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The focus of foreign language instruction has shifted from the narrow concern
for developing learners linguistic competence to the need for communicative
competence and learners are challenged to be able to speak in the target
language spontaneously in various social contexts. In order to meet this
challenge, attention has diverted to studying the role of affective variables like
learning styles, motivation, personality traits, etc. that can impede the process
of learning and speaking a foreign language. Among these affective variables,
learner anxiety has come to be recognized as an important area of study in
second language acquisition because of the negative influence it can have on
students performance (Tanveer, 2007:9).

Hence, this chapter reviews literature on issues related to language anxiety and
their possible sources and try to answer the questions above. Therefore, this
chapter is divided into five sections. The first section establishes the conceptual
foundations of the construct of Language Anxiety in terms of its three
components: communication apprehension, test anxiety and fear of negative
evaluation. These components have been discussed with relation to some
factors that cause language anxiety while communicating in the target
language. The second section looks at the factors that stem from a learners
own sense of self and from the classroom environment. The third section
deals with socio-cultural factors: these are the factors outside of the class in the
broader social context. The next section four attempts to explore the literature
regarding cognitive and linguistic factors related to classroom procedure; and
the final section five describes how anxiety is manifested in the learners and
presents some strategies to cope with it.


Several authors such as Tanveer (2007), Horwitz et al. (1986), McCroskey
(1977), Mustaffa et al. (2014), Khaidzir (2013), Zhang (2015) among others,
have discussed about language anxiety and its possible causes. Therefore
Horwitz et al. (1986) indicated that considering language anxiety with relation to
performance evaluation within academic and social contexts, drew parallels

between it and three related performance anxieties: (1) communication
apprehension (CA); (2) test anxiety; and (3) fear of negative evaluation.

Furthermore, Zhang (2015) and Tanveer (2007), they argue that these three
components lay the essential conceptual foundation for the description of
foreign language anxiety, providing an insight to comprehend the sources or
causes it can originate from. Therefore, as the focus in this paper is on
speaking performance, the first component (CA) will be explained more than the
other two components.


Many researchers have pointed out that the skill producing most anxiety is
speaking (Tanveer, 2007 in MacIntyre and Gardner 1991). According to
Tanveer (2007), this anxiety comes in part from a lack of confidence in our
general linguistic knowledge but if only this factor were involved, all skills would
be affected equally. What distinguishes speaking is the public nature of the skill,
the embarrassment suffered from exposing our language imperfections in front
of others.

One of the most studied topics in the area of speech communication is the
tendency on the part of some people to avoid, and even, fear, communicating
orally (Tanveer 2007). Horwitz et al. (1986: 128) defines communication
apprehension (CA) as a type of shyness characterized by fear or anxiety about
communicating with people. According to Khammat (2013), these feelings of
shyness vary greatly from individual to individual, and from situation to situation.
Communication apprehension occurs in cases where learners lack mature
communication skills although they have mature ideas and thoughts. In a
foreign language classroom, language learners oral tasks include not only
learning a foreign language but also performing the language. Therefore,
people who have trouble speaking in groups are more likely to experience even
higher communication apprehension in a foreign language class . Batiha, Noor
and Mustaffa (2014:20), claim that CA acts as a barrier blocking learners
mastering English and causes anxiety and reticence when communicating with
other people in the target language due to their limited knowledge of the
language. Students who show communication apprehension do not feel relaxed

while communicating in front of others in the target language in their language
classroom because of their inadequate knowledge of that language, specifically
in speaking performance (Zia and Sulan, 2015).

Furthermore, McCroskey (1997) defines CA as an individuals level of fear or

anxiety associated with either real or anticipated communication with another
person. Communication anxiety may be specific to just a few settings (e.g.,
public speaking) or may exist in most everyday communication situations, or
may even be part of a general anxiety trait that arises in many facets of an
individual's life. Learners personality traits such as shyness, quietness, and
reticence are considered to frequently precipitate CA. These feelings of shyness
vary greatly from individual to individual, and from situation to situation.

Therefore Tanveer, (2007:12) mentioned seven factors that could result in a

quiet child (this can equally offer explanation of adult CA); (1) low intellectual
skills, (2) speech skill deficiencies, (3) voluntary social introversion, (4) social
alienation, (5) communication anxiety, (6) low social self-esteem, (7)
ethnic/cultural divergence in communication norms.

Daly (1991in Tanveer, 2007:12) presents five explanations in the development

of CA which can offer an insight into the issue of understanding what causes
language anxiety for ESL learners. In the first place, he explains CA in terms of
genetic disposition indicating that ones genetic legacy may be a substantial
contributor to ones anxiety. In other words, children seem to be born with
certain personality predispositions towards CA. Secondly, he explains CA in
terms of reinforcement and punishment related to the act of communication. He
asserts that individuals who, from early childhood, are greeted with negative
reactions from others in response to their attempt to communicate develop a
sense that staying quiet is more highly rewarded than talking. This can suggest,
according to behaviourist learning methodology that the negative reactions to
learners errors by language instructors can reinforce their fear of making
mistakes and future attempts to communicate. Related to this cause is the
inconsistent and random pattern of rewards, punishments, and non responses
for engaging in the same verbal activity. Another explanation is the adequacy of
peoples early communication skills acquisition. Children who receive a wealth

of early experience of talking are more likely to be less apprehensive than those
who receive less opportunities of communication. The last perspective he
emphasizes is that the children who have been exposed to appropriate social
interactive models of communication are generally less apprehensive than
those who have been exposed to inadequate or less interactive models. All
these five explanations suggest that development of CA in individuals results
from nature or their surroundings.

Communication apprehension obviously plays a large role in foreign language

anxiety. People who are apprehensive speaking in groups are likely to be even
in more trouble when doing so in a foreign language class, where in addition to
feeling less in control of the communicative situation, they also may feel that
their attempts at oral work are constantly being monitored (Horwitz, et al.,
1986: 127). This apprehension is explained in relation to the learners negative
self-perceptions caused by the inability to understand others and make himself
understood. The emphasis on group work and oral presentation in the modern
communicative classroom can be particularly exacerbating for students who
have communication apprehension (Tanveer, 2007:13).


An understanding of test anxiety is also pertinent to the discussion of foreign
language anxiety. Test anxiety, as explained by Horwitz et al. (1986), refers to a
type of performance anxiety stemming from a fear of failure. Test anxiety is
quite pervasive in language classrooms because of its continuous performance
evaluative nature. It is also important to note that oral testing has the potential
to provoke both test and oral communication anxiety simultaneously in
susceptible students (Tanveer, 2007:14).

In addition, according to Khammat (2013), test anxiety can be defined as a fear

of failing in tests and an unpleasant experience held either consciously or
unconsciously by learners in many situations. This type of anxiety concerns
apprehension towards academic evaluation which is based on a fear of failure
(Horwitz and Young, 1991:13).

Test anxiety usually occurs when students who have performed poorly in the
past, develop negative and irrelevant thoughts during test taking situations. As a
consequence, these students are likely to become distracted during class and
this distraction inhibits their performance in foreign language classrooms. Test-
anxious students often put unrealistic demands on themselves and feel that
anything less than a perfect test performance is a failure (Khammat, 2013 in
Horwitz et al. 1986:128).

In addition, Batiha, Noor and Mustaffa (2014:20), Explained that it is a

psychological condition that one experiences distress before, during, or after an
exam to such an extent that this anxiety interferes with normal learning and
resulting in poor performances. A learner might develop a tendency to feel
anxious during a test due to reasons such as fear of incapability to perform well
in a test, short of preparation, time constrains, lack of organization, and poor
learning habits. These reasons pose problems affecting learners performance
in tests and lead them to divide their attention between self-awareness of their
fears and class activities and eventually feel overwhelmed.

Furthermore, Yahya (2013:232 in Daly, 1991), Points that learners experience

more language anxiety in highly evaluative situations. The more unfamiliar and
ambiguous the test tasks and formats, the higher the prevailing level of
language anxiety.

Yahya (2013in Horwitz and Young, 1991) noted that tests in the lack of face
validity led to higher anxiety and a negative attitude toward instruction. Young
(1991) found that students experience anxiety if the test involves content that
was not taught in class. Inappropriate test technique is also one of the factors
that provoke test anxiety as Young (1991) reported that students felt anxious
when they had studied hours for a test and then they found that question types
with which they had no experience. For him, they experienced anxiety with a
particular test format. In addition to learners capacity, task difficulty, the fear of
getting bad grades and lack of preparation for a test are the other factors that
make learners worried.

Another factor that increases test anxiety and decreases performance is time
limit Yahya (2013). For instance, in a study conducted by Ohata (2005),
learners sometimes felt pressured to think that they had to organize their ideas
in a short period of time. Ohata (2005), in his study indicated that most of the
participants said that they feared taking tests, because test-taking situations
would make them fearful about the negative consequences of getting a bad
According to Batiha, Noor and Mustaffa (2014:20), fear of negative evaluation
refers to apprehension about others' evaluations, avoidance of evaluative
situations, and the expectation that others would evaluate one-self negatively.
In addition, Khammat (2013), state that fear of negative evaluation is observed
when foreign language learners feel incapable of making the proper social
impression and it is an apprehension towards evaluations by others and
avoidance of evaluative situations. Therefore, people who are extremely worried
about other peoples impressions are likely to behave in a way that lessens the
possibility of critical evaluation wherein they might leave or avoid social
discussions (Batiha et al. 2014). So, students who are unable to consider
language mistakes as a normal part of the learning process but see it as a
threat to their image, suffer from fear of negative evaluation both form either
their teacher or their classmates and consequently, they remain silent, mostly
withdrawn and do not like to participate in classroom activities (Zia and Sulan,

Yahya (2013), made it clear that, although fear of negative evaluation seems in
some way similar to test anxiety, yet it is broader in scope since it is not limited
to specific test-taking situations. Instead, it can be the case in any social
settings such as a job interview or a L2 speaking situation. Horwitz (1988) has
suggested that some of the learner beliefs are derived from their unrealistic and
sometimes erroneous conceptions about language learning. She found that
some learners were concerned about the correctness of their speech in
comparison to native- like accent or pronunciation. Gynan (1989) reported that
some learners believe that pronunciation is the most important aspect in L2

learning, expressing great concern for speaking with an excellent accent over
the content of their statements.

Yahya (2013 in Horwitz, et al. 1991) stated that a students performance in the
language classroom is not only graded by the teacher, but commented on by
fellow students in the same classroom as well. Students may be sensitive to the
evaluations, either real or imagined, of their peers. Koch and Terrell (1991)
indicated that Learners speaking in front of their peers is another source of
anxiety in learning a foreign language. MacIntyre & Gardner (1991) stated that
fear of negative evaluation was closely related to communication apprehension.
Its a significant cause of communication apprehension. Students with fear of
negative evaluation are worried that others might not understand the content
they are talking about in the second language. Prices study (1991) indicated
that learners are afraid of making pronunciation errors in classroom. Young
(1991) argued that the reason why learners do not participate in the classroom
activities is the fear of committing a verbal error. Jones, (2004) found that the
participants frequently expressed that learners feel afraid, and even panic
because of the fear of committing mistakes or errors in front of others, or
because of a fear of appearing awkward, foolish and incompetent in the eyes of
learners peers or others.

These three interrelated performance anxiety lay the conceptual foundation and
at the same time considered as the main causes of foreign language anxiety
(Horwitz, 1991). Therefore, the section that follow will provide a literature on the
factors associated with learners own sense of self and language classroom


The previous section has established the conceptual basis of language anxiety
with relation to its three components. All the three components are strongly
linked with learners sense of self, as it is learners self which is at risk of
failure or being negatively evaluated in any test-like situation or a situation
which requires communication in front of others. This risk to ones sense of self
frequently occurs in a FL classroom (Tanveer, 2007). Therefore, this section

reviews literature on language anxiety related to learners sense of self and
language classroom environment.


According to Tanveer, (2007 in Horwitz et al. 1986), there may be no other
area of study that poses as much of a threat to self-concept as language study
does. They believe that any performance in L2 or foreign language is likely to
challenge an individuals self-concept as a competent communicator, which
may lead to embarrassment. Tanveer (2007) and Tseng (2012), have defined
self-concept as the totality of an individuals thoughts, perceptions, beliefs,
attitudes and values having reference to himself as object. This self-concept
forms the basis of the distinction, made by Horwitz et al. (1986: 128), between
language anxiety and other forms of academic anxieties. They posited, the
importance of the disparity between the true or actual self as known to the
language learner and the more limited self as can be presented at any given
moment in the foreign language would seem to distinguish foreign language
anxiety from other academic anxieties such as those associated with
mathematics or science (Tanveer, 2007).

Furthermore, Suba (2010), states that learners self-perception of their ability

has been considered as a strong cause of anxiety. For instance, Horwitz et al.
(1986) claimed that much of the language learners anxiety derives from the
threat to the learners self-concept of competence since it is difficult to
understand others or to make one-self understood in the target language. Foss
and Reitzel (1991) saw self-perception as a critical factor in language learning
anxiety due to the fact that language learners may likely to have low self-
esteem, perceive themselves as less worthy than others, perceive their
communication as less effective than that of their peers, and expect continued
failure no matter what feedback they actually receive. According to Kitano
(2001), among all the skills taught in the FL class speaking is usually the first
skill that learners compare themselves with peers, teachers and native
speakers. Thus, it is reasonable to consider that low self-perception of speaking
ability is likely to be a source of anxiety.

Tanveer (2007), said that the term self-esteem has been used in much the
same meaning as self-concept and has been found to be strongly linked with
language anxiety. Therefore he suggests that, the more I think about self-
esteem, the more impressed I am about its impact. This is what causes anxiety
in a lot of people. He adds that people with low self-esteem worry about what
their peers think; they are concerned with pleasing others. And that I think has
to do a great degree with anxiety. Individuals who have high levels of self-
esteem are less likely to be anxious than are those with low self-esteem
(Horwitz et al., 1986: 129).


As language learning poses a threat to learners self-concept, in response
learners may generate some particular beliefs about language learning and its
use (Tanveer, 2007). Research on language anxiety suggests that certain
beliefs about language learning also contribute to the students tension and
frustration in the class (Horwitz et al., 1986: 127). For example, the followings
are such reported beliefs:

I just know I have some kind of disability: I cant learn a foreign language no
matter how hard I try.
(Tanveer, 2007: 123)

Such beliefs have been found to cast a considerable influence upon the ultimate
achievement and performance in the target language. The researchers use
terms such as erroneous or irrational to indicate certain widely held beliefs
about language learning which can be a source of anxiety (Tanveer, 2007).
Tanveer (2007 in Ohata, 2005: 138) noted that a number of beliefs derived from
learners irrational and unrealistic conceptions about language learning, such as
1) some students believe that accuracy must be sought before saying anything
in the foreign language, 2) some attach great importance to speaking with
excellent native (L1)-like accent, 3) others believe that it is not ok to guess an
unfamiliar second/foreign language word, 4) some hold that language learning
is basically an act of translating from English or any second/foreign language, 5)
some view that two years are sufficient in order to gain fluency in the target
language, 6) some believe that language learning is a special gift not
possessed by all.

These unrealistic perceptions or beliefs on language learning and achievement
can lead to frustration or anger towards students own poor performance in a
second/foreign language. According to Young (1991: 428), erroneous beliefs
about language learning can contribute greatly to creating language anxiety in
students. In his review of literature on language anxiety, (Tanveer, 2007 in
Ohata, 2005: 138) explained that unrealistic beliefs can lead to greater anxiety
and frustration, especially when the beliefs and reality clash. He elaborates that
if the learners start learning an L2/FL with the belief that pronunciation is the
single most important aspect of language learning, they will naturally feel
frustrated to find the reality of their poor speech pronunciation even after
learning and practicing for a long time. Therefore, these beliefs are most likely
to originate from learners perfectionist nature. The perfectionist learners like to
speak flawlessly, with no grammar or pronunciation errors, and as easily as an
L1 speaker these high or ideal standards create an ideal situation for the
development of language anxiety


Just like learners beliefs about language learning, some instructors beliefs
about language learning and teaching have also been found to be a source of
anxiety (Tanveer, 2007). He asserted that instructors belief that their role is to
correct rather than to facilitate students when they make mistakes exacerbates
foreign language anxiety in students. Further, he stated that the majority of
instructors considered their role to be less a counselor and friend and objected
to a too friendly and in authoritative student-teacher relationship. The
researchers also reported that students realize that some error corrections are
necessary but they consistently report anxiety over responding incorrectly and
looking or sounding dumb or inept.

In addition Chieh-Hsiang (2015:50) asserts that the ways in which language

teachers conduct their classes are, to a large extent, based on their beliefs
about language teaching. It is likely that their teaching beliefs do not correspond
with their students needs or styles of learning. The learners may feel forced to
accept the unproductive modes of instruction if that happens, which
undoubtedly creates an unpleasant learning environment. When the teacher
attempts to exert full control in the classroom, i.e. a small social context, the
students are likely to be learning under pressure. Further, he mentioned four
teacher beliefs which possibly engender learners anxious feelings: (1) I should
act as a corrector whenever my students commit any error, (2) I cannot let
my students work in pairs, which will put the classroom out of control, (3) I
should be the only one who teaches and talks in the classroom, and (4) I am
more like a drill sergeant than a facilitator. From the above, how a language
instructor treats the social context can have a strong influence on learners.


Tanveer, (2007:18) States that different activities in the classroom procedure,
particularly ones that demand students to speak in front of the whole class,
have been found to be the most anxiety provoking. For example Tanveer, (2007
in Horwitz, 2001: 118) found that more than half of their subjects in their Natural
Approach classes a language teaching method specifically designed to reduce
learners anxiety expressed that giving a presentation in the class, oral skits and
discussion in large groups are the most anxiety-producing activities. They also
found that students get more anxious when called upon to respond individually,
rather than if they are given choice to respond voluntarily. In addition, students
were found to be more relaxed speaking the target language when paired with a
classmate or put into small groups of three to six than into larger groups of
seven to fifteen students. Similarly, Young (1991: 429) found that more than
sixty-eight percent of her subjects reported feeling more comfortable when they
did not have to get in front of the class to speak. Earlier, Horwitz et al. (1986:
123) reported the same:

Sometimes when I speak English in class, I am so afraid I feel like

hiding behind my chair. When I am in my Spanish class I just freeze! I
cant think of anything when my teacher calls on me. My mind goes
(Tanveer, 2007:)

This suggests that any measure to treat language anxiety should not fail to
exploit learning environments where students feel relatively free of anxiety
(Jones, 2004: 34). For this, Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)
approaches are often recommended by the researchers to provide such an
unthreatening environment where students talk to one another and not
exclusively to the teacher. This is deemed necessary because the rapport the

student feels with the teacher as well as with classmates may be crucial in
determining the success or failure of the venture practice in communication

Furthermore, Nimat (2013) argues that classroom procedures was counted

another source of anxiety, and have listed some classroom activities which
were perceived by students as producing anxiety:
1. Spontaneous role-play in the class;
2. Speaking in front of the class;
3. Oral presentations or skits in front of the class;
4. Presenting an unprepared dialogue in front of the class; and
5. Writing on the board.

Therefore Nimat (2013 in Palacios, 1998) have conducted a research and found
the following classroom characteristics to be anxiety producing factors;
demands of oral production, feeling of being put on the spot, the pace of the
class, and the feeling of being evaluated (i.e., fear of negative evaluation).
Several students were concerned that the language class moved so quickly that
they did not have sufficient time to digest the rules and vocabulary. Again a few
commented that the amount of material to be covered in one semester is
excessive. Several other students made comments regarding the speed of the
course. Another practice that was cited as an anxiety-provoking factor by the
participants concerned error correction. Students reported becoming frustrated
when the teacher would correct the error before they had time to completely
formulate a response. Comments made by several students pertained to
teachers interruption to correct speaking errors. These interruptions would
frequently cause students to lose their focus.

Finally this section focused on the factors associated with learners own sense
of self and language classroom environment. What are the socio-cultural
factors? This issue will be discussed in detail in section 3 under.


Language anxiety stems primarily from social and communicative aspects of
language learning and therefore can be considered as one of the social

anxieties (Tanveer, 2007). Therefore, this section reviews the literature on
language anxiety from a socio-cultural perspective of language learning and its


According to Tanveer (2007:24), second language or foreign language can take
place in two different kinds of social environments: a) where the target language
is not used as L1 in the community, and b) where it is used as L1. The first kind
of environment provides L2/FL learners only limited and sometimes faulty input.
As Tanveer, (2007 in Krashen 1985: 46) states, for such learners, the only input
is teachers or classmates talk - both do not speak L2 well. Learners in such
environments are exposed to the language only in the classroom where they
spend less time in contact with the language, covering a smaller discourse type.
The limited exposure to the target language and lack of opportunities to practice
speaking in such environments do not let the communicative abilities of L2/FL
learners fully develop and result into embarrassment or stress for them when
they are required to speak both in and out of the class.

Furthermore, Tseng (2012) conducted a study where he reports that limited

exposure to English language environment is a serious obstacle in the
development of learners communicative competency, which is troubling for FL
learners when they are required to speak. A Saudi male learner said in this
regard, we could practice English only in the class, out of the class, no practice;
lack of chances or practice trouble when you find a chance to speak. Therefore,
this could explain why ESL/EFL learners feel anxious while speaking English
even when learning the language in an English-speaking environment.

In contrast, the second kind of environment provides learners with greater

exposure to the target language. However, even in this case, some researchers
view that learners use of cognitive skills and metalinguistic awareness (world
and social knowledge) may interfere with language learning and they may not
be able to achieve native (L1)-like proficiency as is gained by a child. Krashen
explains this child-adult difference in ultimate attainment in terms of the strength
of affective filter. He believes that affective filter may exist for the child L2/FL
acquirer but it is rarely high enough to prevent L1-like levels of attainment, and

for adults, it rarely goes down enough to allow L1-like attainment. Older learners
may have increased inhabitations and anxiety and may find themselves afraid
to make errors (Tanveer, 2007:25).


Although it is axiomatic that language learning cannot be without errors, errors
can be a source of anxiety in some individuals because they draw attention to
the difficulty of making positive social impressions when speaking a new
language. Errors in social settings are mostly overlooked if they do not interfere
with meaning because people consider it impolite to interrupt and correct
somebody who is trying to have a conversation with them. Interlocutors only
react to an error if they cannot understand the speech and try to adjust their
speech with the speaker in their effort to negotiate for meaning. It is only in the
classroom environment that feedback on errors is provided frequently; this
leads many learners to frustration and embarrassment by making them
conscious about their deficiencies (Tanveer, 2007:25).


From a socio-cultural perspective, status is an important consideration in
peoples interaction with one another in social relationships. Within any social
context, there exists a status relationship between interlocutors that carries a
significant impact on language and language use and this is an important
aspect of social interaction, for example, what can be said, the ways it can be
said, and possibly, what language to use, and even how much must be said
(Tanveer, 2007:).

Furthermore, Hashemi and Abbasi (2013) argue that, social status or social
distance between interlocutors can have a considerable influence on
communication. Results of the study showed that speakers sense of inferiority
complex while talking to someone higher in status may cause stress or anxiety
for them. Unequal status between students and teachers can also be a source
of anxiety for the students. This indicates that lack of confidence on ones
linguistic competence makes one feel inferior and apprehensive to
communicate with someone having full command on language. For example, a

Taiwan female ESL/EFL practitioner remarked, Absolutely, every time I have a
meeting with my tutor, I try to speak perfect English, because I am very nervous
to talk to somebody higher in status. Their English is perfect (Tseng, 2012).

In addition Tanveer, (2007) assert that, when speaking in interaction with ones
boss, someone high in status or power, and also when dealing with complete
strangers, feeling of anxiety, uncertainty and awkwardness are often the
consequence of such encounters. Similarly, studies of classroom interaction on
the pattern of social relationship found that the social relationship between
teachers and students gives them an unequal status relationship as
interlocutors that can hinder successful second language comprehension,
production, and ultimately acquisition. A sense of power, social distance and
self identity exists in interaction between L1 and L2/FL speakers, as reported:

I feel uncomfortable using English in the group of people whose English

language is their mother tongue because they speak fluently without any
problems and I feel inferior.
(Tanveer, 2007:27).

In such an interaction, Tanveer, (2007:27) states that, Foreign language

speakers may feel anxious due to the fear of social embarrassment and a threat
to their social identity. Language, in this regard, seems crucial because it is
used to convey this identity to other people. Particularly when speaking in a
second/foreign language our self image becomes more vulnerable when our
expression is reduced to infantilised levels, which inevitably leads to anxiety.
L2/FL speakers fear of losing self-identity and retaining positive self-image is
aggravated when their attitudes towards the target language community and
culture are hostile.


Communication anxiety can also be triggered during intercultural or interethnic
communication. When a person interacts with people of other cultures and
encounters cultural differences, he or she inclines to view people as strangers.
Situation of this kind may lead to intercultural communication apprehension; this

can be defined as the fear or anxiety associated with either real or anticipated
interaction with people of different groups, especially cultural and ethnic and/or
racial groups (Tanveer, 2007:27).

ICA is more likely to occur in initial acquaintance. Here Tanveer, (2007:27)

makes reference to (Uncertainty Management Theory) which maintains (a) that
initial uncertainty and anxiety about anothers attitudes and feelings in a
conversational interaction are the basic factors influencing communication
between individuals and (b) that uncertainty inhibits effective communication.
Therefore, he identifies several potential factors that could influence intercultural

Furthermore, Gudykunst (1988; in Tanveer, 2007:28) found that there are at

least five factors that may influence the amount of uncertainty experienced by
interactants during an intercultural communication: (1) expectations; (2) social
identities; (3) degree of similarities between interactants; (4) shared
communicative networks; and (5) the interpersonal salience of the contact with
stranger. Suggesting how this type of anxiety can be controlled, he claims that
assertiveness and responsiveness, as two dimensions of socio-communication
orientation, may reduce intercultural communication apprehension.

Gender has also been found to cause anxiety in male and female interaction
both within and out of the classroom settings. Tanveer, (2007), states, that past
research has revealed that gender affects communication between L2/FL dyads
and L1 and L2/FL speaker dyads (e.g., Pica, Holliday, Lewis, Berducci, &
Newman, 1991, cited in 1999: 70). He deems it necessary to consider whether
the gender of the L1 speaker interlocutor has an effect on the listening
comprehension of the L2/FL speaker interlocutor.

Gobel and Matsuda (2003) asserted that gender-related anxiety research has
yielded conflicting results. The study conducted by the researchers above,
found that females are more emotionally stable than males in their reactions to
highly stressful and relaxing circumstances. Similarly, in Kitanos study (2001)
of Japanese college students, male students have been found to feel more

anxiety when they perceived their spoken Japanese less competent than that of
others; however, such a relationship was not observed among female students.
On the contrary, Machida (2001: cited in 2003: 23) examined FL Japanese
language class anxiety based on gender and found that female learners are
more anxious than male counterparts.

After dealing with the socio-cultural factors, now we are moving to cognitive and
linguistic factors related to classroom procedure in section 4 under.


How learners perceive the language learning process, their perceptions about
themselves and how they should be performing in any communicative event,
and the linguistic obstacles they encounter while communicating in English
have been found to be strongly linked with language anxiety (Tanveer, 2007:).
This section discusses the findings in relation to some such psychological and
linguistic factors that may cause language anxiety for EFL/ESL learners.


A study conducted by Tanveer, (2007) and Tseng, (2012) reveal that,
participants appeared to be blaming a strict and formal classroom environment
as a significant cause of their language anxiety. They view the classroom a
place where their mistakes are noticed and their deficiencies are pointed out.
With regard to this issue, a Saudi male EFL/ESL learner expressed, In the
class if you say because I did not know much of a language, you will be blamed.
That means you are not hard to study. Another Saudi male learner expressed,
I feel more anxiety in the class because it is more formal but out of class I dont
feel stress, talk to my friends, not afraid of mistakes. Such expressions of the
fear of being negatively evaluated under formal classroom environment lend
support to the previous research that learners feel more anxious in highly
evaluative situations, particularly in the L2/FL classroom where their
performance is constantly monitored by both their teacher and peers.


According to Tseng, (2012) and Tanveer, (2007) discussion in open-class-
forum, giving a short talk or presentation in the classroom has also been
reported to be highly anxiety provoking, one which makes the classroom
environment more formal and stressful for the learners. Therefore, in his
research result showed that all the participants agreed that speaking in front of
the whole class or in public caused anxiety for most of the learners. For
instance, a Chinese female EFL/ESL student expressed, In class maybe I
stand up and do the presentation, I usually feel nervous. I dont know when I
talk to other students in normal class, I think it is ok. Maybe I lose confidence.
Additionally, Tanveer, (2007 in Young and Price 1991), in their study they found
that a large number of their subjects considered oral presentation as the most
anxiety-provoking activity in the classroom.


The evidence gained through past research, both ethnographic and empirical,
supports the notion that language anxiety, for untold number of learners, has its
origin in the fear of making mistakes and attracting the derision of classmates
(Tseng, 2012:82). Tanveer, (2007) in his study reveals that participants
frequently expressed that learners feel afraid, and even panic because of the
fear of committing mistakes or errors in front of others, because of a fear of
appearing awkward, foolish and incompetent in the eyes of learners peers or
others. As a result of the fear of making mistakes, some learners expressed
that learning and speaking a foreign language in the classroom is always a
problem. As Tseng, (2012) states:

One Saudi male EFL/ESL learner expressed, Classroom is always a

problem you find many people watching you and try to correct you, laugh
at you, you will be blamed for any mistakes, and you have to be correct
because it is a class. 1+1=2, you have to say 2, if not say 2, of course, itll
be wrong
(Tseng, 2012:83)

Moreover, Tanveer, (2007) assert that fear of making mistakes has been found
to be strongly linked with the learners concern to save their positive image or
impression in the mind of their teacher and peers. Therefore, students get more
apprehensive about making mistakes in front of teachers because they think it

is more likely to influence their end-of-course results. These findings suggest
that assessment type and teachers attitude towards assessment can
significantly contribute to learners anxiety and according to MacIntyre &
Gardner, (1991: 297in Tanveer, 2007), this would explain why anxious learners
tend to avoid classroom participation because they are either unsure of what
they are saying or lose confidence when giving an answer to a question in the


The results of the studies conducted by Tanveer, (2007:44) showed that
students embarrassment may be aggravated by the role played by language
instructors in the class. The teachers attitude towards and beliefs about
language learning and teaching, their reaction to the learners errors, and the
way they create stressful environment in the class have been reported to be
significantly related to foreign language anxiety. It emerged during focus group
discussion that the authoritative, embarrassing and humiliating attitude of the
teachers towards students, particularly when they make mistakes, can have
severe consequences on learners cognition and their willingness to
communicate in the class.

In addition, regarding the role of language instructor Huang, (2010)

recommends that language instructors can alleviate the anxiety level of
language learners by helping learners recognize their own discomfort and
establish reasonable, as well as achievable, expectations of language learning.
Meanwhile, teachers should correct students mistakes gently, using humor and
games to create a relaxed and low-anxiety environment, and engage students
in small groups and in pair activities to make them more comfortable.


Tanveer, (2007:45) Argues that past researchers have posited that anxiety in
learners is produced by their cognitive interferences based on self-related
cognitions, e.g. their self-perceptions, self-esteem, perceived scholastic
competence, beliefs about language learning, etc. Some self-related cognitions
found in this study correspond to previously cited cognition and appeared to be
varying in individuals based upon their personality traits and earlier experience
of L2/FL learning. Effective evaluation and treatment of these thoughts is
essential for anxiety-reduction as they act as psychological barriers to learning.
The highly anxious learners seem to hold negative thoughts about themselves,
low perceived self-worth and erroneous beliefs based upon their self-
degradation. For example, a Chinese female EFL learner revealed, I dont
really believe my English language is good, I think learning grammar and
language skills are hard to me.

Moreover, this rumination may come from the competitive nature of students, as
a Chinese female EFL practitioner expressed about her learning experience, I
was a little upset when I thought many students were better than me. Such
negative cognitions put serious impediments in their language development;
this lead to heightened awareness of their deficiencies and consequently to
reticence when are called upon to exhibit their competence in the target
language (p.45).

Contrarily, less anxious persons do not have such exaggerated self-awareness

and can therefore concentrate more fully on the task at hand. A Chinese male
EFL learner who perceives himself to be less anxious because he thinks he has
a big heart asserted, I can say what I want to say, though sometimes it is not
right, not too much nervous. I think it is easier to make more mistakes because
you think a lot, you cannot pay all attention to something you want to prepare,
want to say. The disturbing cognition in anxious learners appears to originate,
from learners high self-expectations and unrealistic self-set standards, as an
Omani female ESL/EFL practitioner said, I think it is necessary if we learn a
foreign language we need to speak it like a native speaker Tanveer, (2007:45).


Generally, the process of learning any language requires the knowledge about
the different aspect of that language like pronunciation, vocabulary and
grammar. Without the linguistic knowledge the learning becomes more difficult
(Lakhdari, 2015:22). In addition to the fears regarding committing mistakes and

being negatively evaluated by ones teacher or peers in the formal setting of a
language classroom, the participants reiterated some of the most common
linguistic difficulties, which cause these fears in the first place (Tanveer,
2007:47). The SLA researchers have frequently reported students complaining
that English pronunciation is too hard to adopt, and that the English language
system is so complicated, so irregular, and with so many exceptions in spellings
and meanings of vocabulary items.

Therefore, it is important for students to have some kind of linguistic knowledge

because this knowledge is relevant to speaking performance or speaking skill
and lacking of this knowledge leads to poor performance.

Lakhdari, (2015:22) argues that speaking a foreign language like English means
having a good pronunciation because the way of pronunciation is the first thing
that students are judged and evaluated. Pronunciation appeared to be the main
cause of stress for English foreign language learners because; it is an important
issue across language since its immediate effect on interaction (Tanveer,
2007:47). A learner needs to improve his pronunciation whenever he feels that
someone does not understand him. It is hard and stressful for learner to
improve his pronunciation within a second time. The learner in the contexts
where English is not spoken as a first language in the community they cannot
speak the language well and they cannot practice English out of class because
they are just listen to the spoken words only in the class. Therefore,
pronunciation mistakes are one of the main factors that hinder the students from
doing their speaking activities which mainly leads to anxiety and avoidance.

Moreover Tanveer, (2007:47) reveals that the issue of pronunciation anxiety

has been found to be at higher level among Chinese EFL learners. One
Chinese female EFL practitioner expressed, we cannot pronounce like Western
[mean whose mother tongue is English] people. I am worried about my
pronunciation when I talk to foreigners. Therefore the participants offered three
different possible interpretations of the causes of pronunciation anxiety. Firstly,
learning good speaking skills depends upon both the quantity and quality of
listening in the target language. The learners in the contexts where English is

not spoken as a first language in the community listen to the spoken words only
in the class from the teachers or classmate. The second interpretation deals
with the fact of how different particular aspects of FL (pronunciation, grammar,
vocabulary items, etc.) are related to learners L1.

Thirdly, the high demand of language teachers and their efforts to bring
students closer to the native pronunciation model can also enhance students
accent anxiety. A male EFL teacher further clarified the point, I suppose,
guess, it must come from teachers insisting on people attempting a native-like
pronunciation. It may also be because English is so pervasive in most cultures,
in other words, heard quite often, that heightens their awareness of the
differences between their and native pronunciation. (Tanveer, 2007:48).

Tanveer, (2007:49) asserts that With regard to linguistic difficulties, grammar
has been found to be the second most important aspect that the EFL learners
find difficult when learning to speak a foreign language. As an example; a
Taiwani female EFL practitioner expressed, When I speak I am unsure which
form of verb to use, I always have to think before I say. She further explained
that verbs only have one form in Chinese language and people use the words
like today, yesterday, tomorrow, last time, etc. to indicate present, past and
future time instead of changing the verb form. She elaborated this point with an
example, I go to the supermarket today, I go to the supermarket yesterday.
This difference in language patterns is a big trouble for Chinese ESL/EFL
learners. When asked about the most embarrassing grammatical difficulties
students encounter, a female teacher specifically mentioned Chinese students
difficulty with English word classes. She explained that the problem with the
English language is the adjectives, verbs, adverbs or nouns that are from the
same root, like confidence, confident, confidently, etc. The learners face
difficulties with the word endings or suffixes that are not the part of their L1

Similarly, difficulties regarding prepositions, different uses of article systems in

different languages, use of English modal verbs, etc. were mentioned as
significant problems learners face. Such difficulties can lead to the impression

that anxious students are not capable communicator in the second language as
they impede learners fluency in conveying the spoken messages (Lakhdari,
2015:23). Therefore, grammar difficulties are one of the major factors of anxiety
and the lack of linguistic knowledge leads to many problem in speaking
performance, and for that reason, learners avoid communication in classroom.

To achieve oral skill students need the appropriate selection of words when
they are speaking, and using these words and expression accurately. So,
spoken language also has a relatively high proportion of words and expression.
Thus, learning foreign languages requires a great knowledge of its vocabulary,
the phenomenon in EFL classes is that many students often find some
difficulties when they try to express what they want to say because they find
themselves struggling their limited words and expression. Therefore, these
limitations of vocabulary affect the amount of their participation in speaking
activities (Lakhdari, 2015:22).

In addition Tanveer, (2007) Conducted a research, which found a significant

negative correlation between language anxiety and the ability to recall
vocabulary items. For example a participant remarked, I dont have exact
words to express my ideas, sometimes I am conscious I am not using the right
word, I always feel nervous speaking English because I do not have enough
vocabulary, are some of the utterances participants made to show their
difficulties regarding vocabulary. As learners can process only a limited amount
of information at one time, the subjects reported that many words do not come
out when required to speak in hurry.

The previous section has given a shed of light on cognitive and linguistic factors
related to classroom procedure. How language anxiety is manifested and the
strategies to cope with it, will be dealt under in section 5.



Now that we have looked at many of the causes of language anxiety, it is
important to mention that what students typically experience as language
anxiety increases. Although many of the manifestations that will be mentioned
are considered to be negative reactions, the reader should also take note that
there are reported positive manifestations such as increased motivation despite
high anxiety (Cherry (n.d): 4). Foreign language teachers have decoded a
number of signs and behaviours manifested in anxious students. Negative
consequences of language anxiety manifest in the form of changed behaviour,
such as responding less effectively to language; engaging in negative self-talk
and ruminating over poor performance, which affects information processing
abilities; exhibiting avoidance behaviour by missing class, having unrealistic
high performance standards; freezing up in role play activities, participating
infrequently; and ultimately receiving low course grades (Tanveer, 2007:29),.

Furthermore, Occhipinti, (2009:42) explains that physiological manifestations

and symptoms of anxiety are often easy to describe since they are observable.
Learners who cite that they experience worry or even panic feel palpitations and
sweat when they have to perform in the foreign language. Without any doubt,
instructors are used to seeing students squirming in their seats, fidgeting,
playing with their hair, clothes, or manipulating objects, stuttering or stammering
as they talk in the L2. Students reported to feel intimidated, dumb-founded and
nervous when describing their affective reactions to the oral exam. Even
distortions of the sound, inability to reproduce the intonation and rhythm of the
language may be interpreted as manifestations of anxiety in speaking. Students
may tend to laugh nervously, avoiding eye contact or joking.


Identifying anxiety producing factors for FL learners and recognizing learner
manifestations of this anxiety while communicating in the target language are
important first steps in coping with language anxiety. An extensive body of
research has suggested a variety of strategies to cope with language anxiety in
academic settings, which can also offer an understanding of how to deal with it
in the broader social contexts. In general, the remediation of such anxiety has

focused on cognitive, affective, and behavioural approaches. The cognitive
approach holds that the thinking disturbances that occur in the classroom are
the primary sources of anxiety (Tanveer, 2007:30).

Therefore, here Tanveer, (2007:31) suggests a variety of techniques to reduce

or successfully cope with language anxiety: (1) Using an anxiety graph to
pinpoint the highest level of anxiety of a given interaction; (2) for anxieties
stemming from learners personality, providing supplemental instruction or a
support group; (3) for anxieties stemming from classroom procedures, using
more pair and group work; (4) playing language games with an emphasis on
problem-solving; and (5) role-playing with preparatory activities to instil class
rapport. Furthermore, he found that the students felt more at ease when the
instructors manner of error correction was not harsh and when they were
friendly, patient, and had a good sense of humour. So, it can also be suggested
that equal status relationship between teacher and student is an important
aspect for anxiety alleviation.

There are other strategies in overcoming language anxiety. Khaidzir, (2015) in

his studies indentified five categories of general strategies which are known as
preparation, relaxation, positive thinking, peer seeking and resignation. The
strategies used by these learners in coping with their foreign language anxiety
will also be examined.

The preparation category refers to the students efforts to overcome their feeling
of anxiety by improving their learning strategies. The second category which is
relaxation deals with the methods to reduce the symptoms of anxiety. The next
category is called positive thinking refers to the efforts to divert attention from
stressful situation to positive and pleasant cues and bring relief to the anxious
students. Peer seeking category is the effort to consult other learners who are
also anxious in learning the foreign language. The last category is the
resignation category which refers to the unwillingness of the learners to lessen
their anxiety by avoiding the learning process. These are presented in the
following conceptual framework of this study (Khaidzir, 2015:65).

In addition, Nagahashi, (n.d) argues that the challenge for teachers is to help
create conditions that allow students more opportunity to communicate in the
target language in a relaxed, supportive environment. Therefore he suggests a
cooperative learning environment to reduce learners anxiety.
Cooperative learning is characterized by several common elements that
1. Positive interdependence, where the group has a common goal and each
members contribution is important to the group success.
2. Face-to-face group interaction in which each member is encouraged to
participate, help others succeed, and learn from each other.
3. Individual and group accountability in which members divide the work
and are individually responsible for specific tasks.
4. Developing of small group social skills involving negotiating and use of
group interaction skills.
5. Group processing, which involves students reflecting on the groups

Therefore, cooperative learning activities can foster active participation, a sense

of community, emotional support and provide more opportunities for students to
use the target language.

Another study conducted by Hashemi and Abbasi, (2013) have suggested

variety of strategies to cope with this multifaceted dilemma. He suggests that
teachers should make the language classroom environment less formal and
more friendly, one where students can make mistakes without looking or
sounding inept; instructors should create situations where students can feel
successful in using English and avoid setting up the activities that increase the
chances for the students to fail; a truly communicative approach where
students are given chances to succeed even with imperfect language
competence and the use of drama-like and role-play activities, so that learners
may feel safe in a pretended situation with a pretended identity.

To sum up, this chapter has reviewed the past research on the construct of
language anxiety, which has been asserted as inconclusive and unresolved by
the researchers, and has tried to present the literature on the theoretical

contentions of language anxiety proposed by Horwitz et al., (1986) with relation
to three performance related anxieties: communication apprehension, test
anxiety, and fear of negative evaluation. These three components have been
further expanded with the help of relevant literature in order to highlight some
anxiety exasperating factors related to them. The chapter in section two has
also discussed learners perceptions about their own sense of self, about
language learning and communication, students high performance
expectations, and language instructors beliefs and overall classroom procedure
with relation to language anxiety. The chapter has also explored the literature
on socio-cultural aspects of language learning and has discussed social status,
power relations and sense of identity, L1 and L2/FL speakers interaction,
attitudes towards target language and its culture, intercultural communication,
and gender as some of the factors linked with language anxiety. The chapter in
section four has discussed cognitive and linguistic factors related to classroom
procedure and has discussed strict and formal classroom environment,
presentation in the classroom, fear of making mistakes and apprehension about
others evaluation, role of the instructor, self-related cognition; variations in
individuals self-perceptions, linguistic difficulties, pronunciation, grammar and
vocabulary. In addition, the literature on how anxiety is manifested in the
learners and the strategies to cope with it has also been reviewed in the final
section of this chapter.

Having presented the first chapter, we are going to shift to chapter two about
research methodology, where we collect data and present the results obtained.