A Study of Fear and Stage Fright in English Oral Communication among Academics in the Humanities and Social Sciences

S. G. S. Samaraweera


Although most academics in the humanities and social sciences use referencematerials in English in organizing their lectures conducted in Sinhala, they suffer a greatdeal of fear and stage fright while speaking English at private or official meetings and atpublic forums. Some have even completed their postgraduate studies through themedium of English but their oral communication remains very poor as a result of theirlanguage anxiety.

The objective of the present paper is to discuss the major causes of suchlanguage anxiety which, in effect, are the major findings of a survey conducted by theresearcher in relation to a group of such academics from the Humanities and SocialSciences in the University of Ruhuna. The methodology comprised interviews, a formalquestionnaire, and discussions with about seventy academics from the Faculty ofHumanities and Social Sciences in the University of Ruhuna. The findings revealseveral conditions which affect negatively in their communication in their workingmilieu: the standards imposed by the elite in the stratified society of Sri Lanka upon thequality of the English spoken in public, the negative attitudes the fellow academics holdtowards English oral communication, lack of support from the environment where theyhave to practice their English, lack of confidence they suffer as personalities whiletrying to speak English, lack of integrative and instrumental motivation caused by theprofessional needs of their duties, and their own complacency and lethargy caused bythe professional security they enjoy without any competency in oral communication inEnglish. All these barriers and difficulties create an environment where the academicsin Humanities and Social Sciences suffer from fear and stage fright in oral Englishcommunication and as a result the competency level of their oral communication inEnglish remains poor.

Key words: English, Oral communication, Education

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