Anxiety and Other Affective Variables in Foreign Language Speaking among University Students
This paper reports on a research study conducted in an EFL context in Algeria. It introduces the construct of foreign language speaking anxiety using a modified Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale (FLCAS) version for its measurement to extend previous research findings. My particular interest in foreign language anxiety specific to speaking emerges from Horwitz, Horwitz, and Cope’s (1986) theory of language anxiety. They conceived language anxiety as a distinct form of anxiety and suggested that future researchers should study the more subtle effects of langauge anxiety on specific processes involved in language acquisition and communication.
A further aim in this study is to determine if anxiety levels decrease as exposure to the target language increases. As anxiety represents a hierarchy of different variables ranging from personal to procedural, an investigation into those interacting factors thought to augment negative affect in foreign language speaking was necessary in the present study.
A total of eighty First year and Third year university students in the English Department at the University of Algiers participated in this study. A modified version of the FLCAS developed by Horwitz et.al (1986) was used for data elicitation as a primary instrument to measure students’ anxiety in the oral classroom. The scale is based on an analysis of potential sources of anxiety in a language classroom integrating related anxieties as posited by Horwitz et.al (1986). Besides, the focus groups were used as qualitative component in this study. My inclusion of the focus groups helped to focus on the participants’ beliefs, experiences, and feelings related to anxiety in foreign language speaking.
The research results showed that anxiety was experienced by First and Third years university students and had debilitating effects on students’ foreign language speaking. The results further pointed to the existence of anxiety in beginning and advanced classes. Thus, increased exposure to the target language had little influence on students’ anxieties. A closer look at other interacting variables was warranted. Consequently, several sources and anxiety-provoking factors are discussed in this paper.
On the basis of the findings of the study, this paper ends with some pedagogical recommendations to reduce anxiety in foreign language speaking. The implications for classroom practice include ways of dealing with foreign language speaking anxiety and suggestions to make speaking the foreign language less stressful for anxious students.
Keywords: Anxiety, Communication Apprehension, Fear of Negative Evaluation, Speaking Anxiety
Lecturer in General Linguistics and Phonetics, English Department, University of Algiers.