Language anxiety and some possible solutions

Sihong Chen  ( blog post 1)

Last week, Alison mentioned “language anxiety”, which makes me think a lot about my language learning journey and how language anxiety influences my language learning.

From my experience, I think language anxiety has both positive and negative effects on my language learning. However, it is lucky that I always turn the negative into a positive.

I want to highlight two periods of time in my language learning journey and both of them are about English language learning, though in different places.

First, when I was in high school in China, my English was not very good but English constituted a large part in college entrance examination. I was so afraid and worried when having English classes. I was embarrassed to speak English in class and could not actively participate in classroom discussion. My palm began to sweat when the English teacher called my name in class. I could not articulate myself clearly, I was afraid to look at my teacher or even sometimes could not say a word. I was so frustrated during that period of time. Also, the competition from other students made feel stressed and nervous. I have to admit, during this period of time of learning English made me feel exhausted as I needed to bare the stress not only from myself but also from my teachers, parents and classmates, and such external factors. However, things began to change when I was in the second year in high school. I was determined to change the situation. Therefore, I made a detailed study plan and pushed myself to achieve it. I paid more attention and did more exercises.

Second, I studied in America for a semester when I was a junior. To be honest, I was so confused and worried because all my classmates were native speakers and I could not understand what the professor talked about in the first several classes. I was stressed because other students could communicate with each other and express their own ideas whereas I still could not understand a word. I was so anxious and began to doubt my ability. My self-esteem was lowered. I told my confusion and worry to my professor and she gave me many useful suggestions. Also, I got her permission to record each lecture so that I could review after class. With the help of my professor and classmates, I overcame difficulties and my English improved a lot.

From the perspective of a language learner, some solutions could be considered to relieve language anxiety or make it play a positive role in your language learning. Learners should be aware that making mistakes is inevitable and it is not necessary to be too worried about it or doubt yourself. Furthermore, appropriate amounts of practice makes learners familiar with language or tasks, which may also help them to relieve their anxiety. Lastly, learners should have a correct view of competition and avoid unhealthy competition.

From the perspective of teacher, some suggestions could also be taken into consideration. Teachers should create relatively relaxing learning environment for students. When pointing out the mistake for students, they need to care about students’ feelings and try their best to protect students’ self-esteem. Teachers need to show their understanding and empathy for students, which will be beneficial to students to relieve their anxiety.

We all experience language anxiety to some extent but what’s important is that how we deal with it and how to make it have positive influence on our language learning.

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3 thoughts on “Language anxiety and some possible solutions”

  1. Hi Sihong,
    Thank for sharing your experiences with language anxiety. Your determination and intentionality in overcoming these experiences are very inspiring. I agree that language teachers can help learners feel okay about mistakes. They could, for example, have a conversation with learners early on in the course or term about mistakes – how they will be treated, why it is important and okay to take risks, and how peers can support each other. I wonder how your own experiences have shaped or will shape your own teaching practices.

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  2. Ethan: Hi Iris. I think as a L2 learner we’ve all been through the process of some sort of language anxiety. That’s why I believe when you teach a L2 leaner, you should not force them to do certain things, even if you think they’re good for them. What do you think?

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  3. Miss Education says:

    Hi Sihong,
    I found your stories very motivating and I admire that you have the confidence to share these personal experiences. I liked what you wrote about each student experiencing anxiety differently. I agree that there is not one level of anxiety and I believe that we need to get to the root of the anxiety before we can address it properly. In your case, I think it is mainly linked to comparing yourself to other speakers of English. The cause of your anxiety was internal and you found the confidence to fix the problem you were experiencing.
    Many students, and more so younger students, often times have great difficulty in building the confidence they need to address things that bother them, whether or not the “problem” is internal or external.
    I am glad your teacher took the time to raise your self-esteem and even allowed you to record the lectures.

    Like

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