Language Anxiety Essay

Language Anxiety Essay.

Learning and teaching a language can be considered by many as a very challenging and demanding task due to what the process itself implies. Could you imagine how each language learner feels when he/ she is asked to perform an activity or just to speak in front of the class? Some of them will feel very comfortable but what about those whose hearts often pound really hard, break out in a cold sweat and find it difficult to catch their breath.

The disorders introduced previously corresponds to what a considerable quantity of foreign language learners face whenever they are asked to do something in the classroom known as: Anxiety, a term linked to an unpleasant feeling but which can also be helpful when learning a language. To begin with, anxiety in the language learning is considered as one of the most important affective factors, which has been studied since the 1970s. It is important to know what anxiety is, in general terms anxiety is a psychological construct that is described as a state of apprehension, a vague fear that is only indirectly associated with an object (Hilgard, Atkinson, & Atkinson, 1971).

It can also be defined as a subjective feeling of tension, apprehension, nervousness, and worry associated with an arousal of the automatic nervous system (McIntyre & Gardner, 1994) or in simple words it is described as a feeling of nervousness or worry. But making a relationship between language and anxiety it is found that according to what McIntyre (1999) stated, language anxiety is the worry and negative emotional reaction aroused when learning a second language. Secondly, anxiety has been found to be a negative feeling but helpful in some ways when learning a language. According to Hortwitz (1986) facilitating or helpful anxiety motivates learners to fight the new learning task, making them to expend extra efforts to overcome their feelings of anxiety. This type of positive anxiety is necessary since students who are not anxious under any condition will feel too relax and they will not even care about their learning process which will cause them to fail at learning a language. For example, a student who feels anxious but he uses it positively as a way to motivate him to pass the course and learn the target language successfully will obtain excellent results.

However, there is a probable risk that is helpful anxiety can easily become harmful anxiety. It is claimed that one third of students learning a foreign language experience some kind of anxiety (Horwitz, et al., 1986). Students facing anxiety is a real and common phenomenon that takes place in the classroom which is normal and helpful at some point but when the level of anxiety starts increasing without any control it will be very harmful so that students should be very careful and recognize the anxiety and do something positive about it before they react to this negative anxiety in a very negative way. What is more, according to some experts as the one mentioned previously Horwitz stated that helpful anxiety occurs only in the accomplishment of simple learning tasks, but not with more complicated learning such as language learning.

Lastly, the type of anxiety is an issue that should be identified in the classroom and overcome possible difficulties related to it. Teachers can identify anxiety due to the fact that most of the time when anxiety takes place there are very observable evidence such as physical symptoms, general avoidance or physical actions but what sometimes is difficult for educators is to tackle in the language learning. Some suggestions have been made for teacher to overcome anxiety such as being supportive, encouraging students to relax through music or games, using fair tests, providing meaningful activities, giving meaningful rewards, being clear about classroom goals, helping students to assess their performance, encouraging risk taking and creating a comfortable environment among others.

To conclude, it must be said that learning a language implies many affective factors but anxiety is one of the most relevant and an inevitable feeling among second language learners. The matter is Do my students know how to identify anxiety symptoms and do something positive about it? What is more Do I know what to do to diminish language anxiety? When learning a language the answers to these questions can be the difference. To ignore language anxiety within a classroom is not the solution; it will just drive to failure.


Hilgard, E. R., Atkinson, R. C., & Atkinson, R. L. (1971). Introduction
to psychology (5thed.). New York: Harcourt.

Horwitz, E. K., Horwitz, M., & Cope, J. (1986). Foreign language classroom anxiety. Modern Language Journal, 70(1), 125-132.

MacIntyre, P. D., & Gardner, R. C. (1994). The subtle effects of language anxiety on cognitive processing in the second language. Language Learning, 44, 283-305.

Robertson, P & Adamson, J (2011). Language Learning Strategies, Beliefs, and Anxiety in Academic Speaking Task. The Philippine ESL Journal, (7), 95-100. Retrieved from

Language Anxiety Essay