Have you ever felt blocked when trying to understand a test-recording or suddenly been at a loss for words when writing an essay in a foreign language, even though you know you’ve studied these words before? Do you worry about not being able to pronounce or understand certain words correctly or feel anxious when talking to your tandem partner? If so, you might be suffering from Foreign Language Anxiety.
OK, that might be an overstatement ^^. Foreign Language Anxiety is classified by psychologists as a specific anxiety reaction fueled by communication apprehension, test (performance) anxiety and fear of negative evaluation. It is an extreme state of uneasiness, nervousness, worry and apprehension that influences not only the student’s confidence, but also his or her self esteem, level of participation, and therefore the opportunities of improvement.
Those who suffer from FLA usually:
• Feel uncomfortable communicating due to their “limited” knowledge.
• Consider errors a threat to their image and fear negative evaluation.
• Feel that the learning process is a test and not an opportunity to improve.
• Avoid participating in foreign language activities.
Although FLA patients find most communication skills challenging, they consider speaking and listening as the most stressful among the group.
The truth is that most people feel this way from time to time, although probably not to this extent. Nevertheless, there still is hope. As most anxieties, FLA is created by your own experiences and beliefs. Therefore: you are in control. 🙂 So, here are a few tips to challenge your perspective on the learning process and help you overcome your fears about foreign language communication skills:
• Identify your motivation: How will learning a new language contribute to your goals? Will this new skill help you achieve your professional targets or help you communicate with somebody you love? Identifying your motivation will allow you to stay focused on what is important to you and not on your anxiety.
• Establish a new goal: communication instead of perfection. Concentrating on getting your ideas across instead of counting the mistakes you make is the best way to improve your communication skills. Remember that perfection is a relative term, so why not base your definition on your ability to communicate with others? Which brings me to the next tip:
• Accept mistakes as a natural part of the learning process. In my personal opinion, there is no way to avoid mistakes while learning. Learning is just that: a PROCESS. And as such, there is a stage of trial and error. Accepting this fact will allow you to learn from your mistakes and communicate better.
• Work with people that will give you genuine, positive feedback. Whether it be from a teacher, a friend or a tandem partner, positive feedback will help you gain confidence and even enjoy the learning process.
• Last, but not least: realize that you have what it takes to reach your goal. It’s all about confidence 😉
I hope you found this article useful. If you want to discover how much your foreign language anxieties are holding you back, check out this link!