UNDERSTANDING LEARNER ANXIETY IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEARNING: A QUALITATIVE STUDY OF JAPANESE UNIVERSITY LEARNERS OF ENGLISH
1 Ferris University (JAPAN)
2 International Christian University (JAPAN)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2012 Proceedings
Publication year: 2012
Conference name: 6th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 5-7 March, 2012
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:Among various psychological factors in the field of second language acquisition and foreign language education research, language anxiety has often been regarded as a negative counterpart of language learning motivation and self-confidence (Horwitz et al., 1986; MacIntyre & Gardner, 1989; Young, 1991). While research has shown the potentially harmful impact of anxiety on language learners, including both loss of motivation and reduced effectiveness of learning, the actual process of how learners manage their own emotional complexities while maintaining their motivational drive has not been fully explored or described yet.
Meanwhile, university learners in non-Anglophone countries around the world are facing increasingly high levels of pressure to develop English as a foreign language (EFL) proficiency for engagement in international professional activities after graduation. In this context, the authors believe the issue of language learning anxiety must be understood and addressed more carefully, especially by instructors and administrators who are native speakers of English and who may never have experienced the psychological pressure of being forced to develop proficiency in a foreign language to a professional level.
Based on qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews with 10 Japanese learners of EFL at universities in Japan, the presenters will 1) describe what types of emotional difficulties these EFL learners encounter inside and outside the classroom, and 2) discuss how teachers and administrators in language programs can more effectively support these learners to manage and overcome their anxiety.
All interviews were conducted in Japanese, the first language of the interviewees. The data from the interviews of 60-90 minutes were transcribed and analyzed to extract the primary themes and insights. In terms of the main sources of anxiety as EFL learners, some of the most notable items that emerged were:
1) fear of standing out or being seen as better than others;
2) fear of loss of face in front of semi-familiar classmates;
3) self-resentment due to a lack of one’s own effort,
4) fear of future expectations or pressure from society, and
5) fear that the current learning may be a waste of one’s effort.
While other typical factors of language anxiety such as public speaking were also mentioned, the paper and presentation will focus on describing the above findings that have not been described by other studies of learner anxiety. A number of telling quotes and episodes from the interviews will be introduced, and implications for pedagogy and further research will be discussed.
Keywords: Learner Development, Psychology of Learning, Foreign Language, Second Language Acquisition, Japan, Qualitative Research, Interview-Based Research.