Nonverbal Cues: Clues to the Detection of Foreign Language Anxiety


  • Tammy S. Gregersen

    1. University of Northern Iowa
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      Tammy S. Gregersen (PhD, Universidad Católica de Valparaiso) is Assistant Professor of TESOL at the University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa


Abstract: This observation study examined the nonverbal behavior of anxious and nonanxious foreign language learners during a videotaped oral foreign language exam. Focusing primarily on the kinesic signals found in facial expressions, gazing behavior, body movement and gesture, and posture, it was discovered that anxious learners manifested limited facial activity including brow behavior and smiling; maintained less eye contact with the teacher; were more rigid and closed with their posture; and, although they self-touched and manipulated objects more than the nonanxious, they used fewer illustrative and regulatory gestures. Although significant differences were found, limitations for using nonverbal observation for detecting anxiety are discussed.