An Investigation of Students' Perspectives on Anxiety and Speaking


  • Dolly Jesusita Young

    1. University of Tennessee
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      Dolly Jesusita Young (Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin) is Assistant Professor of Spanish at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville


ABSTRACT  Language anxiety is becoming an important area of research in our profession. Debilitating language anxiety can have profound consequences on the language learning process. The purpose of this study is to examine anxiety and speaking from the students' perspective. Do speaking activities indeed make students nervous? If so, what is it about speaking that makes students anxious? Which speaking activities make students particularly uncomfortable? Can instructors do anything to reduce anxiety, particularly speaking anxiety, in the classroom?

A questionnaire designed to identify sources of anxiety over speaking in the foreign language was administered to 135 university-level beginning Spanish students and 109 high school students. The questionnaire had three sections: the first one asked students to agree or disagree with twenty-four items related to language anxiety; the second section asked students to indicate their level of anxiety regarding certain in-class practices; the third section asked learners to identify instructor characteristics and instructor practices that helped reduce language anxiety. Results of the analysis of data suggest, among other things, that speaking in the foreign language in not exclusively the source of student anxiety, but that speaking in front of the class is. Furthermore, the instructor's relaxed and positive error-correction attitude can greatly reduce language anxiety. Additional suggestions for reducing language anxiety are offered