Foreign language speaking anxiety : an investigation of non-English majors in mainland China


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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  • Deyuan HE

Related Research Unit(s)


Awarding Institution
Award date3 Oct 2011


By focusing on the specific reasons leading to university students' foreign language speaking anxiety (FLSA) and the effective strategies helping reduce such anxiety, this study explores Chinese non-English major students' FLSA in mainland China. The research employed three methods to investigate such students' and their English teachers' perceptions and practices concerning FLSA: questionnaire surveys, focused interviews (group and individual), and classroom observations. The study reveals that China's university students, when compared to the participants in previous studies, demonstrated moderate levels (M = 98.27, SD = 15.62) of general foreign language anxiety (FLA) as measured by the Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale. However, their FLSA was comparatively high (M = 110.95, SD = 8.80) when measured by the Foreign Language Speaking Anxiety Scale (FLSAS). The questionnaire data obtained with the FLSAS underwent factor analysis. Multivariate analysis of variance then found that the participants displayed significant group differences in terms of disciplines (science, arts, business, and engineering), identities (teachers or students), and school types (key or second-tier university) at factor level. Gender differences were also found at item level. With three triangulating research methods, the present study identified 25 specific reasons which caused students' FLSA and 34 effective strategies which helped them overcome their speaking anxiety. In addition, this study demonstrates that students' FLSA levels were negatively correlated with their self-evaluated general and oral English proficiencies, and their objective English achievement scores, although the correlation between FLSA and objective English achievement scores was not significant. Furthermore, this study reveals that both FLA and FLSA mainly debilitated Chinese students' EFL learning, while the facilitating roles of these anxieties were not so obvious. Last but not least, this study also identified 13 reactions of FLSA displayed by anxious EFL students in China's universities, which may be a promising finding, since understanding reactions to FLSA is necessary for recognizing and reducing such anxiety. It is hoped that this study will contribute to the research on FLA and FLSA, and will have pedagogical implications for EFL teaching in mainland China and other educational settings with similar cultural and social backgrounds. With the help of the reasons and strategies identified in this study, various stakeholders, especially the forefront EFL teachers and their students, may be sensitized to the debilitating effects of FLSA and the importance of applying appropriate strategies to cope with such anxiety. With the introduction of some strategy training or awareness raising, hopefully, students' EFL proficiency, their speaking skills in particular, will be enhanced in the long run.

    Research areas

  • Study and teaching (Higher), College students, Language, China, English language, Speech anxiety, Psychological aspects, Spoken English