Foreign Language anxiety is the feeling of unease, worry, nervousness and apprehension experienced when learning or using a foreign language.[ Wikipedia]

It happens mostly when the learner is using productive skills like listening and speaking.

Three theories have been developed trying to explain the reason of such occurrence.

1- The learner have doubts about his/her self-efficacy. He/she feels he/she would be unable to achieve specific goals.

2- The learner is conditioned by past negative experiences and he/she perceives future situations as threatening too.

3- He/she feels vulnerable when studying a foreign language out of his/her country and in a classroom environment.


Three components have been identified as causes of foreign language anxiety:

A- Communication apprehension

B- Test anxiety

C- fear of negative evaluation

The fear of speaking in a foreign language is part of the first group(Communication apprehension).

This anxiety is experimented in speaking and/or listening to others whilst interacting in the target language, due to lack of confidence. There is a feeling in the student that he/she will be unable to perform( listening and speaking) adequately.

Anxious learners suffer from mental blocks during spontaneous speaking activities which result in not knowing what to say, and if they do, forgetting how to say it.

If we bare in mind that 50% of the speaking activity involves listening to the other people we're talking to, the learner is afraid that he/she won't be able to understand what is said. Most of the time he/she plays the waiting game delaying his/her participation in the conversation. We've all been there if we're true to ourselves.

The anxiety can escalate to the point of total avoidance of situations that trigger communication in the second language.

So. how can this be prevented?

First and foremost you should adopt a more positive attitude and change the detrimental thoughts about yourself as a language learner. You should:

1- Be willing to take risks.

When opportunities arise for you to practice what you've painstakingly learn, grab it. The more you wait, the worse because your brain will register your state of anxiety and the vicious circle will persist.

2- Believe in yourself.

Trust that you have enough vocabulary and grammar structures to hold a conversation, no matter the level you're at. Remember that there are multiple ways to express the same concepts. Use simple sentences.

3- Don't be afraid to make mistakes.

Be conscious that mistakes are part of the learning process. Be sure to analyse them when you can and learn from them so next time you can improve.

Like someone said, " Mistakes are stepping steps to fluency".

4- Rehearse beforehand.

Patterns of conversations repeat themselves frequently. Learn sentences and expressions you might use in particular situations, repeat them frequently in a loud voice. You will then be able to create muscle memory in real time situations.

5- Remember that your aim is to communicate.

You want to express your ideas and interact with the person in front of you. This is the important thing. let's say you want to know what time is the next train to.....wherever, your aim is to get on it and not miss it.

6- You're not in front of an exam board.

Again, the natives are not interested in knowing if your use of a verb is the right one or not, and they certainly won't count every mistake you make. They won't grade you either.

At the contrary, they'll be glad that you're making the effort to communicate in their language. They just want to be useful to you.

7- Language learning takes time.

Be patient. Learning a language is a journey. There is no magic ways to do it, and if you were told the contrary, they are wrong.

You need to invest time learning vocabulary and expressions every day. The more you do it, the easier it will be to make sentences effortlessly and get your message across.

You require to train your ears in your target language.

The audio in your course is a useful resource to begin with, but you need to listen to conversations in real time where the speed is much faster, and the accent is less pure. YouTube can be useful in finding these recordings.


Most importantly, you have to change your attitude towards speaking. Bear in mind that it's the most powerful tool at your disposal for communication. After all this is why you started this journey, isn't it?

Have you ever experienced fear of speaking a foreign language? if yes, What did you do to overcome it? Feel free to write a comment below.

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