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Dealing with Emotions in Language Learning

Emotions in Language Learning: The main challenge of learning a new language is to face scenarios where that language is naturally spoken. Just thinking about that, learners usually feel a lot of expectation and tension, even if they are skilled. When exposed to the language in natural contexts. When they are about to face these real-life scenarios, their self-awareness system is involuntarily activated to prevent them from making mistakes, but also, as they evaluate themselves. They may feel emotions in Language Learning like uncertainty, shame or incapacity. Paradoxically, the exposition to the target language is a fundamental key to mastering it.

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Paralyzed by Emotions

Overall, teachers find in students one central issue: the fear of making mistakes. This feeling can thwart the student’s efforts to take risks and to produce language. It leads students to overestimate the technical part of a foreign language in Language Learning while putting aside the fundamentally important goal of communication. Even though all students are different, this is a general pattern teacher find in classrooms.  We can see how this problem might increase if we consider the common introversion that comes with adolescence. All of this emotional background interferes with the main purposes of learning a new language, which is to communicate with others and to gain more resources of information.

These types of emotions can described by the term Communication Apprehension. Which defined as “individual level of fear or anxiety associated with either real or anticipated communication with another person or persons”. If this is present, teachers cannot measure the proficiency and weaknesses of students. And they are not able to approach particular issues or give focused instruction. Indeed, teachers should attempt to assess the correct performance of students in natural language contexts.

Identifying Issues

You can ask yourself the following questions to identify the most common negative emotions:

  • Do your students have a fear of public speaking?
  • Are your students feel a fear of speaking with one person, or specific group of people?
  • Do your students feel ashamed to speak in certain situations?

These are actually the main issues identified by McCroskey (1970) regarding emotions in communication. If some of your answers were “yes”, then you should consider some of my advice to improve your classes.

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Keys to Solving the Problem

  1. Allow Mistakes: By allowing mistakes in the classroom, teachers significantly lower the “affective filter” in the students, making them more comfortable with the idea of communicating with others. Teachers can then progressively identify and correct mistakes.

Make sure you also specify the tasks where you do not allow mistakes, such as in final quizzes or assessments.

  1. Using Anecdotes: Students may feel deep encouragement when teachers point out some mistakes they themselves have made while using the language. This simple attitude cultivates a sense of empathy from students towards the teacher.
  2. Formative Activities: Formative activities are the best opportunities to give freedom to students. Tasks that will not be graded, allow them to feel less tension and it is a great way to practice. Also, teachers create a space to develop interactive and dynamic activities that will result in only practical, positive, and constructive feedback.
  3. Rewards: An offer of a small reward can act as an incentive. When students promised that they will receive an extra bonus. Whether it is a grade, candies, games, free time or fun activities. They rarely resist the temptation to come out of their comfort zone!

By practising the foregoing advice, teachers will increase the innate capacity of students to communicate confidently and foster student self-confidence. You just need a bit of creativity


Blume, B. 2013. Communication Apprehension: A Barrier to Students’ Leadership Adaptability and Multicultural Appreciation. From:’_Leadership_Adaptability_and_Multicultural_Appreciation

McCroskey, J. 1970. Communication Apprehension Perspective. From:,%201984%20-%20Communication%20apprehension%20perspective%20(Ch.pdf

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