Heritage language anxiety and majority language anxiety among Turkish immigrants in the Netherlands

Journal article by Yeşim Sevinç and Jean-Marc Dawaele in International Journal of Bilingualism, 2016.

International Journal of Bilingualism front page


Aims and objectives

This study examines the language anxiety that occurs in immigrants’ daily lives when speaking the heritage language and the majority language, both in their host country and during visits to their home country. It compares the levels of heritage language anxiety and majority language anxiety across three generations of the Turkish immigrant community in the Netherlands and explores the link between immigrants’ language anxiety, and sociobiographical (i.e. generation, gender, education) and language background variables (i.e. age of acquisition, self-perceived proficiency, frequency of language use).


A Likert scale-based questionnaire was administered to 116 participants across three generations who reported their language anxiety levels when speaking the heritage language and the majority language in three social contexts (i.e. family, friendship and speaking with native speakers).


Statistical analyses revealed that heritage language anxiety and majority language anxiety were prevalent in immigrants’ daily life, and that levels of both forms of anxiety differed across generations, and in different daily life situations. First- and second-generation immigrants typically experienced majority language anxiety, while second- and predominantly third-generation immigrants suffered from heritage language anxiety. Relationships emerged between language background variables and both forms of anxiety, but only in certain situations. These findings suggest that language background variables on their own may be insufficient to explain immigrant language anxiety in certain social contexts (i.e. within family). Rather than merely language background factors, a variety of other issues within social, cultural and national currents must be considered when examining language anxiety in the immigrant context.


Taking an interdisciplinary approach that combines language contact and foreign language anxiety/second language anxiety research, this study suggests that the concept of foreign language anxiety/second language anxiety should be expanded beyond the confines of the classroom to include daily interactions of immigrant or minority communities.


This study contributes to the limited body of evidence on the topic of language anxiety in immigrant contexts and presents a new construct ‘majority language anxiety’.

Access the article on the homepage of International Journal of Bilingualism.

Published Aug. 16, 2017 2:05 PM - Last modified Aug. 16, 2017 2:05 PM