Anxiety in the noticing and production of L2 forms: a study of beginning learners of Arabic




Nassif, Lama

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This study investigated the relationship between anxiety and the noticing and integration of language forms in the learning of a less commonly taught language: Arabic. The study was motivated by the need to understand why some learners notice and integrate language forms in their second language speech better than others. Simultaneously, the study sought to understand the mechanisms through which anxiety interferes with second language speech processes.

The study included a sample of 80 beginning-level learners of Arabic. The participants were assigned to two treatment conditions, Input and Output. The participants’ language anxiety was measured by the Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale (Horwitz, Horwitz, & Cope, 1986), and their state anxiety during the noticing and production tasks was measured by the Cognitive Interference Questionnaire (Sarason, 1978). In the treatment session, the Output group participants provided an oral description of a picture story, listened to, read, and underlined an Arabic speaker’s description, and re-described the pictures. The Input group participants answered pre-text exposure questions, listened to, read, and underlined the description, and answered post-text exposure questions. An immediate oral production posttest was administered at the end of the treatment session, and a delayed posttest was administered two weeks later. Interviews were conducted following the delayed posttest.

The results showed that the noticing and integration of language forms were influenced by the type of anxiety and the nature of the forms. While language anxiety positively predicted learner noticing and integration of the language forms, state anxiety negatively predicted them. Syntactic and discourse level forms deemed more salient and of higher communicative value were more amenable to anxiety effects. No differential anxiety influences on learner noticing were detected across the Input and Output conditions. Pedagogical implications are offered in light of these findings.


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