A Comparison of Language Anxiety in English and Mandarin Learning in Hong Kong

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45 - 86
Journal / PublicationEnglish Teaching and Learning
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008


Hong Kong has a long bilingual tradition. After Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, the Government announced the language policy of “biliteracy and trilingualism.” As a result, the Cantonese speaking students are required to learn to speak Mandarin in addition to English. Reticence and anxiety are reported in language classes. This study investigated and compared the sources and impact of anxiety in university English and Mandarin classes in Hong Kong. The participants were 401 university students who took both English and Mandarin Communication Skills classes. The investigation used both quantitative and qualitative approaches. The findings indicated that the anxiety level was related to both real and perceived English and Mandarin achievement. The factor of language distance between the native language (Cantonese) and the target languages (English and Mandarin) did not have significant influence on anxiety levels or the correlation between anxiety and language learning. The time spent on learning had a significant impact only on Mandarin anxiety. It was also found that students’ anxiety level was related to their perception of the status and function of the two languages, to parental influence, and to the language environment. http://www.ceps.com.tw/ec/ecjnlarticleView.aspx?atliid=1385459&issueiid=76300&jnliid=3338

Research Area(s)

  • language anxiety, individual difference, language learning