- December 5, 2020
- Posted by: Shannon
- Category: Uncategorized
I’m often amazed at the ease at which some people learn new languages. They hear sounds and immediately begin speaking in a new language. It just seems to be in them. Then there are those that just can’t seem to get it, no matter how hard they try. They become weighed down by language anxiety; preventing them from communicating even simple phrases.
My Personal Experience learning a langauge
Being a language teacher myself, I know all the tricks and techniques for learning a foreign language. However, for me, it’s still something extremely difficult. I have immersed myself in the language by teaching in a foreign country; my language skills are still mediocre at best. So what’s going on? Despite excellent teachers and a need to learn, I am still barely conversational. Admittedly Arabic is a difficult language for an English speaker to learn, but I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge. I encourage my students to speak and practice, but I can’t seem to take that advice myself. After searching online I stumbled across an idea that could help myself and others get more out of our language learning.
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I found a paper written by Ordulj, Antonia & Grabar, Ivana. (2014), language and linguistic researchers from Croatia called Shyness and Foreign Language Anxiety that made me think a little bit about my learning and communication. The study proposes there are some learners who have innate anxiety about learning a language. This makes it extremely difficult to build fluency, no matter how important or necessary the language may be to the learner. Could this be what’s going on? Perhaps, but if this is the case, how do we overcome this anxiety? Sadly the paper doesn’t seem to offer any answers. For some people, the anxiety can be so intense that no amount of encouragement or cheering on from instructors and peers seems to help. But there may be a way out.
Anxiety is something that many people around the world deal with on different levels throughout their lives. Many of the techniques they use to ease their anxiety may be just the thing to overcome language anxiety felt by many learners. Techniques like practising in private away from the perceived judgement of others. Anticipating mistakes and using mental imagery to calm yourself. These may all be effective ways to build the confidence necessary to learn a language at a conversational level. We all have different techniques that we respond to, we just have to find out what they are.
You can find the study abstract and full paper attached below if you’re interested in reading more about the researcher’s techniques and findings.
Overcoming Language Anxiety
Communication in a foreign language, as an inevitable component of modern human life. For many, it’s a source of anxiety which leads to avoidance of communication.
The paper explores whether the students of Italian language courses in two language schools experience anxiety toward a foreign language. The samples used in the study consisted of students whose mother tongue is Croatian. The students had been learning Italian as a foreign language for a different period of time and at different levels.
The authors examined whether there were differences in foreign language anxiety with regard to the level and length of learning the Italian language. Specifically, whether the students’ levels of shyness correlate with the level of foreign language anxiety. The results showed that among the participants there is a correlation in foreign language anxiety depending on levels of shyness. Participants with pronounced shyness showed higher levels of language anxiety compared with participants with medium and low levels of shyness. Individual student characteristics of and various experiences gained in the process of learning a foreign language may be a factor, in the absence of other differences.