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Home-grown foreign language anxiety

11 June 2019

Final-year students Holly and Myfanwy are celebrating the publication of their first research paper, written in conjunction with Dr Maxwell Hart. The paper, which looks at issues of home-grown foreign language anxiety, was published in the Wales Journal of Education.

Here, Holly and Myfanwy, tell us about the genesis of their research and the road to publication.

The goal of our study was to compare how Welsh students who completed their primary and secondary education in Welsh perceived their undergraduate university experience with those who completed their formative schooling in English. This is a subject area with which we have first-hand knowledge and experience. It also felt particularly relevant from a social, cultural and educational standpoint, given Wales’ focus on reaching 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050.

How our research came about?

The data for this research was gathered in a project for a second-year module called Research Methods. This project was conducted by six students, some of whom were Welsh and had experienced, or knew others who had experienced, challenges due to studying in a language other than their first.

Using online and in-person questionnaires, we surveyed 125 Welsh undergraduate students studying at a Welsh university on their academic background, and three core areas of their university experience: attendance, background, and satisfaction.

What we found?

Results showed that students educated primarily in Welsh were less likely to contribute to discussions than their first-language English counterparts – a common outcome of foreign language anxiety. Although this lack of comfort and confidence did not appear to impact grade satisfaction, it could be related and lead to further barriers and challenges regarding mental health, academic performance and post-graduation prospects.

Sparking debate and preparing for publication

The foreign language anxiety experienced by Welsh-medium educated students merits attention considering the cultural importance of the Welsh language, and its status as an official language of Wales. We wanted to share our findings and encourage a greater dialogue around the issues raised. We see the publication of our paper, which we spent the summer of 2018 drafting and re-drafting with the support and encouragement of Dr Maxwell Hart, as the foundation on which that conversation can develop.  

Readying a paper for publication was, unsurprisingly, an entirely new experience for us and Max’s help and guidance on issues of presentation, in particular the results section, was invaluable. It’s likely our paper would never have been published without his guidance and recommendations.

The whole experience has also benefited our studies and we’ve both seen a distinct improvement in our final year grades. We feel very proud that our work has been published and are exploring future Master’s degree opportunities. We hope that this experience could be the beginning of our research careers.

Read the full paper.

Holly Parfett is graduating with a degree in Geography (Human) in 2019. Holly has a particular interest in Gender Studies, after completing her dissertation on students’ union policies on sexual assault and another report on the changing landscapes of ‘period poverty’ in Tanzania.

Myfanwy Morgan-Jones is also graduating with a Geography (Human) degree in 2019. Her dissertation examined the motivation of young people to participate in volunteer tourism.

Dr Maxwell Hartt is a Lecturer in Spatial Planning in the School of Geography and Planning.