An engagingly written study by Philip Landström of Sweden’s Karlstads University tackles Foreign language anxiety among Chinese senior middle school students. Noting that speaking in front of others is hard enough without it being in a foreign language, he gently introduces tricky concepts like Horowitz’s Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale (FLCAS), which scores between 36 (not at all bothered) and 180 (deeply nervous).
There’s a recap of Xiaoqing’s 1990s study of foreign language anxiety (FLA) in China. This attributed anxiety mostly to low-proficiency teachers with no opportunity to practise outside class. Landström notes that today’s Chinese students download music with English lyrics, play English-language video games and come into much more contact with the language. A 2013 survey by Lui of 547 university English degree students found 70 per cent reported feeling anxious while speaking English.
Landström’s own study was of 14-to-16-year-old learners, who ‘may perceive anxiety differently’ from university students. They were tested on FLCAS and described their feelings in interviews.
In a section mercifully light on graphs and tables and strong on clarifying narrative, the study concludes that much of the student’s FLA is caused by teachers. He highlights comments such as, ‘I get upset when I don’t understand what the teacher is correcting’ and ‘I get nervous when I don’t understand every word the English teacher says.’ Other key factors making students anxious are their performance compared to their peers, and not having prepared what they are going to say in class. Despite all this, the students still reported a strong interest in and enthusiasm for learning English.