Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Learner Differences among Children Learning a Foreign Language: Language Anxiety, Strategy Use, and Multiple Intelligences

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Learner Differences among Children Learning a Foreign Language: Language Anxiety, Strategy Use, and Multiple Intelligences

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study mainly investigates language anxiety and its relationship to the use of learning strategies and multiple intelligences among young learners in an EFL educational context. The participants were composed of 212 fifthand sixth-graders from elementary schools in central Taiwan. Findings indicated that most participants generally experienced a mild level of anxiety in the EFL classroom. However, at least a quarter of the full sample experienced an above-average level of anxiety when learning the target language. These students tended to be most anxious when (1) feeling that other students had better English performance, (2) being called on to speak in the English class, and (3) feeling afraid of being leftbehind in the English class. Overall, students were most likely to feel anxious due to worry over inadequate language performance and fear of being evaluated negatively by others. Furthermore, the current findings indicated a significant negative correlation between language anxiety and strategy use among the young EFL children. Students who had greater strategy use were less likely to feel anxiety. Interestingly, the use of social strategies had the strongest relationship with language anxiety among the young learners. Another learner variable, multiple intelligences, was found to be significantly related to both strategy use and anxiety; its relationship with strategy use seemed to be much stronger than that with anxiety. All six strategy categories were found to have significant correlations with multiple intelligences. Implications derived from the results are discussed in the paper.

Keywords: language learning strategies, strategy use, language anxiety

1. Introduction

English is learned as a foreign language (EFL) in Taiwan, but due to the limited opportunities to practice or use it in an everyday life environment, it is not easy for students to make any distinguishable improvement unless they are very enthusiastic and active learners. When learning in this EFL environment, students are very likely to experience a certain level of language anxiety, which has been found to have some damaging effect on language learning acquisition (Chen & Chang, 2004; Cheng, 2005). There are, however, language learning strategies that are specific and conscious behaviors students can employ to achieve their goals in the language learning process (Oxford, 2003). The use of learning strategies has been found to be positively related to learning proficiency in prior research (Bremner, 1998; Lai, 2009; Peacock & Ho, 2003; Wharton, 2000). Many researchers, such as Lai (2009), Sheu (2009), and Wu (2008), have therefore carried out investigations to explore the strategy use of students in the Taiwanese setting. Researchers in this field generally intend to identify the strategies used by more successful students and hope that their findings may increase the strategy awareness of both teachers and students. The current study aims to add to the understanding of the relation between learning strategy use and foreign language anxiety among the young learners in Taiwan. Another learner variable, which was found to be significantly related to strategy use (Akbari & Hosseini, 2008) but rarely investigated in language learning research, multiple intelligences, has also been included in the present study and the relationships between the three variables are explored.

1.1 Foreign Language Anxiety

Language anxiety is defined by Gardner and MacIntyre (1993, p. 5) as "the apprehension experienced when a situation requires the use of a second language with which the individual is not fully proficient". The role of anxiety on language acquisition has been the central focus of research for about three decades. Prior research on language anxiety has consistently shown that this unique type of apprehension can exert debilitating effects on language learning (Aida, 1994; Cheng, 2005; Gardner, 1985; Kim, 2000; MacIntyre & Gardner, 1991; Phillips, 1992). …

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