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Foreign and second language anxiety

  • Elaine K. Horwitz (a1)

The possibility that anxiety interferes with language learning has long interested scholars, language teachers, and language learners themselves. It is intuitive that anxiety would inhibit the learning and/or production of a second language (L2). The important term in the last sentence is ‘anxiety’. The concept of anxiety is itself multi-faceted, and psychologists have differentiated a number of types of anxiety including trait anxiety, state anxiety, achievement anxiety, and facilitative-debilitative anxiety. With such a wide variety of anxiety-types, it is not surprising that early studies on the relationship between ‘anxiety’ and achievement provided mixed and confusing results, and Scovel (1978 – this timeline) rightly noted that anxiety is ‘not a simple, unitary construct that can be comfortably quantified into ‘high’ or ‘low’ amounts’ (p. 137). Scovel did not, however, anticipate the identification in the mid-1980s of a unique form of anxiety that some people experience in response to learning and/or using an L2. Typically referred to as language anxiety or foreign language anxiety (FLA), this anxiety is categorized as a situation-specific anxiety, similar in type to other familiar manifestations of anxiety such as stage fright or test anxiety.

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Language Teaching
  • ISSN: 0261-4448
  • EISSN: 1475-3049
  • URL: /core/journals/language-teaching
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