Select Page

SLA Insights Part 4: Learner Affect & Anxiety

Published: May 24, 2022

This leads to a second source of language learning anxiety: other people. Our classmates, colleagues and interlocutors have the power to induce anxiety where it might otherwise not exist. I experienced this sort of anxiety while living in South Korea. I was intent on learning the Korean language, but practicing in front of my Korean co-workers frequently garnered laughter and teasing over my mistakes and pronunciation. It was all in good fun, I’m sure, but it felt infantilizing and made me anxious. I eventually stopped practicing with my co-workers, which is a true shame, because it eliminated a potentially rich learning environment in terms of linguistic output, interaction and input.

Likewise, in the programming world, our learning partners and teammates have enormous power to inspire in us the sort of anxiety that can seriously impair our ability to learn new components of the languages and frameworks we use. I once had a teammate who disparaged my work to my face, asking derisively, “Why did you do it that way?”

What I should have said was, “Because I’m learning! Please, patiently and kindly teach me the way you think this should be done.” I didn’t, though, and the mounting anxiety of interacting with this teammate eventually resulted in my avoiding interactions with him. As he was the only other backend engineer on this team, the removal of a mentor and teacher surely slowed the development of my skills in the language and framework I was trying to learn.