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Anxiety in the foreign language classroom

1 June 1998


With the new proficiency requirements in the state of Oregon, the topic of language anxiety is becoming an important area of research in our profession. With more emphasis being placed upon speaking, the levels of anxiety in a foreign language classroom may rise drastically. The purpose of this study is to pinpoint some effective strategies that reduce anxiety in the middle school and high school foreign language classrooms. Both qualitative and quantitative research took place in this study. A student questionnaire was administered to twenty-two high school Spanish II students and twenty-seven middle school Spanish I students. The questionnaire was reflective of personal student anxiety, student beliefs about language learning, teacher-student interactions, classroom procedures and foreign language testing. Individual student interviews were also conducted with five Spanish II students and four Spanish I students. The interviews focused on areas that caused students anxiety during their foreign language class, and any suggestions they may have had as to ways in which their anxiety could be reduced. Individual teacher interviews took place with two Spanish teachers, a French teacher and a German teacher. These interviews focused on the teacher's knowledge of effective and ineffective teaching strategies that were used in the classroom to reduce anxiety. The results of all data collected suggests there is anxiety present in foreign language classrooms, but there are some effective strategies to implement to reduce this anxiety. Working in cooperative groups or pairs was the most common strategy suggested by teachers and students to aide in the reduction of anxiety in the foreign language classroom. Other effective strategies to reduce anxiety included: teachers testing what they taught, ample speaking practice for the student either alone or with a partner before they were required to speak in front of a large group, and offering plenty of positive reinforcement. Further effective strategies that were not collected within my data, but may be of use to foreign language teachers, can be found throughout the literature review.


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