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Second Language Writing Anxiety

Second language writing anxiety arises every time a student uses a second language. The research paper defines this phenomenon, indicates the reasons to write better and possible consequences of writing anxiety. It also outlines factors affecting the state of writing anxiety. Thus, various people express their writing anxiety differently because of different psychological types. An experienced teacher is able to notice and understand some symptoms typical of a person feeling second language writing anxiety. It includes psychological and linguistic problems connected with using a language. The latter encompass general writing anxiety as well as anxiety connected with the usage of a foreign language. Personal experience of coping with the problem of second language writing anxiety helps to understand the ways to deal with the issue.

Writing Anxiety as a Phenomenon of the Studying Process

Students face various problems while studying a foreign language. In speech one can correct, give more details or react to interlocutor’s message. During oral conversation interlocutors can take into consideration emotions and other extra-linguistic means of perceiving information. They can choose a new topic of conversation or change its direction.

Writing communication is different from oral one. It is impossible to change written sentences. One can only predict possible reactions and get ready to answer them. That is why writing can cause some anxiety among students, and they often try to avoid it at every available opportunity.

Nevertheless, writing is one of the four important skills of mastering a language. It is necessary to deal with public institutions and official documents. Canadian scientists Salem and Dyiar explain reasons why writing is important for language learning: “people need writing to communicate with each other,” “writing helps students learn effectively,” “writing ameliorates students’ grammatical structures, idioms and vocabulary,” “writing helps students to be adventurous in using the language” (128).

One can experience some anxiety and negative feelings caused by the necessity of writing essays. Writing anxiety is the psychological state a person experiences as a result of negative emotions connected with consequences and evaluation of a written work. Very often it is impossible to control such emotions, though there should be some ways to lessen a person’s reaction to writing since one is armed if he/she is informed.


Writing anxiety exists due to a number of factors. One of them is the responsibility for the given information. While it is impossible to change or correct the written text, any student wants to seem literate in his/her writing. In addition, nobody wants to be misunderstood due to inability to express thoughts and ideas in writing.

Therefore, writing anxiety is a common phenomenon among students, especially at the beginning of the course studying. Gradually they get accustomed to the tasks connected with writing and their fear disappears. Writing anxiety is a serious issue because it leads to a number of important consequences. Because of writing anxiety students choose professions which “require less writing” and “write essays with lower evaluation” (Salem and Dyiar 129). Moreover, due to receiving low grades students acquire low self-esteem and other psychological problems. As a result, they try to avoid writing tasks in every possible way.

The Ways Writing Anxiety Happens

Writing anxiety happens differently because of diverse human psychological types. Some people start writing at once, then correct much and write a new variant. The others think for a long time, try to take everything into consideration and only after that start writing. There are also other human types it terms of doing writing tasks.

Usually students follow a certain procedure after receiving a task in writing. First of all, a person does not write the necessary material at once. For the majority of students it is essential to ponder over the subject of writing, check figures or facts and give understandable formulations. While thinking, everybody reveals his/her anxiety in a suitable way. Secondly, it is necessary to check and remove grammatical and stylistic mistakes, clarify whether everything presented is clear and make sure the way of writing correlates with the second language norms.

An experienced teacher can always define whether a student feels writing anxiety at the moment. Dr. Y.-S. Cheng from the National Taiwan Normal University describes anxiety symptoms, which are grouped “along several relatively independent dimensions, including somatic / physiological (e.g. upset stomach, pounding heart, excessive sweating, and numbness), cognitive (e.g. worry, preoccupation, and negative expectations) and behavioral (e.g. procrastination, withdrawal, and avoidance)” (318). Thus, it is clear when a student shows some indications of writing anxiety, and a good teacher should react in some way in order to prevent or stop it.

Second Language Writing Anxiety

Any writing task is considered negatively. If it is provided during studying a second language, the situation becomes even more difficult. One can define second language anxiety as writing anxiety caused by the fact of using a second language as a foreign one.

Apart from factors characteristic for general writing anxiety, it includes additional factors connected with using a second language. Most students intend to use grammatically and stylistically correct constructions, which can prove a good level of second language mastering (suitable grammar). Writer’s choice of vocabulary reveals stylistic knowledge and practical skills of a language (proper stylistics). Students want to think in a second language, i.e. to use its vocabulary, build proper grammatical constructions and develop the feeling of a language, ability to notice when some phrase does not sound in a second language in spite of the difficulty to explain rules (correct psychological perception).

In a native language a student can write a sentence in several ways, using various words and build them differently. A person is able to present the same text in various styles depending on the situation. A field of practical application of one’s native language is diverse. Writing in a second language causes big difficulties because one cannot find synonyms or paraphrase ideas in order to avoid misunderstanding. Besides, topical vocabulary usage is different in various languages. It is necessary to take it into consideration.

My Personal Methods of Dealing with Writing Anxiety

All people are different, thus everybody looks for his/ her own ways to deal with the problem of second language writing anxiety. My native language is Arabic, and the second one is English. It is necessary for me to know English at a high level. Therefore, I try to learn the rules and norms of English in order to create good writing texts.

The scientists Salem and Dyiar assert there are some reasons why students are usually bad at writing. They enumerate the following reasons: “lack of linguistic knowledge,” “low foreign language competence self-esteem,” “fear of criticism” and others (130).

To be successful in writing, it is important to overcome the mentioned problems in two aspects – linguistic and psychological. I decided to use some methods to improve English writing skills. While solving linguistic problems, it is necessary to read more in English and to notice interesting phenomena that are not characteristic of Arabic. I try to watch the news and movies in English. Though I cannot understand everything, I am glad I am able to catch the general idea. Sometimes while reading English texts I find a lot of homonyms and similar words, which causes many problems in understanding texts. That is why I decide to write them out and learn as much as possible. Thus, I know the difference between such words as layer – lawyer – liar and I try to avoid mistakes in the future. English is so rich in synonyms that it is vital to understand the meaning of at least some of them. Thus, listing synonyms with their exact meanings and the situations they should be used in is also a useful way of learning a foreign language. I am going to find and research the beauty of the English language and reveal its peculiarities.

To solve psychological problems, sufficient communication is needed. In my opinion, it is also possible to address English native speakers (my friends and group mates) any time I do not understand the meaning of a word or the way it is used in a sentence. In such a way I try to realize and remember a rule or a concept and use it properly in the future.

It is very interesting for me to listen to English native speakers’ speech and their way of thought. Any language affects mentality, so it is important to trace ideas that are usually linked with the language.

A person has to learn some linguistic phenomena that are characteristic only of English. They include the names of food (oats, orange jam), names of items of clothes (kilt), special nouns (ground floor, fall in the meaning of “season”), etc. In general, my aim is to communicate English at every opportunity and make this activity useful for mastering the language. At present I have some positive results. However, there are a lot of things to be learnt, and my English still leaves much to be desired.

Writing anxiety is quite common. It touches many students of various specialties. It is especially serious if it concerns one’s second language. In spite of this it can be avoided or at least reduced if there is a relevant feedback from a professor. Students should psychologically get ready for writing tasks, while their professor can prepare some pre-writing tasks or give them information for pondering that is linked with their writing task.

Indian researchers

Younas et al. offered the ways of coping with writing anxiety. Thus, writing anxiety can be lessened through appreciation of the students by the teachers and finishing the fear of writing tests. Sufficient writing practice and awareness of writing techniques can decrease the level of writing anxiety. Writing anxiety can be minimized by solving B.S. English students’ linguistic difficulties and increasing their self-confidence. Abundance of writing assignments should be avoided so that the students may feel relaxed to complete writing tasks. The teachers should guide the students to minimize their writing errors. Through positive reinforcement, writing anxiety can be lowered and gradual improvement in learners’ writing can be ensured. (Younas et al. 3)

In my opinion, it is also possible to eliminate difficulties with writing by using feedback from professors.

Professors may give similar writing topics for students so that they are not afraid of something new and do not feel anxious about it. Being informed about the future writing tasks can also help in some way. Reasonable hinting gives students an opportunity to think over the future topic in advance. One can invent many ways to promote students’ achievement in writing. The only prerequisite is mutual wish and positive intention of the teaching process.


Writing anxiety is a wide spread phenomenon taking place while studying. On the one hand, it happens due to linguistic reasons such as the lack of vocabulary and inability to express opinions clearly. On the other hand, certain psychological aspects are also included. Thus, one should read and learn more and make sure he/ she realizes grammar rules as well as language norms. Second language writing anxiety involves fear of vocabulary or stylistic mistakes. A proper feedback from professors can solve the arising problems.

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