The Impact of Anxiety on Listening in a Foreign Language and the Ways to Overcome Its Negative Effects

Rauf Avci


Anxiety in listening and learning a foreign language is bound to be present when one has one has, on the one
hand, insufficient knowledge of the target language, and, on the other hand, does not have a relevant
environment to master it. Teachers have a great role to help students overcome language anxiety. Teachers
provide efficient learning and help the learning outcomes boost, they contribute to creating the target language
environment, friendly to the student. If a teacher believes (and reveals that belief to students) that students can
learn a foreign language successfully, this triggers students’ increased self-confidence and decreased debilitating
anxiety (the so-called Pygmalion effect). In this research, two hypotheses were suggested, based on literature
review: 1. The suggested teacher’s beliefs (student-centered, participatory, communicative, etc.) and behavior
(creating a positive learning environment, establishing authoritative relations, application of pair and group work,
etc.) would decrease students’ listening anxiety levels. 2. The drop in the listening anxiety would help increase
students’ academic achievement in listening. An experiment to test these two hypotheses was held with 50 Iraqi
university students (25 in the experimental group and 25 in the control group). The experimental group was
taught emphasizing Pygmalion effect, while the control group – without this purposeful intervention. A pre- and
post-experimental questionnaire was held to find out whether the experimental group would demonstrate lower
anxiety and higher listening skill level than the control group. The results showed that the experimental group
performed better than the control in listening comprehension and reported lower levels of anxiety compared to
the control group. Thus, the application of Pygmalion effect can be recommended to teachers.

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