Shame and SLA

Dominique Galmiche

Shame, Identity, Second language aquisition, Willingness to communicate, Linguistic self


The present article addresses the question of foreign language classroom shame (FLCS) in France. As a first step to collecting data, thirty participants were asked to narrate their language learning experiences in the context of the foreign language classroom by being interviewed individually and in depth. The two following questions were in focus: firstly, how does shame impact FL learners’ vision of themselves as English-learners/users? Secondly, why do some learners manage to overcome shame experiences while others seem to be particularly affected? The respondents’ narratives suggest that shame may impact not only L2 learners’ linguistic confidence but also their sense of identity, self-worth and self-esteem. Interestingly, some learners reported having developed strategies of resilience. The data also revealed that FLCS may direct learners to certain types of behaviours like avoiding interaction and speaking activities, ruminating over failure, or withdrawing from L2 learning, and lead to enduring L2-related anxiety due to fear of future shame-inducing situations. It is maintained here that taking this phenomenon into consideration in the language learning process could contribute to a better and more complete understanding of the psychology of language learners and help them develop a more positive self-regard, promote their willingness to participate in communicative tasks and may eventually enable them to reach an increased level of proficiency. The findings offer therefore strong support for the need to focus on developing a deep understanding of the role of shame in French FLL contexts and elsewhere.

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Apples - Journal of Applied Language Studies