Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Secondary School Students' Reading Anxiety in a Second Language

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Secondary School Students' Reading Anxiety in a Second Language

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Research has already made great contributions to our understanding of the relationship between language learning and language learning anxiety. However, research in the area of foreign/second language reading anxiety is still limited and we still need to understand it in depth. The present study makes an effort to broaden our understanding about English reading anxiety as it is seen by the learners themselves. Its purpose is to highlight students' perceptions about the sources of English language reading anxiety. Anxious students are seen as those learners who demonstrate lack of learning strategies, experience, skills and confidence. Their problems may be compounded by negative feelings and reaction to the learning task. When reading in English, some may think often about the negative aspects of the task more than the positive ones. Second/foreign language classrooms should not be always thought of as ideal environments that are free of any kinds of learning anxiety. Researchers have argued that an appropriate level of a second and/or foreign language learning anxiety may help in facilitating the process of language learning. Nevertheless, many studies have reported that learning anxiety has negative effects on students' language learning experience (Liu, 2006; Sellers, 2000; Young, 1991; Jafarigohar & Behrooznia, 2012; Horwitz et al., 1986; MacIntyre & Gardner, 1989; Lien, 2011). The existence of anxiety in language learning classes is an issue that teachers and educators may try to address in order to help leaners develop positive feeling toward the task of learning how to read in English. Different studies examining students' language proficiency level and teachers' roles reveal that learners with a higher language proficiency level tend to have lower language learning anxiety, and teachers' supportive intervention may assist in increasing motivation and decreasing learners' language learning anxiety (Elkhafaifi, 2005; Abu-Rabia, 2004; Ewald, 2007; Liu, 2006; Rassaei, 2015; Qashoa, 2014). In a study conducted within the context of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with male and female students from three different universities, For example, Qashoa (2014) reported strategies that may contribute in lowering learners' anxiety. Those strategies were reported from students' and teachers' point of views such as enhancing confidence and schemata, developing positive views towards making mistakes and accepting them as an integral part of the learning process, using writing models, etc.

2. Literature Review

Learning anxiety is generally viewed as the manifestation of feelings of incompetence in doing any task. If this kind of feeling is recurrent, then students may routinely expect to have the same difficulty in all situations and accordingly get nervous even if the task is not very challenging. Burden (2004) argued that anxious students have negatively self-concepts and they always underestimate their efforts when speaking or conducting any task when they are compared to other students. Anxious learners may develop more anxiety if they feel that their behavior is always scrutinized, judged and compared with other students. This type of tension might be soften by encouraging various activities such as group work and/or pair work where the students' product is viewed as the outcome of collective cooperative work. Learning anxiety is defined in different ways by different researchers. Horwitz, Horwitz and Cope (1991), for example, define it 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" (p.31).

In recent years, some researchers have been attracted to the area of second and/or foreign language reading anxiety and they raised some concerns regarding the impact of anxiety on learners' progress in language learning development (Zoghi 2012; Saito, Horwitz, & Garza, 1999; Lien, 2011; Zhao, 2009; Zhao, Guo, & Dynia, 2013; Shi & Liu, 2006; Chen et al, 2014; Jalongo, & Hirsh, 2010). …

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