Tài liệu Students’ english listening anxiety causes and solutions

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VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES FACULTY OF POST-GRADUATE STUDIES ĐÀO THỊ KIM NHUNG STUDENTS’ ENGLISH LISTENING ANXIETY: CAUSES AND SOLUTIONS (Lo lắng của sinh viên trong giờ học nghe: nguyên nhân và giải pháp) Course: Cohort 12 Supervisor: Prof. Silvia Spence Hanoi, 2013 1 ABSTRACT Why do most students experience an overwhelming amount of anxiety when listening to English? How can teachers address such affective feeling in order to improve students‘ listening comprehension and English proficiency? The researcher conducted a study on a sample of 30 English major students in their first year at Tay Bac University, Son La. The instruments of the study were a questionnaire and an informal interview. Data was collected quantitatively and analyzed qualitatively. The study confirmed that the students are highly anxious in listening classes. The study identified factors viewed as leading to listening anxiety such as listening material, speaker, listener and listening environment factors. The study also revealed that the students perceive native speaker pronunciation and fast speed of delivery posed the most difficulties for them while they are engaged in EFL listening activities. After the investigation, some solutions are proposed to help the students alleviate their anxiety and discomfort in their listening classes, and promote students‘ English listening comprehension. 2 Abstract 2 Table of contents 3 PART A: INTRODUCTION 6 1. Research Justification 6 2. Purpose of the Study. 6 3. Research Questions 7 4. Significance of the Study. 7 5. Scope of the Study. 7 6. Structure of the Thesis 8 9 PART B: DEVELOPMENT CHAPTER 1: LITERATURE REVIEW 9 9 1. Overview of Anxiety 1.1. Definition and Types of Anxiety 9 1.2. Foreign Language Anxiety 10 1.3 Components of Foreign Language Anxiety 11 1.3.1. Communication Apprehension: 12 1.3.2 Test Anxiety 12 1.3.3. Fear of Negative Evaluation 12 2. Overview of Listening Comprehension 13 2.1. Definition of Listening Comprehension 13 2.2. Significance of Listening Comprehension 14 2.3. The Listening Comprehension Process: 15 2.3.1. Two Levels View: Bottom-up and Top-down 15 Processing 2.3.2. A Sequential Process of Listening 16 17 3. Listening Anxiety 3.1. Related Studies of Language Anxiety in Listening Skill 3 17 3.2. Causes of Listening Anxiety 18 3.2.1. Listening Anxiety associated with Listening Text Factors 19 a) Complexity and Difficulty of the Lexis and Syntax. 19 b) Uninterested or Unfamiliar Topic 19 c) Visual Support 20 3.2.2. Listening Anxiety associated with Speakers factors 20 a) Fast Speech Rate 20 b) Phonological Modifications 21 c) Unfamiliar Accents 21 d) Hesitation and Pause Phenomena (usually grouped together) 22 3.2.3. Listening Anxiety associated with Listener Factors 22 a) Limited Vocabulary 22 b) Memory 23 c) Background knowledge 23 d) Application of Strategies 23 3.2.4. Listening Anxiety associated with Listening Environment 24 3.3. Instructional Approaches for Listening Anxiety Reduction. 25 26 CHAPTER II: THE STUDY 1. Participants 26 2. Data Gathering Instruments 26 3. Procedures 27 4. Techniques of Data Analysis 27 5. Data Analysis and Findings 27 5.1. Students‘ Attitudes toward Listening Skills 4 27 5.2. Students‘ General Listening Anxiety 29 a) Students‘ feelings about their listening skills 29 b) Reasons for their feelings about listening skills 29 5.3 Listening anxiety associated with each listening factors 31 34 PART C: CONCLUSION 1. Summary of the findings 34 2. Suggestions for classroom practice 36 2.1. Solutions related to Listening Text 37 2.2. Solutions related to Speakers 38 2.3. Solutions related to Listeners 39 2.4. Solutions related to Listening Environment 40 3. Limitations and suggestions for further research 42 REFERENCES 43 Appendix 1: Questionnaire 45 Appendix 2: Informal Interview 49 5 PART A: INTRODUCTION 1. Research Justification Teachers and researchers of foreign language are too familiar with statements like the ones above, which indicate a common problem that the majority of foreign language students are faced with. It is well recognised that foreign language anxiety is a rather pervasive phenomenon (Aida, 1994). Although language anxiety could be considered as facilitating anxiety that motivates learners, many language teachers and researchers have been concerned about the possibility that anxiety may function as an affective filter (Krashen, 1982), preventing a learner from achieving a high level of proficiency in a foreign language (Scovel 1991). Anxiety should be reduced because anxious students are not able to develop their potential foreign language skills. Reducing anxiety is a key to success in foreign or second language learning. It ―directly influences how often students use second language learning strategies, how much students interact with native speakers, how much input they receive in the language being learned (the target language), how well they do on curriculum-related achievement tests, how high their general proficiency level becomes, and how long they preserve and maintain second language skills after language study is over...‖ (Oxford and Shearin, 1996, p.121-122). 2. Purpose of the Study. The major purpose of the research is to find out why the first year English major students at Hong Duc University feel anxious or embarrassed while listening to English. In other words, this study seeks to identify the factors or causes that make students stressful and nervous while listening to English in the language classroom setting. This includes considering the 6 factors that originate from listening text, listeners, speakers, and listening environment. The second most important aim of this study is to find out and suggest some solutions in order to alleviate English listening anxiety in the students. 3. Research Questions The research is carried out with an attempt to address the following research questions: - What are the possible causes that make the first-year English major students at Tay Bac University anxious and nervous while listening to English? - What are possible solutions that may reduce listening anxiety of the students? 4. Significance of the Study. Foreign language anxiety is a universal phenomenon that has a significant factor adversely affecting the language learning process. This study could be of considerable interest to teachers and students at Tay Bac University: (1) to improve the teachers‘ theoretical understanding of foreign language anxiety, especially causes of listening anxiety; (2) to enhance the students‘ awareness of causes of listening anxiety they encounter in foreign language, and from this they can manage their anxiety level in other language skills. This study is also significant with respect to the understanding of the students‘ anxiety and the causes of that anxiety, thereby solutions can be suggested to help learners reduce their listening anxiety. Hopefully, all given solutions will be more motivating for the students to learn and make progress in listening. 5. Scope of the Study. 7 A study of the students‘ listening anxiety is such a broad issue investigated by many authors. However, in my study, I will focus on the students‘ listening anxiety – its causes and solutions: A study of the first year English majors in the Department of Foreign Language, Tay Bac University, Son La 6. Structure of the Thesis The thesis is divided into three parts: Part 1 is the introduction, which presents the research justification, the purpose, the research questions, scope and the structure of the thesis. Part 2 is the development which includes two chapters. Chapter one review the literature in terms of foreign language anxiety in general and listening anxiety in particular. Chapter two presents the study. Part 3 is the conclusion which presents a summary of the study and concluding comments derived from the findings of the study. It also discusses the limitation of the study and suggestions for further research. Finally, some solutions to reduce listening anxiety are suggested. 8 PART B: DEVELOPMENT CHAPTER 1: LITERATURE REVIEW The main aim of this chapter is to review the literature on second language anxiety in general and listening anxiety in particular. The chapter starts with a literature review on anxiety. This is followed by an overview of listening comprehension. The end of the chapter is a discussion of listening comprehension anxiety 1. Overview of Anxiety 1.1. Definition and Types of Anxiety ―Anxiety is a psychological construct, commonly described by psychologists as a state of apprehension, a vague fear that is only indirectly associated with an object‖ (Hilgard, Atkinson, & Atkinson, 1971 cited in Scovel, 1991: 18). In another definition, Scovel (1978: 134) suggests that anxiety is associated with feelings of uneasiness, frustration, self-doubt, apprehension, or worry. Spielberger (1983), as cited in Horwitz, E.K., Horwitz, M.B, and Cope, J. (1986: 125), defines anxiety as ―the subjective feeling of tension, apprehension, nervousness, and worry associated with an arousal of the autonomic nervous system‖ According to many psychologists, anxiety can be experienced at three perspectives. The first one is trait anxiety, which is defined as an individual‘s likelihood of becoming anxious in any situation (Spielberger,1983 cited in MacIntyre et al 1991, p.87). Some people are generally anxious about many things in a number of different situations. Therefore, state anxiety is viewed as ―a steady personality feature‖ (Brown, 2007). Its negative effects are thought to ―impair cognitive 9 functioning, to disrupt memory, to lead to avoidance behaviors, and to have several other effects‖ (Eysenck,1979, in MacIntyre et al 1991: 87). The second perspective is state anxiety which is ―interested in the hereand-now experience of anxiety as an emotional state‖ (MacIntyre et al 1991, p.87). State anxiety is an apprehension experienced at a particular moment in time, for example, prior to taking examinations (Spielberger, 1983, cited in MacIntyre et al 1991, p.90). Finally, situation-specific anxiety is related to apprehension unique to specific situations and events such as public speaking, examinations, or class participation (Ellis, 1994:480). The last one seems likely to be more closely related to attempts to learn a foreign language and communicate in it. 1.2 Foreign Language Anxiety Research on the affective factors in second language acquisition has been mounting steadily for a number of decades because students are ―physical and cognitive, but primarily emotional, being‖ (Rogers, cited in Brown, 2007: 97). ―Among the affective factors influencing language learning, anxiety ranks high‖ (Arnold, 1999: 59). The construct of anxiety has been recognized as one of the most important predictors of foreign language performance. Foreign language anxiety is a universal phenomenon that has a significant factor adversely affecting the language learning process. Gardner & MacIntyre (1993, cited in Arnold 1999:59) refer to language anxiety as ―fear or apprehension occurring when a learner is expected to perform in the second or foreign language." Horwitz, E.K., Horwitz, M.B, and Cope, J. (1986) conceptualize foreign language anxiety as ‗a distinct complex of self-perceptions, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors related to classroom language learning arising from the uniqueness of the language learning processes‖ (p.128). 10 1.3 Components of Foreign Language Anxiety Horwitz et al. (1986) integrated three related anxieties to their conceptualization of foreign language anxiety: communication apprehension, test anxiety, and fear of negative evaluation. This conceptualization lay the foundations for the concept of second/ foreign language anxiety, providing an insight to comprehend the sources or causes it can originate from. 1.3.1. Communication Apprehension: Communication apprehension is one perspective dealing with general concern about problems with communication avoidance and anxiety (McCroskey, 1984) and it has been received substantial attention from communication researcher. According to Brown (2007) communication apprehension refers to ―learners‘ inability to adequately express mature thoughts and ideas‖ when getting into communication with others although they have mature thoughts and ideas, especially in the language learning context. McGroskey (1984) defines communication apprehension as a fear or anxiety about actual or anticipated communication with other individual, and is a behavioral trait related to the psychological constructs of shyness and reticence. He also points out that typical behavior patterns of communicatively apprehensive people are communication avoidance and communication withdrawal. Communicatively apprehensive people are more reluctant to get involved in conversations with others and to seek social interactions than nonapprehensive ones. According to Lucas (1984), the unique component of communication apprehension is the metacognitive awareness that, as a speaker and a listener, full comprehension of foreign language message is impossible. Therefore, the potential for frustrated or aborted communication 11 is always present. Such frustration may even be considered part of the learning process. 1.3.2 Test Anxiety Sarason(1878: 214) defines test anxiety as ―the tendency to view with alarm the consequences of inadequate performance in an evaluation situation‖. Aydin (2008, ….) suggests that test anxiety could be ―a fear of failing in tests and an unpleasant experience held either consciously or unconsciously by learners in many situations‖. Test anxiety concerns apprehension towards academic evaluation which is based on a fear of failure (Horwitz and Young, 1991). According to Young (1991), there are different variables that can affect learners‘ anxiety in a test: the content of the test; particular types of test items or formats; forms of test; students‘ learning or study skills; and students‘ experience of test taking in the past. Test anxiety can bring on butterflies, a stomachache, or a tension headache. Some people might feel shaky, sweaty, or feel their heart beating quickly during the test situation because they don‘t know how to process or organize the information. A student with really strong test anxiety may not be able to focus on what is going on in the classroom and he can answer incorrectly even though he knows the correct answer. 1.3.3. Fear of Negative Evaluation Among these components, fear of negative evaluation is more broadly based than are the previous two. Evaluation, in this case, refers to both the academic and personal evaluations made of students on the basis of their performance and competence in the target language (MacIntyre and Gardner, 1991,p.105) . Horwitz et al. (1986) define fear of negative evaluation as ―apprehension about others‘ evaluation, avoidance of evaluative situations, and the expectation that others would evaluate oneself negatively‖ (p.128). 12 They also point out that learners‘ fear of negative evaluation derives from ―the disparity between the language learner‘s ―true-self and his/her more limited self‖ as reflected in linguistic competence in foreign language class‖( p.128). The findings of the study conducted by Aydin (2008) aiming to investigate the sources and levels of fear of negative evaluation as well as language anxiety among Turkish students as EFL learners demonstrated that fear of negative evaluation itself is a strong source of language anxiety. Daly and Haily (1983) suggest that the student is more anxious if evaluation is occurring. Horwitz et al. (1986) suggest that foreign language anxieties are a separate and distinct process particular to second language acquisition. Foreign language anxieties are related to communication apprehension, fear of negative evaluation, and test anxiety. They also believe that these factors have an adverse effect on the students‘ language learning process. 2. Overview of Listening Comprehension 2.1. Definition of Listening Comprehension Although listening is now well recognized as a crucial role in language learning and communication, it has long been neglected by many FL teacher and researchers (Ur, 1884, Krashen, 1985; Underwood, 1989; Rost, 1994; Rubin, 1994, etc.). Before 1960s, the teaching of listening used to be thought the most infertile and least understood aspect of foreign language. However, over the last two decades, with a new wave of interest in the development of communicative competence in language teaching, listening comprehension skills have ever received much more attention in language teaching classrooms. Chastain (1971) defines listening comprehension as the ability to understand native speech at normal speed in unstructured situation. 13 According to Buck, G. (2002: 31), ―Listening comprehension is an active process of constructing meaning and this is done by applying knowledge to the incoming sound‖. Thus, while scholars‘ definitions of these two terms are often worded differently, they typically describe the same basic concept, listening comprehension are considered as an activity in which listeners employ a variety of mental process in an effort to recognize and master major FL patterns, as well as to activate all the schemata to make sense of the incoming information. On the other hand, alternative view considered the listener as an active model builder. Listener needs to get involve actively in the interpretation of what they hear, bring his own background knowledge and linguistic competence to reach full comprehension of what had been heard. Most scholars now agree with this view. In a word, listening comprehension involves to an active process of listening for meaning, using both the linguistic and nonlinguistic knowledge. According to Buck (2001:1-2), linguistic knowledge consists of different types such as phonology, lexis, syntax, semantics and discourse structure. Nonlinguistic knowledge includes the ―knowledge about the topic, about the content, and general knowledge about the world and how it works‖. 2.2. Significance of Listening Comprehension Listening plays a very important role in student‘s academic success. This is true according to Krashen (1980) providing a large amount of listening or comprehension input that is the raw material necessary for the process to occur was the best way to learn a second language because of its contribution to the development of the overall language proficiency (Rost, 2002). Rost (1994) also pinpointed the importance of listening in the language classroom 14 as the supplier of supplied the input for students. Without comprehension input at the right level, learning cannot work well. Students spend most of their time listening to the teacher‘s lecture. Nichols and Stevens (see Elkhafaifi, 2005: 505) reported data on how students spend their communicative time among four language skills in language learning: listening is the most frequently used skill, 45% is devoted to listening, 30% to speaking, only 16% to reading and a mere 9% to writing. Therefore, listening is a fundamental and vital skill in the acquisition of languages (Nunan, 2002). 2.3. The Listening Comprehension Process: 2.3.1. Two Levels View: Bottom-up and Top-down Processing The processing of listening comprehension has often been viewed as interactive process taking place simultaneously between two levels: bottomup processing and top-down processing. In bottom-up processing, listening processing is formed hierarchically, from the lowest level of detail to the highest level. The new incoming data is first decoded into phonemes (the smallest meaningful unit), and then phonemic units are connected together to construct individual words. Next, a group of words are connected to form phrases, which make up sentences. These sentences build a meaningful and complete text. The meaning of the spoken text is derived as the last step in the process. ―The listener interprets that literal meaning in terms of the communicative situation to understand what the speaker means.‖ (Buck, 2001: 2) On the other hand, top-down processing refers to utilizing schemata which was known as a learner‘s background knowledge and global understanding to deduce the meaning from and interpret the message (Nunan, 2002). 15 To become an effective listener, student should be very careful not to go overboard with top-down at the expense of bottom-up. The reason for this is that listening comprehension is the result of an interactive process of bottom-up processing and top-down processing by employing both linguistic and non-linguistic information to make sense of the incoming message. Brown (2006:2) explained more about this, ―students must hear some sounds (bottom-up processing), hold them in their working memory long enough (a few seconds) to connect them to each other and then interpret what they‘ve just heard before something new comes along. At that time, listeners are using their background knowledge (top-down processing) to determine meaning with respect to prior knowledge and schemata‖ 2.3.2. A Sequential Process of Listening From a cognitive view, listening comprehension is believed to follow a natural order of acquisition, reflecting the process of first language acquisition. For instance, it is recognized by Anderson (1983) that the listening comprehension process is divided into three stages: the perceptual, parsing, and utilization. During the perceptional phase, listener pays close attention to spoken message and preserves the sound in echoic memory. Because the echoic memory is extremely limited, listener almost immediately starts to process the sounds for meaning. Willis (1981:134) lists a series of micro-skills of listening, which she calls enabling skills. They are: - predicting what people are going to talk about - guessing at unknown words or phrases without panicking - using one‘s own knowledge of the subject to help one understand - identifying relevant points; rejecting irrelevant information - retaining relevant points (note-taking, summarizing) 16 - recognizing discourse markers, e.g., Well; Oh, another thing is; Now, finally; etc. - recognizing cohesive devices, e.g., such as and which, including link words, pronouns, references, etc. - understanding different intonation patterns and uses of stress, etc., which give clues to meaning and social setting - understanding inferred information, e.g., speakers‘ attitude or intentions 3. Listening Anxiety 3.1. Related Studies of Language Anxiety in Listening Skill Listening in a FL is a less thoroughly studied skill in general by researchers. However, they come to a consensus that anxiety impedes listening comprehension (Elkhafaifi, 2005, p. 209). Quite a lot of attention has been paid to the anxiety suffered by many learners when listening to the foreign language. According to Horwitz et al. (1986: 127), listening was the ―primary process in the development of a second language‖. In their study‘s (1986), many students were anxious when listening to the L2, and had ―difficulties in discriminating the sounds and structures of a target language message‖ (p. 126). One male student said that he heard ―only a loud buzz‖ (p.126) when his instructor was speaking, and anxious students also told of problems with comprehending the content of L2 messages and with understanding their teachers in ―extended target language utterances‖ (p. 126). Over one third (35%) of the participants expressed their fear of not being able to ―understand what the teacher is saying in the foreign language‖ (item 4), and over a quarter (27%) said they were nervous when they did not ―understand every word‖ uttered by the teacher (item 29) (Horwitz et al., 1986, pp. 129-130). 17 They suggested that instructors help students cope with anxiety-producing situations and make the learning context less stressful. 3.2. Causes of Listening Anxiety There is growing support for the view that listening comprehension is not only an essential skill but a prerequisite for oral proficiency as well. Most learners of English as a foreign language experience considerable difficulties in listening comprehension, and these difficulties appear to be main causes of anxiety which should be taken into consideration. In order to help students facilitate their listening comprehension skills as well English proficiency, it is crucial to identify problems which listeners face in understanding the spoken language. Over the last two decades, many foreign language studies have been conducted to find out the specific factors on the relative success or failure of learner comprehension during listening (Ur, 1984; Underwood, 1989; Rubin, 1994; …). According to Underwood (1989: 16-19), seven problems learner may encounter when learning to listen: fast speed; unrepeated thing; the listeners‘ limited vocabulary; failure to recognize the ―signals‖; interpretation; concentrate; and learning habit. Underwood (1989) sees these problems as being related to learners‘ different background such as their culture and education. After reviewing over 130 studies, Rubin (1994) believes there are five factors that affect listening comprehension: (1) text characteristics such as speech rate, pause phenomena and hesitation, level of perception, sandhi, stress and rhythmic patterning perception, L1/L2 difference, syntactic modifications, redundancy, morphological complexity, word order, discourse markers, and visual support for texts, (2) interlocutor characteristics such as gender and language proficiency, (3) task characteristics such as task type, 18 (4)listener characteristics such as language proficiency level, memory, attention, affect, age, gender, learning disability in L1, and background knowledge; and (5) process characteristics top-down, bottom-up, and parallel processing, listening strategies, and negotiation of comprehensible input. 3.2.1. Listening Anxiety associated with Listening Text Factors a) Complexity and Difficulty of the Lexis and Syntax. One of the most obvious sources of difficulty for learners of English is the complexity and difficulty of the lexis and syntax. Meeting unknown sounds, lexis and syntax, FL learners ―seem to work much harder than necessary aiming for accurate perception and interpretation of every word they hear‖ (Ur, 1984, p.19). Thus, fatigue may come from ―how hard the learner need to concentrate‖ (Ur, 1984, p.19). The listening texts which do not match the students‘ current proficiency level may lead to failure in understanding listeners‘ progress. For many learners, knowing the meaning of words in the text is decisive for their comprehension; and ―an unknown word can be like a suddenly dropped barrier causing them to stop and think about the meaning of the word and thus making them miss the next part of the speech‖ (Underwood, 1989, p.17). ―Their perceptions of their own listening ability are often directly affected by how well they think they can understand content words in a text.‖ (Goh,….:24). As a result, they are probably less successful than listeners who get the meaning from the listening text without focusing much on the language b) Uninterested or Unfamiliar Topic A topic which is uninterested or unfamiliar often makes FL learners get tired and feel discouraged from listening process, because they find it ―more difficult to make inferences, and comprehension will be more dependent on interpreting the linguistic information‖ (Buck, 2001, p.20). Uninterested or 19 unfamiliar topic can interfere with the learner‘s concentration which is a major problem in listening activity because even the shortest break in attention can seriously affect listening comprehension process. According to Underwood (1989), ―If students find the topic interesting, they will find concentration easier.‖ Interesting topic makes listening activities enjoyable; students become engaged in classroom activities, therefore it is a good way to minimize the harmful effect. In the study of Schmidt-Rinehard (1994) on correlation between listener‘s comprehension and topic familiarity, he suggested that all subjects score higher on familiar passage while the unfamiliar topics, such as cultural or linguistic oral output, make comprehension difficult. c) Visual Support Another barrier associated with listening text is the lack of visual support. Visual support can be not only a picture or video, diagrams, charts, but also gestures and facial expressions,… ―A picture is a relatively primitive way of conveying information and readily understood‖ (Ur, 1984, p.59). Through a video, learners ―will see whether the speakers are young or old, happy or angry, requesting or complaining‖ (Underwood, 1989, p.96). They also see the physical context, the speaker‘s reaction, facial expressions and gestures. 3.2.2. Listening Anxiety associated with Speakers factors a) Fast Speech Rate Studies on listening comprehension agree that speech rate can affect listening comprehension. ―Most research quotes a normal speech rate of 165 to 180 words per minute for the native speakers of English‖ (Rubin, 1994: 200) and ―the speech faster than two-hundred w.p.m is hard for lower- 20
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