Nearly all the research whether from Europe or further afield shows that language students are not very worried about being in a language class, but that their anxiety levels rise when they are asked to speak in the target language.
The reasons for this tend to be:
- Worry that they are not as good at speaking as their colleagues
- Feeling exposed – everyone’s eyes are on them when they are speaking
- Other people may be critical of their performance
We were interested to know if our students at la Academia feel the same way, so in our recent survey we asked “How confident are you about speaking in the language you are learning?”
The results showed that the majority of our students are quite confident, but that this fear of speaking in a foreign language is common, even in a set of students who are all language learning volunteers.
Just over half of the students (54%) said that they are “happy to speak up in class”, though this was mixed with some of them speaking even though they were worried about pronouncing words incorrectly – it seems that most students understand the value of speaking the language, and so push themselves to do it despite their fears.
Just over 20% of la Academia students said they are “quite shy in classes and don’t like to speak”, because they worried about their answer being wrong. Another 20% of students reported that they worried about getting the accent wrong. This could depend on how they were feeling on a particular day, with one student being “half-confident” – sometimes confident to speak and sometimes not!
There were some brave souls among la Academia students who were quite happy to speak and who said they “enjoy the freedom of speaking in a different language”, but these were rare creatures at under 10% of the total respondents.
Compared with non-volunteer language learners – those who are required to learn a language in school, for example, our students are much more prepared to speak up in class and do not feel as anxious. Their attitude was summed up by a student who said that although they prefer not to make mistakes they are prepared to speak anyway and take the risk.
At la Academia it is our aim to provide a learning environment where our students feel able to take the risk of making mistakes. Our teachers and fellow students are very supportive, so give it a go!