The Psychology of Learning a Second Language
Learning a second language can be an incredibly psychological endeavor. For every person, this experience will be different but we have all certainly experienced some of the doubt, panic and fear that come with the task of really speaking in a second language.
In Second Language Acquisition (the scientific field that studies such things), an important term regarding psychology is “individual differences,” what may be incredibly easy to one person may be another person’s nightmare.
These individual differences can be emotional (doubt, fear, nerves, etc.) or intellectual (someone may have a greater aptitude for learning languages).
Many factors go into the analysis of individual differences and some are easy to measure (short term memory capacity, for example) while others are very difficult to measure (e.g., one’s willingness to take risks while speaking).
This brief post hopes to make the following message clear: You are not alone out there, my fellow student who is scared to speak out! There are hundreds of books and articles dedicated to the question of what role personality factors play in the success of learning a language. One of the leading scholars is Zoltan Dornyei. If you are interested in reading more on this topic, check out one of his books.