Anxiety plays an important affective role in second or foreign language acquisition. Even though everybody has experienced feelings of anxiousness, anxiety cannot be defined easily in a simple sentence.
The research on anxiety puts forward the idea that anxiety can be experienced at different levels (Horwitz, 2001; Oxford, 1999). Horwitz and Cope (1986) described foreign language anxiety as a distinct complex phenomenon of self-perceptions, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors related to classroom language learning mainly resulting from the uniqueness of the language learning process. In addition, Macintyre (1995) noted that anxiety plays different roles in the learning process. It may facilitate or debilitate performance of the learners.Facilitating anxiety motivates the learners to confront the new learning task without reluctance. Debilitating anxiety motivates learners to select an avoidance attitude and therefore tends to escape from the learning task.Oxford (1999) uses the terms “harmful” and “helpful”(as cited in Brown, 2007) anxiety for debilitative and facilitative anxiety, respectively. Both facilitative anxiety and debilitative anxiety are connected to one's academic performance. Sometimes anxiety helps students to increase their motivation for harder studying. Therefore, a little anxiety can have positive effects on students’ performance. But, according to Brown (2007, p. 163) “too much and too little anxiety may hinder the process of successful second learning”.
Many English as a Foreign Language (EFL) students who seek admittance to a university where the foreign language, here English, is the medium of instruction do not have sufficient language skills to understand lectures, comprehend textbooks, participate in class discussions, or generate satisfactory written work. Oftentimes, they have only experienced teacher centered instruction, where they were passive learners or mere memorizers of rules. Thus, EFL students need support in more than just language skills because in the university environment they are expected to think, to reason, to communicate, and to continue their learning outside the classroom. As the level of proficiency and improved skill in the foreign language increase the foreign language learners are expected to become less anxious in the language classes. Therefore, senior students due to gradual accumulation of skills and proficiency should experience less anxiety compared with their sophomore counterparts.
However, some factors can affect the relationship between the level of proficiency and anxiety in a way that senior students with higher level of proficiency may show more anxiety than sophomore students with lower level of proficiency. Senior students experience stressful moments as they get closer to their final exams. Sometimes the senior course materials are relatively more difficult than those of sophomores’. Hence, the relatively more difficult contents of course books provoke anxiety for...