“My anxiety about my language performance is affecting my performance.”
Idea: Attack your anxieties indirectly.
In the last message we examined the syndrome of stress-anxiety-avoidance. Now we will look at some possible ways to deal with this problem.
We often think that we can reduce our language anxiety if we were just better at the language. This is a false hope. People usually find they have just as much language anxiety as an intermediate or an advanced learner than they did as a beginner. So, instead of focusing on performing better in the language, focus on living a fuller life by lowering your stress, learning peace and acceptance, and engaging in friendship.
1) Lower your stress levels.
If your stress can be lowered to more manageable levels, you can lessen the amount of resulting anxiety. Instead of doing this by withdrawing from stressful situations, learn to shed the stress before it accumulates. As far as I know, the only proven ways of doing this are exercise, laughing, crying, massage, and meditation. Sleep and nutrition are important for health, but they don’t actually reduce stress. TV and computer games are distractions, but don’t actually reduce stress either. Shopping and eating may feel good too, but that’s not the same as stress reduction.
2) Let peace and acceptance replace anxiety and denial.
This is another benefit of keeping a language learning journal. If you can work through your emotional issues in your journal and set attainable goals for yourself. Many people find that if they write about what they are experiencing, they can come to a greater understanding and realize their limitations and their possibilities.
Resist the temptation to meet anxieties head on pushing back with harder work and brute force. Instead, find ways to enjoy using the language. Make the language your ally instead of your opponent. How? Write down a list of your least favorite language learning activities. Then, figure out how to modify the way you do them so they become a fun challenge.
The main thing language learners need to engage is actually not a “thing” at all. It is not the language itself. It is people. Language is deeply and completely human. I don’t mean human society in the abstract. I mean Salem and Khadija and Ahmed and Reem. Yusuf, Sulaiman, Rashid, Maha, Mawza, and Miriam. In my interviews with students, I have learned that I can ask one question that reveals all I need to know in this area. The answer will tell me how engaged someone is with the Arabic language. It is not, “How much time do you spend with Arabs?“ It is, “Tell me the names of Arab people you like to spend time with.”