Foreign Language Anxiety and Language Performance: A Study of Learner Anxiety in Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced-Level College Students of Japanese


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    Yoshiko Saito (Ph.D., The Ohio State University) is Assistant Professor of Japanese Language at The University of Texas at Austin.

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    Keiko K. Samimy (Ph.D., The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) is Associate Professor of Foreign Language Education at The Ohio State University, Columbus.


ABSTRACT  Japanese language study among American university students has dramatically increased since 1986. However, despite initial enthusiasm, high attrition rates have been reported. One reason often cited for this attrition is the perceived degree of difficulty of the Japanese language because of its “truly foreign” nature (Jorden and Walton 1987), which can be initially anxiety-provoking for students whose first language is English.

In the present study, the role of language learner anxiety, among other affective variables of students studying Japanese, is examined in relation to students' language performance at three different instructional levels.

The results of the study indicate that with these students of Japanese the predictive variable of their performance was different from the beginning level to the intermediate- and the advanced-level students. For beginning students, the Year in College was identified as the best predicting factor, while Language Class Anxiety was the best predictor for both intermediate-and advanced-level students.

The results of the present study corroborate earlier anxiety studies in the commonly taught languages: in the finding that foreign language anxiety can have a negative impact on Japanese learners' performance. The present study, however, reveals that the influence of foreign language anxiety becomes more important as Japanese learners' instructional levels increase. It is clear that in order to reduce the debilitating effect of language class anxiety, teachers of Japanese need to become aware of these differences in terms of the learners' affective states and respond to them accordingly.