English Language Anxiety and Language Achievement Among EFL Students in Saudi Arabia


  • Oun Almesaar Taibah University




English as a foreign language, English language anxiety, foreign language classroom anxiety scale, language achievement, Saudi Arabia


Foreign language anxiety impedes language acquisition. Previous studies in various cultural contexts have found significantly negative and moderately high correlations between scores on the Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale (FLCAS) and foreign language grades. This study aims to investigate the factor structure of the FLCAS in the Saudi Arabian context and to determine whether the main FLCAS factors predict English language achievement, as operationalised by university grades. A total of 257 Saudi students (19–21 years old) studying accounting and business administration completed a Saudi Arabian version of the FLCAS. Simultaneously, these students provided their most recent grades from university English courses. Maximum likelihood extraction with direct oblimin rotation was performed, and three main factors (trait anxiety, situation-specific anxiety, and communication apprehension and confidence) were identified, accounting for 17.5%, 18.6%, and 4.1% of the total FLCAS variance, respectively. The linear regression model with these factors as predictors and language achievement as a criterion was non-significant (F = 0.479; p = 0.685), indicating that the main FLCAS factors were not connected to English language achievement. The study highlights specific areas (trait anxiety and situation-specific anxiety) that English teachers in Saudi Arabia need to address using better-targeted techniques and strategies.


Ahmad, Al-K., Hammodeh, H., Alkhataba, E. H. A., Abdul-Hamid, S., & Ibrahim, B. (2020). Foreign language speaking anxiety: A psycholinguistic barrier affecting speaking achievement of Saudi EFL learners. Arab World English Journal, 10(4), 23. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3512637

Aida, Y. (1994). Examination of Horwitz, Horwitz, and Cope’s construct of foreign language anxiety: The case of students of Japanese. The Modern Language Journal, 78(2), 155. https://doi.org/10.2307/329005

Alrabai, F. (2014). A model of foreign language anxiety in the Saudi EFL context. English Language Teaching, 7(7), 82–101. https://doi.org/10.5539/elt.v7n7p82

Alrabai, F. (2020). The notion of emotion in EFL learning and teaching in Saudi Arabia: A critical review of 20 years of research. Arab World English Journal, 11(4), 3. https://doi.org/10.24093/awej/vol11no4.3

Al-Saraj, T. M. (2014). Revisiting the foreign language classroom anxiety scale (FLCAS): The anxiety of female English language learners in Saudi Arabia. L2 Journal, 6(1), 50–76. https://doi.org/10.5070/L26121650

Al-Shboul, M. M., Ahmad, I. S., Nordin, M. S., & Rahman, Z. A. (2013). Foreign language anxiety and achievement: Systematic review. International Journal of English Linguistics, 3(2), 32. https://doi.org/10.5539/ijel.v3n2p32

Alshahrani, A. (2016). The level of anxiety on the achievement of the Saudi EFL learners. Arab World English Journal, 7(3), 65–76. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2859241

Al-Tamimi, N. O. M. (2014). Public speaking instruction: Abridge to improve English speaking competence and reducing communication apprehension. International Journal of Linguistics and Communication, 2(4), 45–68. https://doi.org/10.15640/ijlc.v2n4a4

Amiri, M., & Ghonsooly, B. (2015). The relationship between English learning anxiety and the students’ achievement on examinations. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 6(4), 855–865. https://doi.org/10.17507/jltr.0604.20

Argaman, O., & Abu-Rabia, S. (2002). The influence of language anxiety on English reading and writing tasks among native Hebrew speakers. Language Culture and Curriculum, 15(2), 143–160. https://doi.org/10.1080/07908310208666640

Ashton, M. C., & Lee, K. 2010. Trait and source factors in HEXACO‐PI‐R self‐and observer reports. European Journal of Personality, 24(3), 278–289. https://doi.org/10.1002/per.759

Aydin, S. (2016). A qualitative research on foreign language teaching anxiety. The Qualitative Report, 21(4), 629–642. https://doi.org/10.46743/2160-3715/2016.2232

Aydin, S., Harputlu, L., Güzel, S., Ustuk, O., Çelik, S. S., & Genç, D. (2016). Children's foreign language anxiety scale: Preliminary tests of reliability and validity. Turkish Online Journal of English Language Teaching, 1(3), 144¬–150. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED568944. Retrieved February 10, 2022.

Azizifar, A., Ebrahim, F. & Habib, G. (2014). The effect of anxiety on Iranian EFL learners’ speaking skills. International Research Journal of Applied and Basic Sciences, 8(10), 1747¬–1754. https://irjabs.com/files_site/paperlist/r_2373_141031131802.pdf. Retrieved March 3, 2022.

Barnawi, O. Z., & Al-Hawsawi, S. (2017). English education policy in Saudi Arabia: English language education policy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Current trends, issues and challenges. In R. Kirkpatrick, English language education policy in the Middle East and North Africa (pp. 199–222). Cham, Switzerland: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-46778-8_12

Bora, K., & Jongmin, R. (2011). The validity of FLCAS based on item response theory. The Journal of Modern British and American Language and Literature, 29(3), 21–40. Retrieved February 4, 2022. https://www.dbpia.co.kr/Journal/articleDetail?nodeId=NODE01780046

Çapan, S. A., & Karaca, M. (2013). A comparative study of listening and writing anxiety. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 40, 1360–1373. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.01.198

Chen, T-Y., & Chang, G. B. (2004). The relationship between foreign language anxiety and learning difficulties. Foreign Language Annals, 37(2). 279¬–289. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1944-9720.2004.tb02200.x

Costa, P. T. Jr., & McCrae, R. R. (2008). The revised neo personality inventory (neo-pi-r). In P. T. Costa Jr, & R. R. McCrae, The SAGE handbook of personality theory and assessment: Volume 2 - Personality measurement and testing (pp. 179–198). Sage Publications Inc. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781849200479.n9

Costello, A. B., & Osborne, J. (2005). Best practices in exploratory factor analysis: Four recommendations for getting the most from your analysis. Practical Assessment, Research, and Evaluation, 10(1), 7. https://doi.org/10.7275/jyj1-4868

Elyas, T., & Badawood, O. (2016). English language educational policy in Saudi Arabia post-21st century: Enacted curriculum, identity, and modernisation: A critical discourse analysis approach. Forum for International Research in Education, 3(3), 70–81. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1132882. Retrieved March 17, 2022.

Eysenck, M. W. (1979). Anxiety, learning, and memory: A reconceptualization. Journal of Research in Personality, 13(4), 363–385. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1981-04799-001. Retrieved February 18, 2022.

Foster, P., & Skehan, P. (1996). The influence of planning and task type on second language performance. Studies in Second Language Acquisition. 18(3), 299–323. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/studies-in-second-language-acquisition/article/influence-of-planning-and-task-type-on-second-language-performance/1C705F1926E1530572258D3477DD9034. Retrieved February 10, 2022.

Gardner, R. C. (1985). Social psychology and second language learning: The role of attitudes and motivation. Edward Arnold. https://publish.uwo.ca/~gardner/docs/SECONDLANGUAGE1985book.pdf. Retrieved January 23, 2022.

Gerencheal, B., & Mishra, D. (2019). Foreign language anxiety among Ethiopian university EFL students. International Journal of Innovative Technology and Exploring Engineering, 8(7), 43–48. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED596148. Retrieved March 2, 2022.

Hakim, B. M. (2019). A study of language anxiety among English language learners in Saudi Arabia. Arab World English Journal, 10(1), 64–72. https://dx.doi.org/10.24093/awej/vol10no1.6

Horwitz, E. K. (2001). Language anxiety and achievement. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 21, 112–126. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0267190501000071

Horwitz, E. K. (2016). Factor structure of the foreign language classroom anxiety scale. Psychological Reports, 119(1), 71–76. https://doi.org/10.1177/0033294116653368

Horwitz, E. K., Horwitz, M. B., & Cope, J. (1986). Foreign language classroom anxiety. Modern Language Journal, 70, 125–132. https://doi.org/10.2307/327317

Iwashita, N., McNamara, T., & Elder, C. (2001). Can we predict task difficulty in an oral proficiency test? Exploring the potential of an information-processing approach to task design. Language Learning, 51(3), 401–436. https://doi.org/10.1111/0023-8333.00160

Jones, J. F. (2004). A cultural context for language anxiety. EA Journal, 21(2), 30–39. https://search.informit.org/doi/10.3316/informit.493988517632006

Kalra, N, Khakha, D. C., Satapathy, S., & Dey, A. B. (2015). Impact of Jacobson progressive muscle relaxation (JPMR) and deep breathing exercises on anxiety, psychological distress and quality of sleep of hospitalized older adults. Journal of Psychosocial Research, 10(2), 211. https://www.proquest.com/openview/f0e0030e46ee345ca62f33bee2809919/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=506336. Retrieved February 14, 2022.

Kenny, D. A. (2020). Measuring Model Fit. http://www.davidakenny.net/cm/fit.htm. Retrieved February 14, 2022.

Khalaf, M. A. (2017). English language anxiety: Development and validation of a brief measure. International Journal of Psychology and Educational Studies, 4(2), 42–53. https://doi.org/10.17220/ijpes.2017.02.005

Khan, A., & Al-Mahrooqi, R. (2015). Foreign language communication anxiety (FLCA) among tertiary level Omani EFL learners. The Asian EFL Journal Quarterly, 17(1), 57–89. https://www.elejournals.com/asian-efl-journal/the-asian-efl-journal-quarterly-march-2015/. Retrieved February 10, 2022.

Khouya, Y. B. (2018). English language anxiety and the big five personality factors. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 8(2). https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Youssef-Baba-Khouya/publication/325540751_English_Language_Anxiety_and_the_Big_Five_Personality_Factors/links/5b1410afa6fdcc4611e1cf06/English-Language-Anxiety-and-the-Big-Five-Personality-Factors.pdf. Retrieved February 14, 2022.

Kim, J. (2005). The reliability and validity of a foreign language listening anxiety scale. Psychology, 5(2), 213–235. https://www.dbpia.co.kr/Journal/articleDetail?nodeId=NODE01022641. Retrieved January 7, 2022.

Kim, S-Y. (2010). Is foreign language classroom anxiety context free or context dependent? Foreign Language Annals, 43(2), 187–189. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1944-9720.2010.01073.x

Koizumi, R. (2002). The effects of motivation, language anxiety, and test anxiety on English proficiency of Japanese junior high school students. Japan Language Testing Association Journal, 5, 91–110. https://doi.org/10.20622/jltaj.5.0_91

Kráľová, Z., & Sorádová D. (2015). Foreign language learning anxiety. In Silvia Pokrivčáková (Ed.), Teaching foreign languages to learners with special educational needs: e-textbook for foreign language teachers. Nitra: Constantine the Philosopher University. https://doi.org/10.17846/SEN.2015.91-100

Lukas, C. A., & Berking, M. (2018). Reducing procrastination using a smartphone-based treatment program: A randomized controlled pilot study. Internet Interventions, 12, 83¬–90. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.invent.2017.07.002

Masgoret, A-M., & Gardner R. C. (2003). Attitudes, motivation, and second language learning: A meta-analysis of studies conducted by Gardner and associates. Language Learning, 53(1), 123–163. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9922.00212

Moeller, A. K., & Catalano, T. (2015). Foreign language teaching and learning. In J. D. Wright (Ed.), International encyclopedia of the social & behavioral sciences 2nd ed. (pp. 327–333). Pergamon Press. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/teachlearnfacpub/200/. Retrieved January 10, 2022.

Moritz, S., Jelinek, L., Klinge, R., & Naber, D. (2007). Fight fire with fireflies! Association splitting: A novel cognitive technique to reduce obsessive thoughts. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 35(5). https://doi.org/10.1017/s1352465807003931

Onwuegbuzie, A. J., Bailey, P., & Daley, C. E. (2000). The validation of three scales measuring anxiety at different stages of the foreign language learning process: The input anxiety scale, the processing anxiety scale, and the output anxiety scale. Language Learning, 50, 87–117. https://doi.org/10.1111/0023-8333.00112

Oruç, E., & Demirci, C. (2020). Foreign language anxiety and English language achievement in higher education: The mediating role of student engagement. European Journal of Education Studies, 7(3), 199–212. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3756910

Oteir, I., & Abd Aziz, N. H. (2017). Effects of listening comprehension anxiety from Saudi EFL learners’ perspectives. International Journal of Linguistics, 9(5), 113. https://doi.org/10.5296/ijl.v9i5.11792

Oxford, R. L., & Ehrman, M. (1992). Second language research on individual differences. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 13, 188–205. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0267190500002464

Panayides, P., & Walker, M. J. (2013). Evaluating the psychometric properties of the foreign language classroom anxiety scale for Cypriot senior high school EFL students: The Rasch measurement approach. Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 9(3), 493–516. https://doi.org/10.23668/psycharchives.1398

Park, G-P. (2014). Factor analysis of the foreign language classroom anxiety scale in Korean learners of English as a foreign language. Psychological Reports, 115(1), 261–275. https://doi.org/10.2466/28.11.pr0.115c10z2

Peng, J-E. (2007). Willingness to communicate in an L2 and integrative motivation among college students in an intensive English language program in China. University of Sydney Papers in TESOL, 2(1), 33–59. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237651445_Willingness_to_Communicate_in_an_L2_and_Integrative_Motivation_among_College_Students_in_an_Intensive_English_Language_Program_in_China?_sg=fPrjMeCDzJ0HEgVcs--2mOHIAwbETjfgtt7JZqra2PnShZ0Z1-xNAKIElgeV_svwXYgb5q5cZeMQLSE. Retrieved January 14, 2022.

Reda, G. (2013). Book review: Al-Seghayer, Khalid 2011, English teaching in Saudi Arabia: Status, issues, and challenges. International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature, 2(1), 221–222. https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.7575/ijalel.v.2n.1p.221

Sarason, I. G. (Ed.). 1980. Test anxiety: Theory, research, and application. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.

Suhr, D. D. (2005). Principal component analysis vs. exploratory factor analysis. SUGI 30 proceedings, 203, 230. https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi= Retrieved January 6, 2022.

Tanielian, A. R. (2017). Foreign language anxiety among first-year Saudi university students. The International Education Journal: Comparative Perspectives, 16(2). https://ssrn.com/abstract=3609332. Retrieved January 27, 2022.

Toth, Z. (2008). A foreign language anxiety scale for Hungarian learners of English. Working Papers in Language Pedagogy, 2, 55–78. http://langped.elte.hu/WoPaLParticles/W2TothZs.pdf. Retrieved February 2, 2022.

Toussaint, L., Nguyen, Q. A., Roettger, C., Dixon, K., Offenbächer, M., Kohls, N., Hirsch, J., & Sirois, F. (2021). Effectiveness of progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and guided imagery in promoting psychological and physiological states of relaxation. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: eCAM, 2021, 5924040. https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/5924040

Van de Vijver, F., & Hambleton, R. K. (1996). Translating tests. European Psychologist, 1(2), 89–99. https://doi.org/10.1027/1016-9040.1.2.89

Wu, W., West, S. G., & Taylor, A. B. (2009). Evaluating model fit for growth curve models: Integration of fit indices from SEM and MLM frameworks. Psychological Methods, 14(3), 183. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0015858

Zeidner, M. (2020). Test anxiety. In B. J. Carducci, C. S. Nave, A. Di Fabio, D. H. Saklofske, & C. Stough (Eds.), The Wiley encyclopedia of personality and individual differences: Personality processes and individual differences (pp. 445–449). John Wiley & Sons. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118970843.ch253zei