Foreign Language Anxiety and Achievement: Systematic Review

By Al-Shboul, Murad M.; Ahmad, Ismail Sheikh et al. | International Journal of English Linguistics, April 2013 | Go to article overview

Foreign Language Anxiety and Achievement: Systematic Review


Al-Shboul, Murad M., Ahmad, Ismail Sheikh, Nordin, Mohamad Sahari, Rahman, Zainurin Abdul, International Journal of English Linguistics


Abstract

This systematic review of literature on foreign language anxiety and its relationship with achievement is additional clarification to the earlier works and reviews concerned with this issue. Firstly, it defines the foreign language anxiety concept where eventually foreign language anxiety is differentiated from other related concepts. Secondly, it reviews the existing studies where the constructs of foreign languages are determined. Finally, it presents the studies that concern foreign language anxiety and achievement in a systematic way where different settings, languages, learners' stages and disciplines were involved.

Keywords: foreign language anxiety, foreign language anxiety and achievement, systematic review

1. Introduction

With increased attention being given to language learners and their affective factors, research in this field has asserted that language anxiety is the most powerful predictor on the students' performance among the affective factors (Liu & Huang, 2011). Gardner, Tremblay, and Masgoret (1997) investigated the relationship between foreign language anxiety among different affective variables and language performance to declare that foreign language anxiety was ranked as the highest factor which negatively correlated with language achievement. More recently, Olivares-Cuhat (2010) also investigated the relative importance of various learner variables such as cognitive, meta-cognitive and affective variables on foreign/second language performance to assert over again that foreign language anxiety is the important factor in learning a foreign or second language.

The last few decades have witnessed interest in foreign language anxiety in general and foreign language anxiety in association with achievement in particular. Raising the issue of foreign language anxiety and achievement, flux results have been introduced. Inaugural studies showed that foreign language anxiety can be a facilitator. However, scrutinizing the recent literature, a plethora of work has indicated that achievement is hindered by foreign language anxiety which seems to thrust aside the consequences of the early studies.

In Scovel (1978) review, for example, different measures to assess foreign language anxiety were used. Thus, contradictory results were presented. On the other hand, the review of (Horwitz, 2001) declared the negative side of foreign language anxiety on achievement. In the later review, the suitable measure to assess foreign language anxiety was used. However, values and the magnitude of the negative relationship between the two variables were not counted. Moreover, young learners were neglected in the review. One step further; this systematic review, considers more studies in different nations, target languages, stages, and most importantly, it is up-to-date to recognize the change over one decade. It can be straightforward to determine the relationship between foreign language anxiety and achievement, utilizing the appropriate measure to assess foreign language anxiety.

2. Literature Review

2.1 Foreign Language Anxiety Definition

Anxiety is a central construct in theories of personality. In the 1970, Spielberger, Gorsuch, and Lushene provided a reliable self-report scale to assess anxiety (Spielberger, Reheiser, Owen, & Sydeman, 2004). According to them, anxiety in general consists of two components or dimensions; state anxiety and trait anxiety. State anxiety has been defined as "consisting of subjective feelings of tension, apprehension, nervousness and worry, with associated arousal of the autonomic nervous system.", and trait anxiety has been defined as "stable individual differences in anxiety proneness in situations perceived as dangerous and threatening." (Mulatu, 2002; Spielberger et al., 2004).

Hence, Horwitz, Horwitz, and Cope (1986, p. 128) have defined foreign language anxiety as "a distinct complex of self-perceptions, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors related to classroom language learning arising from the uniqueness of the language learning process. …

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