Foreign language anxiety

The case of young learners of English in Swedish primary classrooms


  • Maria Nilsson


Primary language education, Questionnaire adaptation, Young language learners, Classroom participation, FLCAS


Although foreign language anxiety is a widely studied construct assumed to develop from negative experiences of language instruction, few researchers have focused on young learners in this regard. This multiple case study investigates levels and triggers of language anxiety in Swedish primary classrooms under rather favorable learning conditions with a supportive, non-competitive atmosphere, and without formal knowledge requirements or grades. A total of 225 learners, aged 8–12, studying English as their first foreign language completed a self-report questionnaire, a modified version of the Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale (Horwitz, Horwitz, & Cope, 1986), eliciting learners’ reactions to oral classroom participation. Foreign language anxiety was found along a continuum among learners. To investigate similarities and differences among students of differing anxiety levels, they were grouped into three categories: low, medium and high anxiety. The high anxiety group included 18.2% of learners, and for most of them, this anxiety was situation-specific and closely related to their own oral performance during English lessons. However, many classroom situations triggered language anxiety in other learners as well. It may therefore be advisable for teachers to reflect on common classroom practices that induce anxiety, rather than viewing language anxiety as a disadvantageous characteristic of individual learners. The results call for in-depth studies of classroom contexts where language anxiety develops. Moreover, the study’s contribution encompass new perspectives on research methodology with respect to young learners and in relation to foreign language anxiety.



How to Cite

Nilsson, M. (2019). Foreign language anxiety: The case of young learners of English in Swedish primary classrooms. Apples - Journal of Applied Language Studies, 13(2), 1–21.