Exploring young learner's foreign language anxiety in China
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date05/07/2021
Foreign language (FL) anxiety is widely considered to be an obstacle to FL learning. However, to date, most research has focused on FL anxiety among adult learners and in Western countries. The extent to which FL anxiety exists among children learning English in China is unknown. China has the largest population of English (as a FL) learners in the world. In the National Curriculum, English is a compulsory subject across all stages. Furthermore, it is a core subject in University entrance examinations. The high stakes often associated with learning English mean that students start to learn English from the 3rd grade of primary school (aged approximately 8). The studies in this thesis sought to explore and understand the scale of FL anxiety among primary school students learning English in China. Furthermore, the relationship between FL anxiety, attainment and motivation was examined. Using a mixed methods approach, four independent parallel studies (three quantitative and one qualitative) were conducted among 631 pupils (324 boys, 307 girls) aged 9 to 12 (Grades 4-6) in China. All participants completed three questionnaires (two measuring anxiety and one measuring motivation) and attainment data was received. Furthermore, 24 students (reporting low, medium or high levels of anxiety) participated in interviews. The results revealed that: a) children suffer from moderate to high levels of FL anxiety from a young age, and the level of FL anxiety increases with increasing Grade; b) FL anxiety is associated with lower FL attainment and lower FL motivation; c) children report differences in the extent to which they experience the four skill-based (reading, writing, listening, speaking) anxieties. From the interviews, ten sources of FL anxiety emerged and strategies to reduce FL anxiety were proposed. Implications for further research and practice are discussed, in addition to the significance of this research for the field.