Academic journal article English Language Teaching

An Elaboration on the Effect of Reading Anxiety on Reading Achievement

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

An Elaboration on the Effect of Reading Anxiety on Reading Achievement

Article excerpt


The presentstudy was an elaboration on the effect of foreign language anxiety on reading comprehension achievement of Iranian EFL learners. The participants comprised 100 BA students, doing General English Course in different academic fields at Islamic University of Neyshabur. The participants took a reading proficiency test of TOEFL and answered a likert scale reading anxiety questionnaire, derived from Sarson's (1975) anxiety scale. The collected data were subjected to a set of parametric statistical analyses, including descriptive and inferential statistics such as one-way analysis of variance and post hoc tests. The findings presented significant differences among the participants at different reading ability levels. The students at the high and intermediate reading levelsdiffered significantly from the students at the low reading level in reading anxiety. To put it simply, there is a negative relationship between the students' reading level and reading anxiety. The findings are of significance for language teachers as well as curriculum planners to reduce the affective filters and debilitating factors in language-learning environment to improve language learners' reading ability. One important way to reduce reading anxiety is to expose language learners to comprehensible reading sources and culturally familiar texts, which develop learners' feeling of reassurance and self-confidence.

Keywords: reading comprehension anxiety, foreign language anxiety, test anxiety

1. Introduction

In the teaching and learning of English as a second or foreign language, the effective achievement of four language skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking areconsidered important. However, reading is by far one of the most important skills for many L2 language learners, particularly for university students in EFL settings. To put it simply, success of learning at university level depends upon the students' ability to read written language with a relatively good comprehension (Dechant & Smith, 1977; Grabe & Stoller, 2001; Shapiro, 2004).

Some people are successful in second or foreign language learning while others struggle with different aspects of language learning. Where do these individual differences come from? What is the role of individual differences in second language learning? These issues have been debated in the field of second/foreign language learning for a long time by many researchers (e.g., Bailey, 1999; Chastain, 1975; Kleinmann, 1977; Tucker et al., 1976).

Earlier studies on second language learning have attributed individual differences in language learning to cognitive factors such as language aptitude and intelligence. However, given that human beings are emotional creatures, it is evident that human behaviors are considerably influenced by affective variables. From this perspective, foreign language educators have been concerned with significant role of affective variables in second language learning (Gokulnathan, 1971; Hundal & Singh, 1971; Liu & Jackson, 2008; Onwuegbuzie & Jiao, 2002). Among different affective variables, anxiety poses major problems in the cognitive process of learning (Ahmad & Zafar, 2010; Horwitz & Young, 1991; Sellers, 2000; Sharma & Gandhi, 1971).

Earlier studies on the effects of anxiety on second language learning revealed inconsistent andconfusing results (e.g., Kleinmann, 1977; Liu & Jackson, 2008; Sparks & Ganschow, 1991; Tucker et al., 1976). The problem as E. Horwitz, M. Horwitz, and Cope (1986) asserted might be related to this fact that "second language research has neither adequately defined foreign language anxiety nor described its specific effects on foreign language learning" (p. 125). More importantly, it is possible that researchers are not measuring what they assume to measure (Bachman, 1990; Bachman & Palmer, 2010).

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

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