Instructor explains foreign language anxiety

Alexander Lev-Da-Silva, instructor of foreign languages, lectures on “The Effects of Foreign Language Teaching Anxiety on Non-native/Nativelike Teachers" Tuesday in the Quay Davis Executive Board Room. He said teaching a foreign language can bring anxiety on both the educator and the student in a variety of ways that come with fear of judgment whether or not they are native speakers. / photo by Litsy Tellez
Alexander Lev-Da-Silva, instructor of foreign languages, lectures on “The Effects of Foreign Language Teaching Anxiety on Non-native/Nativelike Teachers” Tuesday in the Quay Davis Executive Board Room. He said teaching a foreign language can bring anxiety on both the educator and the student in a variety of ways that come with fear of judgment whether or not they are native speakers. / photo by Litsy Tellez

Ramon Morales
Staff Writer 

Alexander Lev-Da-Silva, instructor of modern languages, gave an informative and eye-opening lecture titled “The Effects of Foreign Language Teaching Anxiety on Non-native/Nativelike Teachers” at noon Tuesday in the Quay Davis Executive Boardroom. 

Roughly 25 University community members attended the talk, which defined language anxiety, and considered its causes with what to do about it. 

Lev-Da-Silva defined foreign language anxiety as a unique, situation-specific and complex construct of anxiety associated with feelings of tension and apprehension during the formal language learning experience.

“When a teacher has anxiety about teaching a foreign language and a student has anxiety about learning that foreign language, we can recognize that there is a problem there,” Lev-Da-Silva said.

This foreign language anxiety occurs in schools, and it impacts both the students who are learning the foreign language and the instructors who are teaching it. 

The students can get anxiety in a variety of ways. It can come from fear of simply learning a new language. It can also be from intimidation and being surrounded by other students who are native or fluent in the language that they are learning. It can cause nerves and anxiety to speak the language around these students for fear of judgment. 

Just like students face this anxiety when it comes to foreign languages, so do the instructors. Their fears manifest in a variety of ways as well, Lev-Da-Silva said.

Instructors may fear judgment – that they will not teach the language correctly, especially if they are teaching a language that was not their first language. They may also fear judgment from others that they don’t “fit the image” of a Spanish teacher, French teacher or Mandarin teacher, Lev-Da-Silva explained.

Additionally they can become anxious about teaching a foreign language to students who already speak the language. It can be intimidating, and can cause instructors to overcorrect, Lev-Da-Silva said.

While foreign language anxiety is a complex concept, it is common among students and teachers.

After studying, interviewing, and analyzing what language anxiety was, Lev-Da-Silva was then able to come up with some ways to deal with language anxiety.

Lev-Da-Silva said that the first step is to recognize that foreign language anxiety exists. Then, try to come up with strategies to try and figure out how to work with it. While anxiety is not something that we can get rid of, it is something we can try to control and limit.

He suggested that institutions offer opportunities for mentoring and review for developing skills and destigmatizing the anxiety that happens to students and instructors. 

“I thought it was interesting the way you mixed student anxiety and professor anxiety because it happens so often,” said Al Clark, professor of humanities, during the Q & A section of the lecture. 

Lev-Da-Silva spent years researching foreign language anxiety.

“It shows how specific and engaged Alex is, not only inside the classroom but out of the classroom,” said Sean Bernard, professor of creative writing, who attended the lecture.

“Let’s embrace our anxiety or our nervousness, and let the students know we’re not perfect, but we’re going to roll around with you,” added Claudio Muñoz, professor of accounting.

Ramon Morales can be reached at ramon.morales@laverne.edu.

 

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