The Relation Of Bilingualism And English Learning With Social Anxiety Disorder

The aim of this study was to investigate the relation between Bilingualism and English learning and speaking anxiety. As, the research is concerned with the students of English department students of Karachi University who are suffering from speaking anxiety. Bilingualism and English language learning anxiety has been the target of many studies in the field of linguistics, but with the dynamics turn in the field, attempts have been recently made to uncover the dynamics of anxiety that English learners go through, especially with in the moments of their conversational interactions. This study explores the dynamic of EFL learners’ anxiety while interacting with different interlocutors from an idiodynamaic perspective. The participants of this were the undergraduate English Major students of Karachi University. Bilingualism has great impact on the learners in the world. The questionnaire was used to collect the data that was analyze by SPSS. The results showed both change and stability in the participants’ anxiety under the influence of the interlocutors’ familiarity with the participants and their status as well their verbal and non-verbal feedback. Moreover, the anxiety affects learners’ personal, social and academic life.


Social anxiety refers to anxiety which occurs in relation to social situations and which is most typically conceptualized as arising from the fear of negative interpersonal evaluation. Social Anxiety disorder (SAD – previously called Social Phobia) is an extremely common disorder and customarily arises throughout childhood and adolescence. Some core features of the development and maintenance of social anxiety disorder are dejected experiences or decoding negative social analysis, having difficulties implementing social skills properly, and escaping social situations. These organic process and maintenance aspects of SAD could have a bigger impact on linguistically vulnerable population. Furthermore, the impact of linguistic anxiety can be as severe as it can be a reason of many common socio-linguistic disorders. A person who goes through such situations might experience dread and fear in the social situations that demand an active and professional use of a foreign language.

Learning English has become the need of the individual in different countries of the world especially where the medium of education is English. In addition, those with SAD often avoid any anxiety-provoking social or performance situations (e.g., avoiding giving presentations, conversations, and/or public speaking arrangements). In many instances, the situations can cause severe impairments in the individuals who have to go through such interactions; these impairments can be lack of social performance, stage fright, loss of confidence, stuttering etc to mention a few. Unfortunately, repeated avoidance of social situations over a long period of time (especially if the disorder begins early in life) may result in dysfunctional social skills (e.g., poor eye-contact, difficulty with expressive behaviors and/or maintaining clear vocal tone. Some European studies have found that bilingual non-native people (Turkish & Surinamese) living in a foreign country (the Netherlands) were more likely to be diagnosed with affective disorders than natives. It can be due to the fact that a different language comes with a different set of values and culture with its whole package. The responsibility that comes with acquiring a new language is grand and causes anxiety on its own. Furthermore, poor performance in a language that is the symbol of grandness in a native place causes the non-native to feel anxiety. The language impersonates the skills and behaviors of a place thus, not acquiring it to its best and its lack of perfection can lead to sever social disorders in a non-native.

Despite the rapid growth of the immigrant population, little research has focused on psychopathology among young adult and adult bilingual individuals. Since SAD is one of the most prevalent disorders in the population, and relates to feelings of being evaluated in conversational or speaking situations, a possible association with this disorder was examined in this study. Past research has described a vulnerable population, detailed warning signs, interventions, and statistics; however an examination of bilingualism and psychopathology related to social development has not occurred. This study will investigate the relationship between bilingualism and SAD by looking at individual and historical differences (e.g. social anxiety, language expertise and comfort, and acculturation) in monolingual and bilingual individuals.


Current study was conducted to investigate how bilingualism caused the English learning and speaking anxiety in the individuals.

Research Design

The research design adopted for this research was quantitative method. In order to gain the deeper understanding of the language anxiety and to reach descriptive information on variables, Quantitative study was required. This study used the survey analysis and required standardized information of the subjects and involved investigation of the development of second language. According to Babbie, Earl R. Quantitative research involved the use of computation, statistical and mathematical tools to derive the results.

Data Collection Tool

The instrument that was used for the data collection is questionnaire. The data is collected by the help of questionnaire via SPSS. The questionnaire is designed to measure the aspects of bilingualism and English learning and speaking anxiety. The questionnaire was comprised of 10 items. According to Orodho, 2008, it is used to gather data of individual’s personal beliefs and opinions in a precise way.

Data Analysis

For the survey analysis, SPSS which is widely used for statistical analysis was applied. As Shur – Fen (2006) also urges that SPSS plays an important role for the researchers to test the research questions and evaluating validity and reliability. According to L.P Wong, The process of evaluating and processing data by using of analytical and logical methods to provide the results of the research is termed as Data Analysis.

Literature Review

Anxiety is a psychological construct, commonly described by psychologists as a state of apprehension, a vague fear that is only indirectly associated with an object.

There are two types of anxiety.

  • State anxiety
  • Trait anxiety

State anxiety is outlined as an unpleasant arousal in face of threatening demands or dangers. A psychological feature appraisal of threat could be a requirement for the expertise of this feeling. Trait anxiety, on the other hand, reflects the existence of stable individual variations within the tendency to reply with state anxiety within the anticipation of threatening things.

Language anxiety within the broader construct of anxiety can be termed as basic human feeling which will be brought on by varied mixtures of situational factors. For instance a student could feel anxious when asked to administer a brief speak ahead of a category.

Since anxiety has been found as a vital factor affecting language learning, it is fundamental to identify students who are anxious in a foreign language class (Horwitz et al., 1986). As a result, Horwitz et al. (1986) have developed a scale to measure the amount of anxiety that students may experience in learning a foreign language. They named the scale “Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety scale” (FLCAS).

Anxiety is a very complex psychological construct; therefore to associate it with wordly recognized comprehensive task of language acquisition is a premature effort. Since anxiety has been found as a vital factor affecting language learning, it is fundamental to identify students who are anxious in a foreign language class. The theoretical framework consists of the three components: communication apprehension, test anxiety, and fear of negative evaluation.

Yule (2006) outlined bilingual as 'a term used to describe an utterer of 2 languages in distinction to monolingual'. Asia and Africa square measure the foremost bilingual continents, wherever many languages square measure a part of standard of living (Cenoz, 2013). Bialystok et al. (2009) declared that 'as the globe becomes additional interconnected, it's more and more apparent that bilingualism is that the rule and not the exception. Not solely do some countries support bilingual populations because of cultural and linguistic diversity inside its group, however conjointly inflated international quality has enlarged the amount of individuals who have become bilingual in any respect levels of society'. Bialystok (2001) thought-about a bilingual kid as someone who functions equally in 2 languages and has an easy move between them with an appropriate mental object sense for every language.

The students often come across the phenomenon of bilingualism as, in today’s world languages have become a key to success. The design of studies demand the student to be involved in today’s world that alternately require command in various foreign languages.Numerous studies in the field of foreign language anxiety have been conducted to prove that foreign language anxiety has an impact on students. The impact of bilingualism is quite vast in itself as the effects are numerous and observable in the students. Furthermore, these effects of the bilingualism hinder the learning process to a great extent as a foreign language remains foreign yet influences the mind in a different way.

In the relationship between foreign language anxiety and a specific language learning skill, Yao and Jingna (2011) carried out a study to find out the relationship between foreign language anxiety level and reading comprehension proficiency. 92 students from the school of Agricultural and Food Engendering in a Chinese University were selected randomly. Using FLCAS to measure foreign language anxiety and a test which includes three passages to measure reading and comprehension proficiency, the Pearson Product-Moment correlation results showed a significant, moderated negative relationship between anxiety and test scores in reading comprehension indicating that lower scores in reading and comprehension proficiency test are most likely received if the students’ level of foreign language anxiety is higher.

The language anxiety that is promoted by bilingualism does not deal with a specific language in terms of its effects. The language that has to be acquired separately as a second or foreign language shows various signs of anxiety in the person who is bilingual. Similar studies have been shown in the early work for Horwitz (1986) where, significant negative correlation was found between foreign language anxiety and English achievement of students who were learning the Spanish or French languages. The correlation between foreign language anxiety and final grade for intact beginning Spanish classes expressed that students who experienced higher levels of foreign language anxiety received lower grades as compare to their counterparts.

In the Iranian situation, different language skills were studied in relationship to foreign language anxiety. However, as the previous study, almost the same negative correlation value was found in this environment between foreign language anxiety and the listening comprehension skill as a receptive skill.

Yashima et al. (2009) examined the interplay of classroom anxiety in a Japanese university using 182 students who enrolled in EFL classes. The students had various majors such as law, commerce, economics, and letters. They used principal axis analysis with promax rotation on the FLCAS items. While their research originally showed five factors, we eliminated one factor that had only two items. As a result, their study showed four factors: (1) “Lack of confidence in speaking English in class,” with nine items exceeding 0.3 factor loadings; (2) “Fear of speaking in public,” with 10 items; (3) “Anxiety about not understanding everything taught in class,” with seven items; and (4) “Helplessness and negative attitude toward the English class,” with six items.

Results and Discussion

The descriptive analysis was used to analyze the data via SPSS software. The average mean score of participants’ responses to the questionnaire items were calculated to investigate the most important factor causing English learning anxiety due to Bilingualism among undergraduate students of English Department of Karachi University. The results indicated support for a dual conceptualization of second language anxiety and the questionnaire was found to be reliable and valid. A significant negative relationship was found between second language speaking anxiety and oral performance. Public speaking anxiety is very common among both universities students and also the general population. It is a feeling of panic associated with physical sensations that are all too painfully familiar to those affected such as increased heart and breathing rates, increased adrenaline, over-rapid reactions, and a tension in the shoulder and neck area.

The language can be termed as the method of communication but in the modern world it has become a symbol of something beyond just a means. The language today symbolizes a complete nation and everything that connects in its paradigm. It is crucial now to explore it a little deeper to evaluate its worth in its native place. In the modern world a foreign language specifically English is not just regarded as a means of communication. It is a symbol of status that has penetrated so deep in the unconscious of the society that it is difficult to escape from its clutches. English thus, can induce social pressure among its non native speakers causing them to feel inferior in case of lack of the ability to learn or speak English. It is quite common for the nonnative to feel inferior in the native place of the language but English has a totally different set of rules. A native speaker of a native country feels inferior of the art of learning and speaking English perfectly has escaped him. The language has such deep connections to the status and social standings that lack of perfection in its speaking can cause a lot of social pressure and anxiety in the peers.

Furthermore, the foreign language anxiety is quite common in the institutes and universities as they demand perfection in the speaking and learning power of English. The students develop a lot of social disorders due to the fact that they can’t perform well in a foreign language. The problem arises in many aspects as the students develop psychological imparities during their productive years that last a lifetime. The pressures on the individuals cause a great decline in confidence as a lot of students drop out or score less than the others because of the language problems. Bilingualism although can lead to a great confidence boost if the students are able to master the second language as good as their native language, but the lack of perfection can lead to decline of psychological health and can be a major reason of anxiety in the students.

The most important factor that the individual faced is the fear of negative evaluation. Students who have this kind of fear of negative evaluation from their peers or their teachers perceive speaking in the foreign language as a risky situation rather than to improve their oral skills. These type of learners are very self-conscious, shy and they lose their confidence level while speaking due to the fear of mocking and criticizing by their peers or their teachers. They have a fear of making mistakes and would criticize and ridicule on their performance. The peer correction would be embarrassing for them and raised their anxiety level. Language learners faced the problem of anxiety when they are ask to speak in front of the class without preparation.

The relationship between a foreign language leanings and speaking and anxiety is quite an obvious one as the English language is now a symbol of status. The students who are not able to master it feel anxious and inferior in comparison to other students. Bilingualism at its best provides a better means of communication but it is poor development in the individuals can leads to stress and anxiety. Furthermore, these effects of the bilingualism hinder the learning process to a great extent as a foreign language remains foreign yet influences the mind in a different way.


Anxiety is one of the emotional factor that could highly affect the performance of EFL learners. It is clearly an issue in language learning and has a debilitating effect on speaking English for some students. It is hard to recognize as, everyone feel anxious sometimes while speaking, in contrast with other learning difficulties. So it is important that teachers are sensitive to this in classroom interactions and provide help to minimize second language anxiety. Thus, from the findings, it can be concluded that English language anxiety is multi-dimensional where it affects students differently depending on the context of the situation. The respondents’ anxiety levels vary depending on the situation. This result also showed that English language anxiety is of a dynamic nature where it can possibly affect students in many different ways.

09 March 2021
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