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anxiety and speaking in a second langauge 
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
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Location: Nagano, Japan
Post anxiety and speaking in a second langauge
How much do you think speaking or performance anxiety affects your students growth and acquisition in communicative classes?

Do you think pair activities with peers cause an increase in anxiety, decrease it, or it remains unchanged?

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Thu May 27, 2010 11:51 pm
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Post anxiety and speaking in another language
My Chinese students had a great deal of anxiety composing sentences. They were husband and wife, and totally determined to be correct. They read English, have raised three children in the states, and at 72 years of age are trying to learn to speak English. They gradually were able to be willing to laugh with the whole group about the mistakes they made. Finding this site and the games here,--especially bingo--, really made a big difference for them. My Spanish ladies, on the other hand did not seem to be anxious at all about mistakes.

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Fri May 28, 2010 4:50 am
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There's a correlation to perfectionist tendencies and higher levels of speaking anxiety. (However, there's no proven correlation for the reverse.) A lot of Asian students tend to fall in the perfectionist category and so there are a lot of learners out there with real physical reactions to speaking in a L2.

I've heard that some other groups are quite opposite from Asian students, here the Brazilian population. They talk and talk and talk, but getting them to do an accuracy worksheet is like pulling teeth, the complete opposite. (Of course each individual is different.)

Bingo, for some reason, holds a bit of magic, at least for me. I can't explain what it is about bingo that makes it so effective. Maybe it's the simplicity or maybe the unpredictability. It could be a complete disassociation from a learning environment to a real game-feel for the learners. I have no idea. To be honest, I was never really that fond of bingo. Yet, now it seems I play it several times a day, 6 days a week. A lot of the games on this site are attempts by me to get my students interested in some other games. They do like the other games but when asked, they always request bingo. I'm glad it also working out for you, Jackie.


Back to the anxiety question, I always felt that group work or pair work was less threatening and reduced speaking anxiety. For some reason, I just thought it went down to zero in pair work, but I now see that it may just be reduced and that reduction may be minimal. Students may still feel very anxious about sounding funny or making a mistake in front of this friend. Students may think the other student's level is much higher which causes them embarrassment. Overly anxious students tend to underestimate their own level.

I've recently been trying to get some groups to understand the value in errors and encourage greater production even in the face of lesser confidence. However, I think I may have shone a light on some of my higher anxiety students in the process.

So far, I've just given speeches about how mistakes are a part of the learning process. There are stages in learning and making mistakes is a part of several stages to better acquisition (stages that can't be skipped). So, making mistakes is the road to better language use. A mistake is really just a performance slip and not really a mistake at all, more like a missed shot. I explain to them how these misses provide great learning chances for them and often are easier to remember for future production. They are a good thing.

That seems to be working a bit for now, but I'd love to hear what others have tried to reduce anxiety or encourage more output from their students. Has anyone had problems with high anxiety learners?

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Mon May 31, 2010 10:15 pm
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i often notice that anxiety hinders my students language acquisition at the rate im hoping they will learn. many students have refused to speak, and it takes many promptings before they will try. i find that once they are comfortable with me, they will try and pronounce words. i notice that when i do larger group repetition, students will try to speak. this is a perfect time to try and persuade the "non talkers" to speak when they others are doing the same. im teaching in south america, so at times the perfectionist nature you speak of about students in Asia is minimized here, but it still exists. Students constantly question if what they are writing, drawing, or coloring is correct or looks good, so this can transfer into their confidence to speak.

i do not find pair work to be a minimizer for fear of speaking. students to not want to show another student that the may be "lacking" the ability, so many students i see are resistant to try. I like to focus on creating an understanding and receptive classroom atmosphere first, and then work towards getting students to talk.

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Tue Jun 01, 2010 6:58 am
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I am also going through a period where a lot of our students are shy and anxious to speak in front of the class.

I find that finding something they really understand and feel confident about often works. Take away the anxiety from the topic and you may get them to speak.

The biggest thing, as was mentioned, is creating a room that is open and welcoming. However, this is done in so many different ways, that it's not for me to say how to get that done.

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Tue Jun 08, 2010 11:15 am
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Post Turn anxiety into laughter
I tell students right away that yes, we WILL make mistakes and some of them are rather funny - it's all part of the learning process. I give them a few stories of my own from friends/collegues (i.e. One friend told a cop "lo siento, estoy embarasada" thinking she said I'm sorry, I'm so embarrassed, when she actually said "I'm pregnant"! The officers face told her she said something different than she intended! :P ). The kids get a good laugh and this usually helps.

Also, having students read dialogues with other students repeatedly gets them comfortable with the speaking and hearing the words and they aren't pressured right away to think on their own. Soon enough, they will. (It works to have two lines facing each other. Give a minute to read then have lines move in opposite direction to get different partners)


Sun Sep 12, 2010 12:14 pm
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Sra T,

It's always a funny one, and not the first time I have heard of someone making the embarrassed/pregnant mistake in Spanish.

As for your activity, it sounds interesting, but I am not sure I completely understand. Could you elaborate a little? What are they reading exactly? All the same thing?

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Sat Sep 18, 2010 9:38 am
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Location: Michigan - USA
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Yes - at least at the very beginning, just give them a 2 way conversation to read/act out. i.e. A: hello B: hello, how are you? A: Fine, thank you. And you? B: Well. What is your name? A: My name is _______. etc..

When they are just introduced to the words and really can't think them on their own, the students are focused more on pronunciation and they are hearing the words used in the proper context. As they become more comfortable with the words, you could give students a list of questions that they can prepare the answers to (or use the Big Town cards to answer). Then they can take turns asking the questions randomly or just use the Big Town idea to have them try to take the cards from each other.

Does this make sense? If not, please ask me to clarify.


Sat Sep 18, 2010 12:22 pm
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It makes sense to me now, but do you have them do the same conversation over and over each time they switch?

And what are the Big Town cards? Probably something from this site I haven't checked out yet.

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Sun Sep 19, 2010 10:59 am
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