Academic journal article English Language Teaching

An Empirical Analysis of the Relationship between Foreign Language Reading Anxiety and Reading Strategy Training

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

An Empirical Analysis of the Relationship between Foreign Language Reading Anxiety and Reading Strategy Training

Article excerpt

Abstract

Anxiety is a psychological factor commonly associated with such feelings as fear, apprehension and uneasiness. It is an individual's affective reaction to a perceived or a real threat (MacIntyre, 1995). Foreign language reading anxiety (FLRA) refers to one's negative attitudes which may, to some extent, account for the inhibition that s/he suffers from while reading a text in a foreign language (FL). Given that anxiety associated with FL has a strong impact on learners' overall achievement (Cheng, Horwitz & Schallert, 1999; Sellers, 2000), FLRA may feature as a potent predictor of success in FL reading courses. Although numerous studies have focused on general FL anxiety, research aiming at unraveling FLRA including its various aspects has been far from being satisfactory. Hence, this study investigates the relationship between FLRA and reading strategy training in FL reading courses. Participants divided into experiment and control groups were selected through convenience sampling. Data were elicited through Foreign Language Reading Anxiety Scale (FLRAS) (Saito, Horwitz & Garza, 1999) and semi-structured interviews. The study indicates that though there has been a decrease in the control group's FLRA levels, results of the experiment group have revealed intriguing findings. Still, analyses of the interviews with members of the experiment group have yielded divergent remarks regarding their perceptions of their FLRA levels.

Keywords: anxiety, foreign, reading, strategy

1. Introduction

Foreign language learning (FLL) is an intricate process that requires investing considerable resources in terms of time, effort and materials, yet one that does not warrant ultimate achievement. As FLL by nature comprises a complex set of interactive factors, attempts to explain the process from a mere linguistic perspective are likely to prove futile (Schumann, 1987). Instead, a broader stance embracing social and affective variables that have a role to play in the process may yield a more precise depiction of the path to success in FLL. As such, anxiety related to FLL is one of the key factors that may fill in some lacuna in accounting for possible failures in FLL (Brown, 2000). Though foreign language anxiety (FLA), a set of psychological factors specific to foreign language classroom (Horwitz, Horwitz & Cope, 1986), is commonly associated with oral skills (particularly speaking), much research (Cheng, 2002; Elkhafaifi, 2005; Saito, Horwitz & Garza, 1999) has been conducted in the last two decades that indicate relationships between anxiety and specific language skills. For instance, Elkhafaifi (2005) reveals that listening anxiety is positively related to but distinct from general FLA. Similarly, Cheng, Horwitz & Schallert (1999) put forth that FLA is a broader construct as their study denotes that the type of anxiety associated with writing tasks is related to but distinguished from overall FLA.

As to reading, it holds a vital role in acquiring new information and developing one's thinking (Ennis, 2006). In contrast to oral skills which entail a dialogic construction of meaning through shared attempts of two or more parties, Shariati & Bordbar (2009) argue that reading is a more "individual act"(183). Furthermore, the fact that foreign language (FL) learners have a well-established reading experience rooted in their LI reading activities may be a factor to help them with difficulties in FL reading (Upton & Lee-Thompson, 2001). Still, much research (Sellers, 2000; Wu, 2001) highlights that anxiety stands out as a prominent factor which may considerably affect FL reading process. Indeed, simply the perception of reading in a language different from one's LI may aggravate his/her anxiety level since reading requires simultaneous activation of several cognitive processes (like attention and memory) to build the meaning.

This study aims at unearthing the relationship between reading strategy instruction and foreign language reading anxiety (FLRA). …

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