Reducing Learners Language Anxiety: Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice

Reducing Learners Language Anxiety: Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice

Reducing Learners’ Language Anxiety: Bridging the Gap between Research and Practice

Angelica Galante

Brock University

Affective variables

Language anxiety → situation-specific

↙ ↓ ↘

Communication apprehension Test anxiety Fear of negative evaluation

Talking about students’ fears

Beliefs about Language Learning Inventory (BALLI)
designed by Elaine K. Horwitz (1987) / Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale (FLCAS)
designed by Horwitz, Horwitz & Cope (1986)
used to generate classroom discussion about the language learning process.
E.g.: Some people have a special ability for learning foreign languages.
1 2 3 4 5 / used to identify students who are mostly likely to suffer from language anxiety related to speaking L2.
E.g.: I tremble when I know that I'm going to be called on in language class.
Strongly agree Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Strongly disagree

Activities that reduce language levels of anxiety

Conversation gambits: helps learners carry on a more ‘natural’ conversation and help build a sense of community in the classroom by the use of common communicative vocabulary. E.g.: “Oh, really?”/“Sorry, I don’t get it.”/“Say that again, please.”/“It’s a beautiful day, eh?”/“By the way, …”/“Actually, …”/“Are you serious?”/“No kidding!”/“You know what I mean?”

Cued response: helps learners, especially in the early stages of learning, to alleviate the frustration that occurs when they have to focus both on meaning and on form.

Activity: Imagine your plans for this weekend. Decide whether you’re going to do these activities. Add more of your own if you like.

Wake up early: “I’m going to wake up early on Saturday”
Have dinner out: “I’m not going to have diner out.”
Meet friends: “I’m going to meet my friends”
Watch a movie: “I’m going to watch a movie”
Add more: “I’m not going to work this weekend…”

Information gap: helps learners to build a sense of community. The final product was built as a team, rather than individual answers.

Activity: Find out where the international students come from and in which countries they lived and traveled in.
Student A Student B

Name / Comes from / Lived in / Traveled in
Mariette / Belgium / Germany
Fahrid / USA
Kofi / Quebec / Manitoba
Name / Comes from / Lived in / Traveled in
Mariette / Spain
Fahrid / Morocco / Algeria
Kofi / Colombia

Interviews and surveys: helps learners have a great deal of practice, which lowers L2 oral anxiety

Activity: Find someone who...
a. stayed at home Saturday
b. saw a good film last week
c. went out last night
d. didn’t sleep well last night
e. arrived on time for class today

Improvising dialogues: helps learners work cooperatively with peers; gives them an opportunity to rehearse their speech; allows them to get used to presentations in front of other students; if an element of comedy is introduced it helps break the ice.

Activity: In pairs, students receive two lines of a dialogue. They work together and come up with a possible dialogue. They are allowed some time to rehearse it before presenting it to the class.

E.g.: “I never thought I’d be in a situation like this!”

“Who said I liked apples?”

Helping lower students’ levels of anxiety during oral tests

 Provide students’ with ample opportunities for oral practice in class

 Use the same types of activities students have practiced in class

 Test students’ in pairs or small groups

 Role-plays are excellent tools for evaluating communicative competence

 Humorous role-play could be incorporated into the testing situation

 Teachers need to re-evaluate the evaluation instrument itself: test communicative competence and not only accuracy

 Students’ test anxiety may be lower if they are aware that their communicative competence will be rewarded

In conclusion

Teachers are encouraged to be aware of students’ anxiety about language learning to better help them manage their anxiety.

Activities that help learners cooperate and depend on their peers foster an environment conducive to the development of community.

Learners feel more at ease and willing to be engaged in oral activities if there is a more relaxing environment in the class.

Maintaining the development of communicative competence is a tool to help learners lower their level of anxiety. Provide students’ with ample opportunities for oral practice in class

Providing the opportunity for learners to face their “fears” is more important than simply “protecting them from speaking in L2”


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