themselves in order to avoid learners’ FL anxiety. It should be implied in Encouraging teacher’s integrated use of communicative and traditional activities. It was an interesting finding for teachers to consider that although the learners favored communicative activities in the oral classes, they still ranked traditional activities high. In view of this finding, this study encourages teachers to integrate the uses of these two types of activities in the oral classes so that learners can tackle both accuracy and fluency, and concern on the form-based structural teaching but still benefit from communicative activities focusing on real communication practice. It can be used in Encouraging teacher’s awareness of FL anxiety. In view of the findings of this study, the learners’ self-confidence was considered as the possible explanation accounting for the most relationships between FL anxiety and other background variables. It suggests that the negative correlation between FL anxiety and the learners’ self-confidence underscore the importance of building students’ confidence and self-esteem in the FL oral learning through, for example, creating comfortable, non-threatening, and supportive environments and providing enough positive encouragement and empathy. In addition, journal writing in either English or their native language is a good means suggested for learners to lower their anxiety because learners can document their thoughts, reactions, and experiences related to FL learning.

Limitations of the study

There are some variables not considered in this study which can be considered in further studies. These factors are as follows:

Gender and age of the learners were not considered, controlled or compared in this study. The sample of this study was limited. Studies can be done with large number of learners and see the result. The instrumentation in this study was limited (questionnaire) studies can be done with other instruments and see the results.

Suggestions for Future Studies

Every research has its own limitations and almost always there is a way to remove those limitations. According to the theoretical concepts and practice procedures in this study, some other related researches projects can be recommended:

The first one would be increasing the number of the participants of the research.

The second suggestion could be the inclusion of sex as a variable into the study and see the differences.

Finally, we did not consider different levels of proficiency of language learners' in this study. Only intermediate learners participated in this research.


REFERENCES

  • Aida, Y. (1994). Examination of Horwitz, Horwitz, and Cope’s construct of foreign language anxiety:
  • The case of students of Japanese, Modern Language Journal, 78, 155-168.
  • Brown, H.D. (1991). Breaking the language barrier, Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press.
  • Daly, J. (1991). Understanding communication apprehension: An introduction for language educators, In E.K. Horwitz and D.J. Young (Eds.), Language anxiety: From theory and research to classroom implications (pp. 169-176). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Gardner, R.C., Smythe, P.C., Clement, R., & Gliksman, L. (1976). Second language acquisition: A social psychological perspective, Canadian Modern Language Review, 32, 198-213.
  • Horwitz, E.K. (1986). Preliminary evidence for the reliability and validity of a foreign language anxiety scale, TESOL Quarterly, 20, 559-562.
  • Horwitz, E.K.,Horwitz, M. B.,& Cope, J.(1986). Foreign language classroom anxiety, Modern Language Journal, 70 (2), 125-132.
  • Horwitz, E.K. (1999). A practical guide to creating a low-anxiety classroom atmosphere (pp xi – xiii), In D. J. Young Ed., Affect in foreign language and second language learning: Boston: McGraw-Hill College.
  • Horwitz, E.K., Horwitz, M.B., & Cope, J.A. (1986). Foreign language classroom anxiety, The Modern Language Journal, 70, 125-132.
  • Horwtiz, E.K., Horwitz, M.B., & Cope, J.A. (1991). Foreign language classroom anxiety, In E.K. Horwitz & D.J.Young (Eds.), Language anxiety: From theory and research to classroom implications (27-36). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Horwitz, E.K., & Young, D. (1991). Language anxiety: From theory and research to classroom implication, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Krashen, S.D. (1982). Principles and practice in second language acquisition, New York: Pergamon.
  • MacIntyre, P.D. (1999). Language anxiety: A review of the research for language teachers, In D.J. Young (Ed.), Affect in second language learning: Creating a low-anxiety classroom atmosphere (pp. 24-45). San Francisco: McGraw-Hill.
  • MacIntyre, P.D., & Charos, C. (1995, June). Personality, motivation and willingness to communicate as predictors of second language communication, Paper presented at the annual conference of the Canadian Psychological Association, Charlottetown PEI.
  • Sparks, R.L., & Ganschow, L. (1993). Identifying and instructing at-risk foreign language learners in college, In D. Benseler (Ed.), The dynamics of language program direction (pp. 173-199). Boston: Heinle and Heinle.
  • Schumann, J. (1978b). The acculturation model for second language acquisition, In R. Gingras (Ed.), Second language acquisition and foreign language teaching (pp. 27-50). Arlington, VA: Center for Applied Linguistics.
  • Young, D. (1986). The relationship between anxiety and foreign language oral proficiency ratings, Foreign Language Annals, 19, 439-445.
  • Young, D. (1991). Creating a low-anxiety classroom environment: What does language anxiety research suggest?, The Modern Language Journal, 75(4).426-437.
  • Young, D.J. (1999). A perspective on foreign language learning: From body to mind to emotions, In D.J. Young (Ed.), Affect in foreign language and second language learning: A practical guide to creating a low-anxiety classroom atmosphere (pp. 13-23). Boston: McGraw-Hill College.



Go back to Topics page