Reframing silence: Insights into language learners’ thoughts about silence and speaking-related anxiety

(1) * Kate Maher Mail (Kyoto University of Foreign Studies, Japan)
*corresponding author


For some language learners, feeling too nervous to speak in the target language in the classroom can generate an array of negative thoughts; from frustration due to missed speaking practice opportunities to anxiety over their language skills (Curry, Maher, & Peeters, 2020). Using King's (2014; King & Smith, 2017) cognitive-behavioural model of silent L2 learners' anxiety, this paper examines the relationship between language learners' anxiety and in-class silent behaviour in the context of a Japanese university EFL classroom. Forty-five semi-structured interviews were conducted with 17 participants who felt that anxiety limited their in-class oral participation. Initially, almost all the participants attributed their silence and speaking anxiety to a lack of linguistic ability, such as insufficient vocabulary or poor pronunciation. However, more potent underlying factors were revealed during the reframing exercise, suggesting that anxiety related to social performance and interpersonal relationships with peers also triggered their silent behaviours.


Cognitive-behavioural theory; Classroom silence; Language anxiety; Speaking anxiety; Japanese university foreign language classroom



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