Anxiety and self-related constructs in learners who stutter in the learning of english as a foreign language

  1. Miller, Ronan
Supervised by:
  1. María Dolores García Pastor Director

Defence university: Universitat de València

Fecha de defensa: 13 January 2020

  1. Sarah Mercer Chair
  2. Fernando David Rubio Alcalá Secretary
  3. Tracey Costley Committee member

Type: Thesis

Teseo: 614433 DIALNET


Foreign Language Anxiety (FLA) has been considered one of the most important factors impacting on the degree of success of language learning (Daubney, Dewaele, & Goknou, 2017). However, FLA in L2 Learners Who Stutter (LWS) has been neglected. This doctoral thesis addresses this issue by exploring the relationship between FLA and stuttering in English Foreign Language (EFL) learning in the Spanish context. To this end, first-hand accounts of LWS were collected and examined, and FLA was measured. FLA can disrupt behavioural and cognitive processes necessary for effective learning (Horwitz, 2017; Szyzka, 2017), thus hindering L2 proficiency and achievement (MacIntyre & Gardner, 1989, 1990; MacIntyre, 2017). A reciprocal relationship exists between L2 learner emotions such as anxiety, and self-related beliefs (Barcelos, 2015). Therefore, FLA may contribute to low-self esteem (Rubio, 2017) and negative learner self-concepts (Şimşek & Dörnyei, 2017; Mercer, 2011). Similarly, Individuals Who Stutter (IWS) present higher levels of social anxiety than controls (Craig & Tran, 2014; Iverach, Menzies, O’Brian, Packman, & Onslow, 2011) to the extent that they deny themselves as competent individuals, often avoid communication, and reject positive life opportunities (Bricker-Katz, Lincoln, & Cumming, 2013; Butler, 2013). Yet, to our knowledge, parallels between FLA and the social anxiety provoked by stuttering have not been explored. The current study utilised a mixed-methods approach to assess FLA in 17 (n=17) LWS and matched controls. Participants completed the Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale (FLCAS) (Horwitz, Horwitz, & Cope, 1986) and the Specific Language Skills Anxiety Scale (SLSAS), which was developed for this study to account for anxiety across the language skill domains. Additionally, LWS were interviewed and interview data were analysed using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) (Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009). Results show that LWS present higher levels of general FLA than controls, and that this difference is significant in the domain of speaking. However, no significant differences were found in other language domains. Results from analysis of interview data indicate that FLA experienced in EFL classes interacts with stuttering and results in avoidance, frustration, attentional bias, communication apprehension and self-derogation. Conversely, some LWS found EFL contexts offered opportunities for change that could lead to positive learner self-concept when FLA decreased. This study evinces the interaction between FLA and stuttering in LWS, generating specific negative behaviours, attitudes, and emotions that hinder learning and negatively impact on learner self-concept. Thus, this thesis highlights the importance of pedagogical practices which can foster positive self-related beliefs and reduce negative emotions such as anxiety.