“It makes my whole body hurt”: Foreign language anxiety through the ages


  • Arianna Bassetti Queen Mary University of London




foreign language anxiety, E. K. Horwitz, Thomas Mann


Learning a foreign language in a classroom setting can be a veritably miserable experience. Nowhere is this better described than in Buddenbrooks, where Thomas Mann dissects his young protagonist’s feeling of negative anticipation before a language class, with its attendant physical and behavioural symptomatology. Skipping forward eight decades, this essay gives a brief overview of how applied linguists started using the construct of Foreign Language Anxiety (FLA) in the 1980s to explain deficient performance and a series of deviant learner behaviours in foreign language classes. It briefly clarifies how FLA fit into the institutional landscape of US higher education, and explains how the construct has since been refined by a wider body of empirical evidence. It concludes by discussing some implications for language teaching in similar instructional contexts today, while recognising that a classroom is not where the majority of people learn a foreign language.


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Author Biography

Arianna Bassetti, Queen Mary University of London

Arianna Bassetti teaches Spanish and Comparative Literature at Queen Mary University of London. A Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, she completed her PhD on testimonial graphic novels in 2021 and is now studying for an MSc in Applied Linguistics at the University of Oxford. She has a special interest in heritage learners of Spanish and in English for Academic Purposes.


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How to Cite

Bassetti, A. (2023). “It makes my whole body hurt”: Foreign language anxiety through the ages. Journal of Language Teaching, 3(5), 29–33. https://doi.org/10.54475/jlt.2023.013