Accent Anxiety: An Exploration of Non-Native Accent as a Source of Speaking Anxiety among English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Students
Keywords:speaking anxiety, non-native accent, foreign language anxiety, individual differences, L2 self-concept
Speaking anxiety is a form of foreign language anxiety which may reduce students’ willingness to communicate orally. Despite accent being one of the most salient aspects of speech, there has been little research to date on the relationship between non-native accent and speaking anxiety. The purpose of this study is therefore to examine English learners’ perceptions and beliefs about accent, and also to explore the concept of accent anxiety, that is, speaking anxiety arising due to concern about one’s non-native accent. An anonymous online questionnaire was distributed to English students in a French university. The questionnaire sought to gauge the students’ attitudes both towards speaking and accent and gathered qualitative responses about the students’ experiences of accent anxiety and their coping strategies. A thematic analysis was then carried out on the 54 responses. It was found that the majority of the students did not believe attaining a native-sounding accent was essential to language learning and felt that comprehensibility should be the primary objective. However, many of these students nonetheless considered it a personal goal to sound more native-like. Furthermore, most of the students had at some point in their learning felt embarrassed or worried about their accents, with the two primary causes being fear of negative evaluation from their peers and fear of future communication issues. It was concluded that concern over how non-native accents sound is a potential source of speaking anxiety for learners of English. As these students highlighted the classroom as being the main location where this anxiety arises, the study concludes with some suggestions for educators as well as ideas for future research directions.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Lucy Coppinger, Dr. Sarah Sheridan
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