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Essay: Cause of English language speaking anxiety and the relationship between proficiency levels and the degree of foreign language speaking anxiety

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  • Subject area(s): English language essays
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  • Published: 15 October 2019*
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  • Words: 710 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 3 (approx)

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This study examines the cause of English language speaking anxiety and the relationship between proficiency levels and the degree of foreign language speaking anxiety. The purpose of this study is to provide a comprehension into the base and the sources of English language anxiety through the students’ perspective: through the personal descriptions students from Level 1 to Level 4 and also students from LR (Level Repeat) students from 1 to 4 who are anxious themselves in Bilgi University Preparatory Program.

Data were collected through a proficiency exam, interviews and a questionnaire. The exam is the Speaking Exam which they attend twice at the end of the 6th week and also at the end of the term (Week 8). As a questionnaire, the participants were distributed an adapted version of the FLSAS (Foreign Language Speaking Anxiety Scale) which was improved by Huang (2004). Following the distribution of the scale 10 students were selected for interviews to get detailed analysis of the causes of English language speaking anxiety.

The analysis of the data showed that he students had a considerate level of anxiety, and that their language proficiency level didn’t have a role in their degree of speaking anxiety. The data also discovered that personal reasons, fear of negative evaluation with criticism, also the fear of failing and repeating the level again and the procedure of teaching and testing in Bilgi University were critical factors to provoke anxiety. The interview results revealed that in EFL context of Bilgi Preparatory Program there were additional factors of anxiety such as linguistic difficulties.

Key Words: Foreign Language Speaking Anxiety, English Language Speaking Anxiety, English Proficiency Level, Language Proficiency Level.


Foreign language anxiety is descripted as “the feeling of discomfort, worry, and apprehension with nervousness experiences when learning or using a second or foreign language. (MacIntyre, P. D.; Gardner, R. C. 1994). In addition, according to Horwitz’s statement in 2001 “Anxiety has been identified as a common emotional reaction in foreign language classrooms.” Researchers have found that one-third of foreign language learners experience at least a moderate level of foreign language anxiety. (Horwitz, 2001) In the case of language learning many people fail to learn language and this reaction of anxiety against occurs when learners try to make progress. Although some scholars allege that poor language skills are cause of anxiety, some of them claim that anxiety occurs when the poor language learning happens. But Horwitz (2001), stated that anxiety is a result of poor language learning. Horwitz also identified the term “Foreign Language Anxiety” as a specific syndrome and according to Horwitz it arises from three other anxieties including test anxiety, fear of negative evaluation and communication apprehension. It also can be described as “the subjective feeling of tension, apprehension, nervousness and worry associated with an arousal of the autonomic nervous system”. (Horwitz et al, 1986 p.125 cited in Balemir, 2009)

According to Horwitz (1991 cited in Balemir, 2009), communication apprehension refers to worry about oral communication, in second or foreign language learning contexts, learners’ communication apprehension is aggravated by their peers and teachers’ control over their production and fear of negative evaluation refers to individuals’ worries about what others think about them and believing that these thoughts are usually negative. Horwitz (1991) also stated that test anxiety refers to learners’ negative expectations about their performance in a test. This has four different stages including, test preparation, test anticipation, test taking stage and test reaction. (Covington, 1985, cited in Balemir, 2009)

While Horwitz identified the Foreign Language Anxiety as a specific syndrome, McIntyre (1999) investigated the effects of language anxiety under four categories: cognitive effects, academic effects, social effects and personal effects. Cognitive effect refers to the fact that the learner gets anxious because the input received is fast may not be able to process the information at the expected speed. Social effect refers to the situations when a social contexts provokes language anxiety. For example, the classroom may be full of a competitive atmosphere in which other students are trying to catch the speaker’s mistake. For personal effects, the reactions of individuals who experience these effects can be mentioned.


According to Wilson (2006, cited in Balemir, 2009) speaking is one of the major factors of anxiety in language learning. Most of the students suffer from the fear of using and practicing the language orally.

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