Language Anxiety While Learning English as Second Language


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English is the most widespread and essential language today. It is a medium of communication and is important for education, understanding and speaking English fluently. The need for effective oral communication is essential in the modern world. Communication in English is becoming an increasingly necessary skill since; the society is undergoing immense changes. Learning English as a second language is a unique experience for every learner. Psychological factors play an important role in a learner´s success in acquiring and using a second language. Anxiety has a considerable negative effect on English as second language learning. Man is an eternally wanting animal. Motivation plays an important role in human life because goals are the stepping stones toward the dreams so in order to achieve them, human need motivation to keep people whisk towards the goal by decreasing the anxiety. This paper tries to put forward the importance of motivation in reducing anxiety, language anxiety, communication anxiety, Social anxiety and motivation while learning English as second language (ESL).

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According to Shamim (2011), English as a second language has made its possession lucrative for all sections of society through social and economical formulation. Waseem & Jeebin (2013) reveals that English language and its position as a guarantor of economic benefits has made its possession a must for all students. Native language acquisition is an ongoing process. Native language is acquired from family, friends and society. Anxiety provoking second language activities for the learners are listening and speaking. Second language anxiety has a debilitating effect on the oral and written performance of speakers of ESL, where students have feeling of restlessness, fear, turmoil, nervousness and lack of self confidence experienced in learning or using a second language. Anxiety is found to have an adverse effect on students’ confidence, self-esteem, dignity, excellence and level of interest (Lucas, Miraflores and Go 2011).

Some students are more booming at acquiring ESL than others even though the circumstances of their learning are almost identical. Emotions play an important role in daily life of the learners and are must for interactions between students and others. Sometimes, students feel energetic, motivated, determined, confident, and inspired. But at times, experience the feelings of indifference, dissatisfaction, and embarrassment. In language learning emotions play a crucial role. Adaptation to the target environment and ultimately their educational goals is devastating effect and influenced students by language anxiety. Second language anxiety is the emotional response a person has towards using a foreign language where student feel tense or painful for the moment, in certain situations. There can be various physical causes of anxiety, such as hormone levels, but the underlying causes of excessive anxiety while learning are fear and a lack of confidence.


Karalova (2016), states that anxiety is a mental and physical state characterized by specific emotional, physical, cognitive and behavioral symptoms. Anxiety is a negative side of human thoughts. When students become anxious, troubled and scared they start to shiver, perspire, and heart starts palpitating. Spielberger, (1972) elucidate that anxiety “an unpleasant emotional state of condition which is characterized by subjective feelings or tension, apprehension and worry and by activation or arousal of the autonomic nervous system that accompanies these feelings” which restrictions creativity and information processing. The intensity of anxiety depends on the individual’s evaluation of the situation which they believe to be frightening and their approach in dealing the situation. Handling a threatening situation is the important aspect of anxiety. Perkun (1992) reveals that depending on the level of anxiety, it has both positive and negative effect. A minimum level of anxiety induce motivation while excess anxiety affects learning in an indirect manner and crafts lack of concentration which results in poor performance. Due to anxiety, people stay away from certain errands and postpone their work. Stumpy enthusiasm, stumpy self esteem, and devastating anxiety can join to raise the emotional sift and form a intellectual barricade that prevents comprehensible input from being used for acquisition of English language.

Language Learning Anxiety

Language Learning Anxiety is caused due to poor language command in ESL. MacIntyre (1998) states language learning anxiety as “the worry and negative emotional reaction aroused when learning or using a second language”. Second language anxiety is a situation specific anxiety which occurs during second language acquisition (MacIntyre & Gardner, 1991),

Language anxiety is a divergent complicated activity of self-perceptions, way of life, mind-set and behaviors related to classroom language learning arising from the uniqueness of language learning. MacIntyre (1999) explains anxiety as a pessimistic emotional response and the feeling of be troubled while learning a second language, Gardner (1993) elucidate that learners experiences language anxiety when they have necessity to use the second language with which they are not fully capable. Language anxiety is characterized by thoughts of edginess and physiological responses like augmented heart beats.

Communication anxiety

Horwitz et al. (1986) states that bubbly students become silent and fear to speak in public in ESL classroom because they are not capable to express themselves in a preferred way or to understand others which leads to irritation. Horwitz et al. (1986) stated that ESL learning emphasizes the importance of interpersonal interactions and language anxiety is mostly grounded in the skills of speaking and listening in communication with other individuals. Communication anxiety plays an important role in language learning where individual experience communication anxiety and finds it difficult to speak in a group or in public, or even to listen to a spoken message. Mohamad and Wahid (2010), states that when language structures in a language are not completely mastered by the students they experience communication anxiety because they fear that their friends, teachers and others will negatively perceive their language ability. The ESL learner become silent and timid, sometimes they are perceived as less truthful, less skilled, less socially and physically smart, tenser, less serene and less dominant than their less reserved counterparts.

Karalova (2016), elucidate that ESL learners have fear of being ridiculed and not accepted as an authority by their peer group. They feel threat to their self-concept, self-identity, and self-esteem, which they have formed in their native language as reasonable and intelligent individuals.

Social anxiety

Social anxiety and fear of negative appraisal of their language proficiency lower down the individual’s self-esteem. People with high self-esteem are considered more socially adequate and thriving because they experience less social anxiety. People with social anxiety are concerned about others’ opinion of their looks and behavior, and tend to be more self-focused, therefore reducing their participation in social situations. Fear of negative appraisal also occurs in ESL classroom. Horwitz et. al. (1986), elucidate that students are afraid of making mistakes, especially in pronunciation and oral communication, because they fear the negative appraisal from their peers or teachers. If the students are anxious, they will try to avoid any form of communication, or reduce it to a minimum, in order to avoid negative valuations about their ability. The student considers communicative or language-learning situation as the cause of stress and tension. This often results in poor performance, because the student focuses more on the perceived danger than on the language production. In ESL classroom Learners become discomforted by the physical reactions caused by language anxiety similar to increased sweating, blushing of the cheeks, augmented heart beets, and the student also becomes aware of these signals of anxiety. Piechurska-Kuciel, (2008), states that interaction has an important role in the growth of negative emotions towards ESL learning. It also involves error correction and the role of mistakes in language learning process.

Cizér and Dörnyei (2005) explained that language anxiety also plays an important role in learners’ self-confidence they have doubts about their ability to learn a foreign language. The students who have a high level of social anxiety are worried that by making mistakes they make a negative social impression on others and, consequently, this can culminate in producing more anxiety and that anxiety seems to have a significant psychological role in taking the decision about whether to continue the study of a foreign language.


Motivation is the reason for people’s actions, desires, and needs. Motivation means that all emotions serve to motivate man to execute some kind of action. All emotions give energy so that people can proceed and the willingness to proceed is motivation. Motivation often leads to enhanced performance. Motivation is defined as the process that initiates, guides, and maintains goal-oriented behaviors. Motivation is an internal process that makes a person move toward a goal. Motivation can be called the desire, need or urge to learn, do, achieve or acquire something. Learners with elevated enthusiasm, self-reliance, superior personality, and low level of nervousness are better equipped for achievement in second language acquisition.

ESL classroom

The classroom procedures are processes and atmosphere in the classrooms which may induce anxiety. In most cases the students experience anxiety when they are obliged to speak in front of other students because they are worried about what they will have to say or about the social impression they will make. Woodrow (2006), reveals that fear of speaking in public is related with communication anxiety where the learner’s heart and breathing rates is increased, increased adrenaline, over-rapid reactions, and a tension in the shoulder and neck area which make them nervous and anxious. Due to anxiety learners lack trust in their own natural ability to succeed because they spend more time over preparing instead of developing confidence which causes anxiety and fear of possible negative outcomes. They anxiously start stuttering and get difficulty in finding appropriate words which causes dislike in being the center of attention and also low self-confidence. The teacher can make them hear speeches of English orators. Make them confident enough and feel that everyone makes mistake while speaking a foreign language. Practice new English vocabulary; try to use the vocabulary in conversation with the peer group or teacher. Teacher can maintain positive attitude and smile while teaching ESL learners. Learning a language is a skill which can be learned by interest and regular practice and it can be achieved by the motivation, enthusiasm and qualified ESL teacher.


When considering language acquisition, anxiety which causes stress and self-consciousness can become major barrier for ESL students. According to Tobias (1986), anxiety may work as a psychological obstruct to cognitive performance in Input, Processing, and Output. Anxiety provocation is associated with self-deprecating thoughts, panic of failure, vex act, actions and may compete for cognitive resources that usual cognitive processing require. Students need a formal language learning environment, in which learners can fabricate their thoughts, feelings of inadequacy and fear of failure. ESL learners with superior enthusiasm, self self-sufficient, a fine personality, and a low level of nervousness are better equipped for success in second language acquisition. Low motivation, low self-worth, and incapacitating anxiety join togather to raise the emotional filter and form a psychological obstruct that prevents logical contribution from being used for acquisition. The ESL teachers can provide a stress free atmosphere which will reduce the language anxiety. The ESL learners should be motivated and made aware of the importance and usefulness of learning English. Teacher can create interest in learner to learn English with full interest and come out of language anxiety.

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