Language anxiety in 14-16 year old FL learners
Language anxiety is a type of situational anxiety closely linked to communication apprehension. This thesis examines the phenomenon of language anxiety in 14-16 year old learners in the UK and proposes a contextually-based model to account for the variables involved. The research consists of two main parts: a survey of 607 learners using a modified version of the FLCAS (Foreign Language Communications Anxiety Scale) and a case study of 53 learners of different ability levels from the same school. Results from the survey showed that language anxiety existed in significant numbers and that it was linked with gender and perceived difficulty of the language. Investigations during the period of the case study further demonstrated a negative correlation between achievement (as measured by self-report) and anxiety levels. While anxiety about the act of communicating was felt to have a generally negative effect on learning, in contrast to a number of other studies, test anxiety was found to have a generally facilitating effect providing the test was pitched at an appropriate level of difficulty. The findings of the case study uncovered a range of sources of language anxiety. These included negative experiences in the past, usually involving a teacher. A number of classroom practices such as error correction and certain types of group work were also found to be further causes of anxiety, as were feelings of conspicuousness and the reaction of peers. The implications of the research for the classroom teacher are discussed and ways in which anxiety can be minimised are outlined. Areas for further investigation are suggested in order to further both theory and practice.