Anxiety and enjoyment of older learners of English in Chinese Universities of the third age

Yanchuan Geng, Lixian Jin

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This paper investigated a research area worthy of greater attention: foreign language classroom anxiety (hereafter FLCA) and enjoyment (hereafter FLE) of older adults learning English as a foreign language in Chinese Universities of the Third Age. Understanding the largely overlooked emotional involvement of older language learners contributes to sustaining their motivation in lifelong learning for more remarkable personal growth and successes. Based on the survey of 587 Chinese older learners of English between the age of 50 and 80, paired sample t-test showed that more FLE was reported than FLCA. The results of Welch’s ANOVA suggested that those who were better educated had less FLCA and those who believed themselves healthier had more FLE. The language performance evaluation (i.e. relative standing in class and English mastery) affects both FLE and FLCA. Further interviews with 34 older participants revealed three major sources of FLE, including the language use in life situations, the favorable attitude toward FL learning in the cognitive, aesthetic cultural and pragmatic aspects and the social interactions in the U3As. FLCA occurs when the language performance is perceived as dissatisfying and when aspects of mental health (e.g. worsening memory) impede effective learning. Although FLCA and FLE had only a very weak correlation, Chinese older adult learners commented on a shared belief that anxiety usually precedes and subsequently enhances enjoyment in learning, indicating a sign of emotional resilience later in life. This paper demonstrates a need for understanding the emotions in language learning across life stages and socio-cultural contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-526
Number of pages20
JournalEducational Gerontology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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