ining factor in the relationship between anxiety, motivation and language proficiency level of Iranian intermediate EFL learners?
Following these research questions, four hypotheses were formed:
1. Iranian intermediate EFL learners do not experience foreign language anxiety in language classrooms.
2. There is no relationship between Iranian intermediate EFL learners’ level of anxiety and motivation.
3. There is no relationship between Iranian intermediate EFL learners’ language proficiency, level of anxiety, and motivation.
4. Gender is not a determining factor in the relationship between anxiety, motivation and language proficiency level of Iranian intermediate EFL learners.
1.6 Definition of Key Terms
The present study draws on a number of terms, the definitions of which are provided here to avoid any possible ambiguity.
Language Learning Anxiety: Anxiety has been defined as “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2003, p. 56). However, anxiety in this study refers to the feeling of worry and fear Iranian EFL learners have in language learning situations when performing a language task such as speaking and listening, fear of making mistakes in language class, or their worry of not understanding what the teacher is saying in the foreign language.
Language Learning Motivation: Following Donryei and Otto (1998, p. 65), Harmer (2007, p. 98) defined motivation as “the dynamically changing cumulative arousal or internal drive in a person that initiates, directs, coordinates, amplifies, terminates, and evaluates the cognitive and motor processes whereby initial wishes and desires are selected, prioritized, operationalized, and successfully or unsuccessfully acted out”. Here the concept of learners’ motivation is operationalized for the sake of the present study as the degree to which Iranian EFL learners invest attention and effort in various activities in order to learn English or enhance their knowledge of English.
Language Proficiency: Language proficiency or linguistic proficiency, according to Council of Chief State School Officers (1992), is generally the ability of an individual to speak or perform in an acquired language. Besides, English language proficiency refers to the ability to use English to ask questions, to understand teachers, and reading materials, to test ideas, and to challenge what is being asked in the classroom. Four language skills contribute to proficiency are reading, listening, writing, and speaking. Accordingly, English proficiency is conceptualized in this study as the level of intermediate learners’ ability in listening, speaking, reading, and writing in English as a foreign language.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
The present chapter consists of two parts. The first part, Theoretical Framework, deals with the concepts and ideas used in the present study. The second part of the chapter presents empirical studies done in the field and reports the findings of previous research on language learning anxiety, motivation, and language proficiency.
2.1 Theoretical Framework
This section deals with the explanation of concepts and theories used in this study including anxiety and language learning anxiety to follow the research objectives and to find answers to research questions.
2.1.1 Anxiety by Definition
Feeling anxious at times is a normal part of life. It can even be helpful when it alerts one to danger. Anxiety becomes a disorder when it occurs frequently, feels intense, lasts hours or even days, and begins to interfere with one’s daily life, like school, work, sleep, and important relationships. But, what is anxiety? Anxiety has been defined as “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2003, p. 56). Anxiety is “a future-oriented mood state associated with preparation for possible, upcoming negative events; and fear is an alarm response to present or imminent danger (real or perceived)” (Barlow, 2002, p. 11).
188.8.131.52 Types of Anxiety
Different typologies have been proposed for anxiety. A distinction between state and trait anxiety has become commonplace (Spielberger, 1983). Trait anxiety shows the existence of stable individual differences in the tendency to respond anxiously in the anticipation of threatening situations. In fact, trait anxiety refers to a general level of stress that is most often with an individual as a trait that is related to personality. Trait anxiety varies according to how people have conditioned themselves to respond to stressful situations. For example, what may cause anxiety and stress in one person may not generate any emotion in another. People with high levels of trait anxiety are often quite easily stressed and anxious. On the other hand, state anxiety is defined as an unpleasant emotional arousal in face of threatening demands or dangers. A cognitive appraisal of threat is a prerequisite for the experience of this emotion (Lazarus, 1991). State anxiety is related a state of heightened emotions that is generated in response to a fear or danger of a particular situation. State anxiety may contribute to a degree of physical and mental paralysis, preventing performance of a task or where performance is severely affected such as forgetting some words when speaking in public. In addition, as another type of anxiety, situation-specific anxiety is related to a feeling of worry unique to specific situations and events (Ellis, 1994).
Two concepts of anxiety that are more associated with learning and language learning are facilitating and debilitating anxiety. The first one, facilitating anxiety, is described as a positive force which may lead the student to become even more motivated for language learning. In this case, the learner deals with a task in a more rational way. Not all language researchers will call this feeling anxiety. Some people prefer calling it attention (Young, 1992). By contrast, debilitating anxiety motivates the learner to avoid the language task, and it leads him to adopt avoidance behaviors (Alpert & Haber, 1960). According to Horwitz, Horwitz, and Cope (1986), highly anxious learners avoid expressing complex messages in the foreign language or they take more time to learn vocabulary items. And though anxious students tend to over-study, their course grades often do not reflect that effort (Price, 1991).
184.108.40.206 Language Learning Anxiety
Second/foreign language learning can sometimes be a terrible experience for many learners. The number of students who suffer from language learning anxiety is numorous. According to Worde (1998), one third to one half of learners have reported they experience detrimental levels of language anxiety. Various aspects of language learning have been focused on by studies of anxiety such as language outcomes, rate of second language acquisition, performance in language classrooms, and performance in high-stakes language testing (Zheng, 2008).
Language anxiety can be refered to as the fear or apprehension that happens when a learner is expected to perform in the second or foreign language (Gardner & MacIntyre, 1993) or the worry and negative emotional reaction when learning or using a second language (MacIntyre, 1999). In the same way, Horwitz, Horwitz and Cope (1986) defined foreign language anxiety as a “distinct complex of self-perceptions, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors related to classroom language learning arising from the uniqueness of the language learning p
rocess” (p. 31). Language anxiety has been seen as a negative psychological factor in the language learning process by many of the researchers who have considered its impact on language learners.
Somtimes language anxiety has been defined as “possibly the affective factor that most pervasively obstructs the learning process” (Arnold and Brown, 1999, p. 8), a negative energy that affects the brain, our short-term memory, and hence our ability to hold words and ideas long enough on this creative table so to speak in order to mould them into suitably communicative sentences or utterances. Besides, in some cases, we may be unable to find the words. One of effects of anxiety is to lessen our ability to produce and, therefore, create linguistically. Perhaps the most well-known metaphor used to show learners’ negative reactions to language learning is Krashen’s (1987) ‘affective filter’, an imaginary barrier which is operates when learners feel threatened by, disinclined to engage with or emotionally unreceptive to the language input available to them. On the other hand, if learners are relaxed and motivated, this barrier will be lowered and the language input would more likely to be attended to and acquired.
An important question is whether language anxiety is always negative or not. Some researchers have challenged the idea that anxiety is always a negative factor. Indeed, some have pointed to the potential benefits of anxiety (Mathews, 1996). For instance, an experience that most of us may have is to write under pressure. Sometimes it seems we are capable of writing more effectively and creatively when we have to complete a deadline and have little time in which to complete it. On the other hand, the more time we have at our disposal, the more ineffective and uninspiring our writing seems to be. Besides, more often we may leave things until another day until tension and anxiety to reach to the necessary levels in order to force us into action. When it comes to speaking, anxiety may actually push us on to greater effort and fluency. And many of us may have experienced a feeling of being nervous and tense before speaking and this nervousness has reflected in stuttering, false starts, and inaccurate pronunciation. These two types of anxiety, one a negative force, the other a positive one, have been referred to as ‘debilitating’ and ‘facilitating’ anxiety in the literature. The positive anxiety pushes one forward, motivates, and helps while the negative anxiety weakens one to resolve, creates doubts, and encourages one to run away and debilitates.
Different learners may experiences variuos levels of anxiety. For instance, introverts are more likely to experience anxiety than extraverts (Brown, Robson, & Rosenkjar, 2001). Introverts usually prefer individual work more than group work so they may easily become anxious if they are put in more communication-oriented classroom settings. In contrast, extraverts may feel anxious if they have to work on their own all the time. In addition, According to McCroskey (1984), even at higher levels of proficiency, many students may experience some level of fear and anxiety when asked to communicate, especially in public.
Language learning anxiety may be demonstrated by languge learners in various ways. Generaaly, foreign language anxiety has three varieties: communication apprehension, test anxiety, and fear of negative evaluation. Communication apprehension is a feeling of discomfort when communicating. More specifically, such apprehension occureswhere learners lack mature communication skills although they have mature ideas and thoughts. In fact, it refers to a fear of getting into real communication with others. Communication apprehension occurs in a variety of settings in both native language and second language and results in negative outcomes for both speakers and listeners. As such, communication apprehension must be addressed by language teachers, especially teachers who