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Foreign and second language anxiety

  • Elaine K. Horwitz (a1)

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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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Foreign and second language anxiety

  • Elaine K. Horwitz (a1)

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