Foreign language anxiety in heritage students of Spanish: to be (anxious) or not to be (anxious)? that is the question
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The purpose of this study was to investigate if heritage students of Spanish experience foreign language anxiety and, if so, what levels of anxiety and what types of anxiety they experience. Furthermore, the study attempted to examine how this anxiety is correlated with the anxiety reported in the literature for other language students as well as with the heritage students’ own self-assessed proficiency in Spanish. The data were collected through quantitative methods (anxiety scales) and qualitative methods (openended questions and telephone interviews). A total of 413 students (209 heritage students and 204 non-heritage students) participated in this study. In general, the mean anxiety scores for the heritage students were lower than the mean anxiety scores for the non-heritage students on all anxiety scales, although there were a few instances when the heritage students actually had higher anxiety scores. In addition, the heritage students in this study reported lower levels of anxiety than other college-level students whose anxiety levels had also been measured by the Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale. In most cases, there was a strong, negative correlation between the students’ selfassessed language proficiency and their reported levels of anxiety, indicating that as the students’ self-assessed proficiency increased their levels of anxiety decreased. The study also sought to examine how the various anxieties, as measured by four different anxiety scales, related to each other. Results showed a strong, positive correlation between all four anxiety scales, indicating that the anxiety scales are related in terms of measuring anxiety related to the language learning process, but that they do in fact measure different types of language-specific anxieties. The qualitative portion of the study sought to investigate how heritage students of Spanish described their feelings of anxiety about learning Spanish in the foreign language classroom. Analysis of the qualitative data revealed several sources of anxiety inside the classroom as well as outside the classroom. The heritage students also mentioned areas where they did not feel anxious inside the classroom, and they listed several goals for using Spanish in the future.