The foundation year is a crucial phase between school and university level study which often determines the course of a student’s academic career. It is a time when study habits are formed, and choices are made about future subjects.
There is considerable research on what factors help and what factors hinder students in second language acquisition. Early research looked at motivation and attitude (Gardner and Lambert, 1972) but since then several different approaches have been developed and the terminology used to describe this field does vary considerably. Young (1998) and Arnold (1999) approach the subject using the broad term “affect” to cover all kinds of emotional contributions that students bring to the classroom, while Horowitz (1997) uses the approach of “beliefs about language learning” which emphasizes the kind of concepts that students have in their minds about the business of learning a language.
Horowitz (1988) demonstrated that what students believe about language learning influences how they learn, and most crucially also how well they learn. In an empirical study Horowitz et al. (1986) focus on the element of foreign language anxiety as “a conceptually distinct variable in foreign language learning” and note that this may be partly caused by teaching methods that encourage a defensive position (Horowitz et al. 1986, p. 125). Its effects can include the production of shorter written texts, more concrete utterances and fewer qualifications. Test anxiety is factor for some students, while others are even afraid to speak in class because they fear being negatively evaluated by their classmates or by the teacher. The work of these researchers on group of second language learners in Texas resulted in the development of the “Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale” (Horowitz et al., 1986, p. 129). This is a very useful tool designed to ascertain the scope and severity of foreign