According to MacIntyre, et. al (1997, p. 266), “affective factors may
systematically bias the self-assessment of language proficiency.” This statement helps
me understand my L2 learning and provides a rationale for my experience this semester.
In this paper, I will examine the role of anxiety in my concurrent L2 learning and my
strategies in managing it. I will also examine the close relationship between my anxiety
I grew up in a bilingual household, speaking both English and Tagalog. In
addition, I studied five languages in both academic contexts and abroad. It’s no surprise
then that I enjoy studying foreign languages (and decided to pursue an MA TESOL
degree). I am currently enrolled in a beginning level Mandarin course at CCSF. Class
meets once a week for 3 hours. I chose Mandarin as my language because I feel it would
help me better understand the students I tutor at SFSU and how to better help them learn
ESL. Also, Mandarin is a useful language to know, given the current state of global
In the Classroom
There are 30 students in my class – which consists of both heritage
learners (of all levels) and first time learners. Since the class is large, there aren’t a lot of
opportunities to work one on one with the teacher, resulting in a lot of pair/group work.
Since there are a lot of heritage language learners in the class, I almost always end up
working with them on class assignments. One of the most frustrating moments for me
this semester was working with this group of learners. When working together on tasks
(practicing dialogue, completing worksheets), I felt that I couldn’t keep up. I constantly
mispronounced vocabulary words and made errors in grammar. I sensed their impatience
with me by their expressions (sighing, looking bored). There were a few occasions when
three of us were working together (myself and two heritage learners) and the two would
rush through their task and end up speaking in Chinese, leaving me to do the assignment
alone and not have the opportunity to practice. I started to feel anxious when working
with these people. In fact, I could feel my anxiety levels increasing as the semester
continued. I started to question my competence and, consequently, started to withdraw.
According to MacIntyre, et. al. (1997), my anxiety resulted from my perceived
competence evaluation. Clement (1980) argued that anxiety is closely associated with the
perception of L2 competence (as quoted by MacIntyre, et. al 1997, p. 278).
According to Ortega (2009, p. 201), misguided myths about language
learning, perfectionist attitudes, and unforgiving expectations were the causes of my
anxiety. Its effects resulted in the slower speed in their learning and processing of L2
materials, tendency to underestimate their true L2 competence, and a propensity to...