STUDENTS’ LANGUAGE ANXIETY
Nowadays, the link of language and culture in the foreign language classroom has been the focus of much scholarly inquiry (Kramsch, 1993;Bryam, 1989; Liddicoat, 2002, Liddicoat & Scarino, 2013). With increased globalization, teachers and students alike must be equipped with intercultural understanding for intercultural focus in language education.
For more than a century, English has played a pivotal role in various Thai contexts as a medium for international communication. Presently, English is officially taught to Thai students from grade one onwards (Ministry of Education, 2001).
According to the national curriculum, language and culture are imbedded as one of its four strands, fostering Thai students’ understanding of the relationship between language, other cultures and Thai cultures, as well as their ability to apply these concepts properly in real situations (Ministry of Education, 2008).
In the same vein, Aruapan Weerawong (2004) highlighted the main objectives of English in education in the national curriculum is to cultivate two linguistic abilities; 1) an ability to communicate in English with cultural appropriateness and according to different situations, and 2) an ability to use English to communicate effectively and grammatically.
Although the educational system has long focused on putting in great efforts to develop the functions and uses of English teaching, plenty of people still complain about their dissatisfaction with it (Chaibunruang, 2000).
According to Hizwari, Ahmad, Hifzurrahman, and MorHaizar (2008), there are many factors that influence the learning of EFL learners such as cognitive styles, motivation and anxiety. However, anxiety seems to be the main factor that plays an important role in the learners’ classroom performance. As can be seen, many non-native learners often feel anxious, tense, and frustrated when studying pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and other skills in the English classroom. Horwits, Horwitz and Cope (1986) stated that these negative emotional reactions towards English learning are a situation-specific anxiety called foreign language anxiety.
In response to the existing phenomena, foreign language anxiety needs to be handled efficiently by teachers. Keeping in view research on intercultural competence and language anxiety is designed to determine the relationship between teachers’ intercultural competence and students’ language anxiety. In this context, it is a thought that the intercultural competence of teachers may affect students’ foreign language anxiety.
II. Research Objectives
The aim of this study is to determine the relationship between the language teachers’ intercultural competence and students’ language proficiency. Specifically, this study will probe the intercultural competence level of the teachers and the language proficiency level of the students; the significant relationships between the between the teachers’ intercultural competence and students’ language proficiency; and its significant effects.
III. Literature Review
1.1 Intercultural Competence and Its Dimensions
Defining intercultural competence is a complex task. At the heart of intercultural competence is the preparation of individuals to interact appropriately and effectively with those from other cultural backgrounds (Sinecrope et al., 2012). As a result, understanding culture becomes an integral component of intercultural competence.
In addition, this refers to behaving and communicating effectively and appropriately in cross-cultural situations and in this context will be based on teachers’ intercultural knowledge, skills and attitudes.
Along this vein, Deardorff (2004) describes intercultural competence as a process in which attitudes like respect for different cultures and values, openness and curiosity lead to cultural self-awareness, emphatic understanding of other cultures, and the ability and willingness to behave accordingly. It is a developmental process which was used by Bennett (1993, 2004) to formulate a model in which one can progress from ethnocentric to ethnorelative world views. The developmental model of intercultural sensitivity was adapted by Hammer (2008) and explains the differences between five consecutive stages of intercultural awareness and competence.
According to Van der Zee and Van Oudenhoven (2000,2002,2003) the individuals with intercultural competence need to have cultural empathy, to be open to different cultures, to be enterprising and flexible socially and to keep their emotional balance in their problems based on cultural differences. Moreover, Multi Personality Questionnaire (MPQ) (Van der Zee and Van Oudenhoven, 2000,2002,2003) is an alternative way of determining the behavior when one is interacting with people from different cultures. Five basic aspects which are beneficial for intercultural competence are reflected in this questionnaire. These five assets are hereby defined:
1.Cultural empathy. This scale assesses the capacity to identify with the feelings, thoughts and behavior of individuals from different cultural backgrounds. To function effectively with people of other cultures, it is important to acquire some understanding of those cultures, and cultural empathy seems important to “reading” other cultures.
. 2. Open-mindedness, This scale assesses people’s capacity to be open and unprejudiced when encountering people outside of their own cultural group and who may have different values and norms. This ability, just like cultural empathy, seems vital to understanding the rules and values of other cultures and to coping with them in an effective manner.
3. Social Initiative. This denotes people’s tendency to approach social situations actively and to take initiative. This determines the degree to which they interact easily with people from different cultures and make friends within other cultures.
4. Emotional stability. This scale assesses the degree to which people tend to remain calm in stressful situations. When working in another culture it is important to be able to cope well with psychological and emotional discomfort.
5. Flexibility. This scale is associated with people’s ability to adjust their behavior to new and unknown situations. When working in another culture it is important to be able to change strategies because customary and trusted ways of doing things do not always work in a new cultural environment.
1.2 Foreign Language Anxiety and its components
Generally, anxiety is an emotion characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil. It is a term for several disorders that can cause nervousness, fear, apprehension and worrying. Many scholars have given different definitions of anxiety in line with language.
According to Spielberger (1972), “…anxiety is an unpleasant emotional state or condition which is characterized by subjective feelings of tension, apprehension and worry” (p. 482). This refers to learners who feel tense and get worried in relation to second or foreign language.
According to Horwitz et al. (1986) language anxiety is a very distinct set of self-perceptions, beliefs, and feelings associated with language learning. Further, Horwitz (2010) and her colleagues discuss that language anxiety has negative effects on learners
Language Anxiety to Gardner and MacIntyre (1993) is a stable personality trait referring to the propensity for an individual to react in a nervous manner when speaking in the second language.
As far as performance evaluation within academic and social contexts, Horwitz et.al (1986) made a connection between it and three related performance anxieties namely (1) communication apprehension, (2) test anxiety, (3) fear of negative evaluation.
In a nutshell, foreign language anxiety is an emotional and physical state of fear, of apprehension, of worries, of rustration, of shyness, of uneasiness, of self-doubt, and of tension. These restrain learners to understand English and become successful L2 speakers of English.