Does the effect of enjoyment outweigh that of anxiety in foreign language performance?

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Jean-Marc Dewaele
Mateb Alfawzan


Interest in the effect of positive and negative emotions in foreign language acquisition has soared recently because of the positive psychology movement (Dewaele & MacIntyre, 2014, 2016; MacIntyre, Gregersen & Mercer, 2016). No work so far has been carried out on the differential effect of positive and negative emotions on foreign language performance. The current study investigates the effect of foreign language enjoyment (FLE) and foreign language classroom anxiety (FLCA) on foreign language performance in a group of 189 foreign language pupils in two London secondary schools and a group of 152 Saudi English as a foreign language learners and users of English in Saudi Arabia. Correlation analyses showed that the positive effect of FLE on performance was stronger than the negative effect of FLCA. In other words, FLE seems to matter slightly more than FLCA in foreign language (FL) performance. Qualitative material collected from the Saudi participants shed light on the causes of FLCA and FLE and how these shaped participants’ decisions to pursue or abandon the study of the FL.


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Dewaele, J.-M., & Alfawzan, M. (2018). Does the effect of enjoyment outweigh that of anxiety in foreign language performance?. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 8(1), 21-45.
Author Biographies

Jean-Marc Dewaele, Birkbeck College, University of London

Jean-Marc Dewaele is Professor of Applied Linguistics and Multilingualism at Birkbeck, University of London. He does research on individual differences considering psycholinguistic, sociolinguistic, pragmatic, psychological and emotional aspects of SLA and multilingualism. He authored Emotions in Multiple Languages (2010, Palgrave Macmillan) and co-edited several books on multilingualism and SLA. He is General Editor of the International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. He received the Equality and Diversity Research Award from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (2013) and the Robert Gardner Award for Excellence in Second Language and Bilingualism Research (2016) from the International Association of Language and Social Psychology.

Mateb Alfawzan, University of Birmingham

Mateb Alfawzan is Lecturer of Applied Linguistics and TESOL at Shaqra University, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Currently, he is pursuing a PhD in English language and applied linguistics at the University of Birmingham, UK. His research interests include foreign language anxiety and enjoyment, language teacher education, and teacher professional development.


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