I would like to raise a commonly ignored issue in Kazakhstani society: foreign language anxiety in public places. If you are proficient enough to have a fluent conversation in English with your mate, you have probably felt those gazes of people in the bus or supermarket. If yes, have you ever thought about the reasons triggering this feeling?
In fact, anxiety refers to the emotional state of nervousness, worry and apprehension related to a stimulation of the autonomic nervous system (Speilberger, 1983, in Horwitz, 2001). This feeling is more known as a negative and destructive sort of emotion. However, in some cases our inner flash of anxiety before the deadline might somehow help us to write more effectively and creatively. Anyway, it does not have the same trait during the speech.
Studies on language anxiety tend to focus on the educational process rather than everyday live experience (Horwitz, 2001; Portugal, 2007; Elaldı, 2016). Thus, Horwitz et al. (1986) identified three types of foreign language anxiety as following: 1) Communication anxiety (inability of a learner to express mature thoughts and ideas); 2) Fear of negative social perception (seeking for a positive evaluation from others); 3) Test anxiety (fear of academic evaluation). Thus, our case is more likely to be related to the second classification of foreign language anxiety.
Well, being more or less familiarized with the theoretical framework of given phenomena, let us discuss our live experience. Personally, I often feel foreign language anxiety when my friends unexpectedly to me start conversing with me in English especially in the bus. Some people tend to turn around and stare at me which makes me feel uncomfortable and stressed. Even though there is no any criticizm or disapproval towards those who speak foreign language in Kazakhstan, speaking English in public places is not commonly accepted by the majority and still is calls their attention. Frankly speaking, I myself and some of my friends perceive such odd reaction as people’s attitude to foreign language speakers’ attempt to blow their own trumpet, so to speak. Therefore, my feeling of anxiety is more about a possible negative attitude prescribed to me by arbitrary listeners staying next to me. Anyway, this feeling does not overpower my attemts to communicate in English outside the classrom in order to fix my current speaking skill and practise new words and expressions. Moreover, I noticed that this feeling depends on the current emotional state and mood.
Do you always feel comfortable to have a conversation in a foreign language in public places? To what extend do you think this feeling disturb language learners? And how would you suggest to cope with this feeling?
Elaldı, Ş. (2016). Foreign language anxiety of students studying English Language and Literature: A Sample from Turkey. Educational Research and Reviews, 11(6), 219-228.
Horwitz, E. (2001). Language anxiety and achievement. Annual review of applied linguistics, 21, 112-126.
Horwitz, E., Horwitz, M., & Cope, J. (1986). Foreign language classroom anxiety. Modern Lang. J. 70(2):125-132.
Portugal, M. K. (2007). Language anxiety: Creative or negative force in the language classroom. Humanizing language teaching, 7, 1-7.