Anxiety And Demotivation In Learning English Language Essay
The purpose of the study was to explore the UAE secondary school students motivation for studying English in addition to the demotivating factors they face when learning English. To identify the high and low scoring items in the questionnaire, frequency, mean and standard deviation were calculated and worked out for each item in the first part of the questionnaire but the percentages and frequencies of the demotivating factors in the second part of the questionnaire were worked out.
4.1. Integrativeness & Instrumentality
The students' responses toward the eight items measuring integrative and instrumental motivation are shown in table 1 below and in appendix 3.
Table1: The frequency distribution, mean scores and standard deviation of the 8 items on
integrative and instrumental motivation. (n=100)
1-I study English to be more at ease with English speakers
2- I study English to meet and converse with varied people
3-I study English to understand British & American arts and literature
4- I study English to participate more freely in
the activities of other cultural groups
Overall mean score
5- I study English as I need it for my future career
6- I study English to become more knowledgeable
7- I study English as it helps me get a good job
8- I study English as the others respect me
Overall mean score
A close examination of the frequency distribution and mean scores of responses to the four items comprising the integrative orientations indicates that the students have positive and high degree of integrative motivation. The mean scores of the items are approximately 4 except item 3 (studying English can be important for me because it will enable me to better understand and appreciate British and American art and literature). With an overall mean score of 3.77, the students show a positive attitude toward the L2 community and an agreement that studying English can allow them to interact with other English speakers, to meet more variety of English speaking people and participate more freely in activities of other cultural groups. However, more than half of the respondents expressed their disagreement and uncertainty in viewing learning of English as a means to appreciate British/American arts and literature. Therefore, the paired samples T- test was conducted to find out the statistical differences between the scores of the third integrative item and the other items in the same scale (see appendix 4). When comparing between the cores of the integrative items 1 and 3 (studying English can be important to me as it will allow me to be more at ease with other people who speak English versus item 3), it was found that there is a significant difference between the means of these two items(M1 = 4, M3 = 3.31), (t = 4.71, p = 0.001); the comparison between items 2 and 3 (studying English can be important for me because it will allow me to meet and converse with more and varied people versus item 3 ), revealed a significant difference between the means of these two items (M2 = 3.87, M3 = 3.31), (t = 3.44, p = 0.001); also there was a significant difference between the means of items 4 and 3 (studying English can be important for me because I will be able to participate more freely in the activities of other cultural groups versus item 3), (M4 = 3.91, M3 = 3.31) (t = - 4.78, p = 0.001).
A new variable was created by calculating the total mean of the items 1, 2 & 4 in the integrative motivation scale; this variable had a mean of 3.93 and a standard deviation of 0.62; when item 3 in the integrative motivation scale was compared to this new variable using the paired samples T-test, it was found that the scores of these two variables differed significantly with (t = -5.36, p = 0.001). Looking at the frequency distribution and mean scores of the 4 items making up the instrumental orientation shows that the students highly accepted items 5,6 and 7 ( getting a good job, improving future career and being a knowledgeable person) as being fundamental reasons to their desire to learn English. Comparing the overall mean score (3.77) of the four integrative items to (4.15) of the instrumental items as shown in figure 2 , it can be concluded that the respondents are to a certain extent integratively motivated but they still have a higher degree of instrumental motivation.
Figure 2: The overall means of students' integrativeness and instrumentality
Additionally, paired samples T- test was conducted to indicate whether there is a statistical significant difference between the total scores of the integrative motivation items (M=3.77, SD=0.60) and the instrumental motivation items (M=4.15, SD=0.51) or not (see appendix 5). By applying the T-test, it was found that there is a significant difference between the two scores (t = -5.68, p = 0.001).
4.2. The Demotivating Factors
The second part of the questionnaire was designed to investigate the factors demotivating the students when learning English. The question asked to recognize the demotivating factors was "which one of the following factors demotivated you when studying English?"(see appendix 1). The respondents had an opportunity to choose more than one factor. Then, the factors were ranked according to their frequency; from the most frequent to the least. (see table 2).
Table 2: The frequency distribution and percentages of the demotivating factors facing students
when studying English. (n=100).
Difficulty of structures
Listening skill difficulties
Rare use of technology
Social & religious reasons
Rare use of Malay
Teachers' rapid speech
Effect of English on Mother Tongue
As can be seen in table 2, the most demotivating factors mentioned by the students referred to the difficulty of English as a school subject. The first places in terms of demotivating factors were occupied by some subject aspects; "vocabulary load" which was considered the first demotivating factor by 58% of the respondents, "difficulty in understanding structures", 54%, "listening difficulties", 51% and the "spelling errors ", 41%. Moreover, some aspects of the teacher's personality and style are still considered demotivating by considerable percentage of respondents (teacher's nervousness, 30%, rare use of technology, 35%, little use of Malay, 22% and teacher's rapid speech, 20%). Demotivating factors related to the textbooks was mentioned by 39% of the respondents whereas 24% feel demotivated because of some social and religious reasons.
Comparing the total frequencies of the subject demotivating factors (204) to the teacher demotivating factors (107) as seen in figure 3 indicates that the students' demotivation toward learning English is affected largely by the subject-related aspects. Additionally, the results shown in figure 3 don't lend support to the third hypothesis of this study by showing that the teacher of English in the Malaysian secondary schools is not the most dominant demotivating factor for learning English.
Figure 3: Total frequencies of subject aspects and teacher as demotivators.
To conclude, the students' responses on the questionnaire as well as the interviews with them are able to answer the research questions and lend much support to the first and second hypotheses (The UAE secondary schools students like to learn English for utilitarian (instrumental) orientations and the majority of the factors affecting the students' motivation toward learning English are related to the immediate learning context.) Contrary to the third hypothesis (the demotivating factors related to the teacher are the most dominant), the results show that the most dominant demotivating factor for learning English is the "vocabulary load" not the "teacher".
In the next chapter the mentioned results will be analyzed and discussed in detail.
As mentioned before, the aim of this study is to explore the Malaysian secondary school students' motivation for learning English. The original hypothesis of this study was that the Malaysian students are instrumentally motivated. It was also hypothesized that the learning context particularly the teacher could be the main demotivating factor affecting the students' learning of English. The results of this study have shown that the Malaysian students have a higher degree of instrumental orientations and motivation than the integrative ones. This result is not surprising because Malaysia is a cosmopolitan country and the peaceful and friendly nature of the Malaysian citizens helps them to integrate with the other communities and nationalities.
In respect of the demotivating factors affecting learning English in the Malaysian secondary schools, the findings of this study didn't lend much support to the related hypothesis (the demotivating factors related to the teacher are the most dominant). It was revealed that the teacher wasn't the dominant demotivating factor for learning English. On the contrary, the subject aspects (vocabulary, structures, spelling) were found to be in the first place in terms of demotivating factors. Moreover, the study revealed the effect of textbooks, friends' discouragement and some social and religious beliefs on the students' motivation.
A thematic discussion of the major findings will be presented below in detail.
5.1. The Malaysian Secondary School Students' Instrumental & Integrative Orientations
There is one main reason for identifying the students’ needs in the foreign or second language classroom. Identifying their needs and goals to learn Second Language is the first step which the educational policy makers and syllabus designers should consider if they want to instill or enhance motivation for learning Second Language. Additionally, identifying Second Language learners' goals and needs enables the teacher to adopt teaching methodologies and strategies meeting and satisfying the students' needs. This perceived relevance between personal needs and learning activities is, as mentioned above, a prerequisite for sustained motivation to learn. Dornyei (1994a) and Oxford & Shearin, (1994) have recently conducted investigations to identify needs for learning a foreign language especially in the context where the language is learned as a school subject among teenagers.
In respect of the instrumental motivation, the results as shown in the previous section indicated that improving future career, getting a good job, becoming a knowledgeable person as well as continuing a higher education inside the country and abroad are some of the most common instrumental orientations for learning English in the secondary schools. As shown in the results section (table 1),more than 90% of the respondents like to study English for getting a good job because the labor market offers more high-paying jobs for those who know English and it is noticed that knowledge of English is a prerequisite for getting good jobs particularly in the private sector. Besides, one can hardly find job advertisements without conditions related to English proficiency. As a result, more and more young people are becoming involved in English learning programmes hoping that some day they may obtain a satisfying profitable job. Learning English to pursue higher education at the higher colleges and universities in Malaysia has recently become a basic goal for the students. To advance from the school to university, students have to get good grades in the SPM English paper. A low grade in English may lead to crucial troubles in one's higher education, so being good at English is very sensitive for those who dream of continuing their education. Additionally, the UAE students seeking higher education abroad particularly in Britain, America and other English speaking countries are in need of learning English.
However, instrumental motivation is strongly goal oriented and “doesn’t seem to involve any identification or feeling of closeness with the other language group” Gardner (2002:10). Second Language learners might apply instrumental motivation, which operates as a meta-cognitive strategy whereby they persuade themselves to engage in Second Language learning even though they have no liking for the language and the culture (Zimmerman, 1989).
As mentioned in chapter two, instrumental motivation will be more prominent in situations where there are utilitarian benefits. Although the results of the study indicated that Malaysian students are instrumentally motivated toward learning English, the respondents in this study showed a considerable amount of integrativeness (mean=3.77).
As mentioned before, having integrative motivation means being ready to integrate into the target language community and culture. It is also theorized that integrative motivation typically underlies successful acquisition of a wide range of registers and a native like pronunciation. (Finegan, 1999). However, being integrative in Malaysian context might be something relatively different .Students expressed their desire to interact with other speakers of English (79%), whereas (70%) like to learn English to participate in the activities of other cultural groups to learn about their lifestyles and to exchange with them some cultural and religious issues.
In regard to the Malaysian context, the students' considerable inclination to integrativeness could be a result of the noticeable existence of the English speaking people in Malaysia. The unique situation of Malaysia enables the students to contact and make good relations with the English speakers in many places such as universities, private schools, companies and with the tourists in every place in the country.
It is worth mentioning that the lowest scoring item in the integrative motivation scale was the third one which is "Studying English can be important for me because it will enable me to better understand and appreciate British and American art and literature." I think that the students' incompetence and weakness in English might make them unable to understand and appreciate English literature.
In addition, the English textbooks in schools concentrate on the linguistic features of the language rather than literary forms. In this respect it should be realized that literary stream students are not exposed to much English literature because there is no difference between literary and science streams in term of English textbooks or number of classes.
However, students' integrative orientations could create a sense of optimism towards the future of learning English in Malaysia because instrumental motivation can be very unstable as it is influenced by external variables such as the economic and political changes. Those who learn English for getting a good job or because English is the dominant language of technology and economy should realize that the supremacy of English is not going to last forever and the rise of a competing super power might change the situation.
Let's look at the declined global position of Russian and French languages because of the Soviet Union collapse and the regression of France as a super colonial power. Crystal (1997) claims that the superiority of English and its dominance on global economy is a result of the emergence of the US as a strong economic and military power. In other words, much emphasis on instrumental motivation for learning English at the expense of integrativeness might jeopardize the student's general motivation for learning Second Language.
For example, most of the respondents in this study like studying English to join universities or for the purpose of test taking, this means that after passing the tests or entering the university, instrumental motivation has run its course for most of the Malaysian students. So, the strength of integrative motivation lies in the stability of its goals. Both the character and the culture of a nation prove to be more stable as goals than instrumental language goals related to career or passing university entrance exams.
At last, a deep look at the integrative motivation scale and the related interviews results points out that the Malaysian students' integrativeness is divergent from the classical definition of integrative motivation mentioned earlier and agrees in general with additive bilingualism which leads to successful Second Language learning(see 1.2 in chapter 1). The learners like to integrate with the Second Language community without being like them and without losing their culture and identity.
5.2. Demotivating Factors
In this section, the focus will be on the external demotivating factors affecting the UAE students' motivation for learning English. Dornyei (2001:143) first broadly states that demotivation "concerns various negative influences that cancel out existing motivation," but excludes affect as a stimulus by narrowing his definition to "specific external forces that reduce or diminish the motivational basis of a behavioral intention or an ongoing action".
However, results of the survey and interviews showed that demotivators related to learning context were not the only type of demotivation which the UAE students referred to. Another type of demotivation related to some subject aspects (vocabulary load, spelling& structural difficulties) was also referred to by a higher percentage of students (table 2). Additionally, it can be noticed clearly through the results of this study that most of the demotivating factors in the UAE context are in line with the demotivating factors which are categorized by (Oxford,1994)(see 1.2) and (Dornyei,2001) (see 2.2) particularly, teacher's personality and teaching methods ,the negative attitudes toward L2 community, coursebook and reduced self confidence. The discussion will be first about the subject demotivating factors since they were the most frequent and on social/religious factors in addition to the teachers as demotivators as they affect largely the language learning and acquisition
5.2.1. Subject Demotivating Factors
Demotivation resulted from the perceived difficulties of some subject related aspects gives consideration to intrinsic motivation and its role in the learning process. It is clear in the literature review that intrinsically motivated learners usually find learning fun and display their curiosity and challenge to reflect willingness to learn (see 1.1). Furthermore, the subject demotivating factors which will be discussed below could expand Dornyei's definition of demotivation (chapter2) by adding the difficulty of some subject aspects to the external demotivating factors and learning context.
It should be realized that goals to be effective in motivating learners should be difficult to a certain level and perceived important and attainable (Locke, 1996). Ames (1992) in his goal theories stressed that learning new things should be challenging and not perceived unattainable. However, the qualitative results in chapter4 indicated that most students perceive mastering English structures and other difficult aspects unattainable.
The survey indicate that most students feel demotivated in learning English due to the large number of new lexical items which should be memorized to enable them to write and speak fluently and consequently to pass English tests (table 2). There is no doubt that vocabulary plays an important role in learning a foreign language and it is one element that links the four skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing all together. In order to communicate well in English, students should acquire an adequate number of words and should know how to use them accurately.
Although the UAE students realize the importance of vocabulary when learning English, most of them learn vocabulary passively due to several factors. First, the testing system of English language as a school subject requires students to memorize long lists of vocabulary by heart (rote memorization). For instance, in grade 10 and 12 students have to memorize hundreds of new words to pass the vocabulary test.
Second, the UAE students are still using the traditional ways in learning and memorizing vocabulary. Most of them have nothing to do in vocabulary learning section but to listen to the teacher and ask him to explain the meanings and usages. As in the UAE context, memorizing long lists of new words with meanings in the native language without any real context practice shoulders heavy burden on the learners and affects their motivation for learning the language. Nation (2000:6) states that words should not be learnt separately or by memorization without understanding. Moreover, "learning new words is a cumulative process, with words enriched and established as they are met again." Therefore, the "look and remember" way of vocabulary learning seems to be not very effective for learners of the English language.
I think that the learning context in the UAE secondary schools (evaluation system, teaching methods, and learning strategies) can be partly blamed for the sense of demotivation among the students toward learning vocabulary .The interviews with students revealed that there are some mistaken beliefs in terms of vocabulary learning.
5.2.1-2. Structure Difficulties
It is undeniable that an understanding of a language grammar is essential and as it is said vocabulary is the flesh of the language and grammar is the skeleton. However, most Arab learners of English as a foreign language view the study of grammar as tedious and there are frequent outcries about the difficulty of structures among the students.
English grammatical rules are intricate and the UAE secondary school students are weary of taking grammar classes with rote memorization and drills which they find both boring and difficult to understand or appreciate. One of the misconceptions among the UAE students is the belief that without mastering most English grammatical rules they will not be able to communicate in English. I think that these misconceptions stem from the extra concentration on structural rules particularly in the tests at the expense of other major skills as listening and speaking.
Furthermore, some students referred to English structures in general as the main cause for the low marks they score in the English tests. I think that reaching a state of fossilization in understanding and mastering some grammatical points would demotivate the English learners and reduce their desire to learn English.
5.2.1-3. Spelling Errors
Due to the importance of spelling in writing, English learners are required to be good spellers. Correct spelling gives the "writer" more self confidence and from this grows a willingness to experiment more with language. Additionally, if students hear a new lexical item and can make a realistic guess about its spelling, they can check its meaning in a dictionary. Also writing it may help them to ‘fix’ it in their minds. It is usually noticed that some UAE secondary students dislike writing paragraphs and compositions since they fear committing a lot of spelling mistakes.
Regardless of the reasons causing difficulties in mastering English spelling, the constant fear of committing spelling mistakes which affects negatively the writing skill and makes students learn in an insecure learning atmosphere will inevitably reduce the students' motivation for learning English.
The survey results indicates that 51% of the respondents feel demotivated when they face difficulty in understanding the recorded material ( listening texts) in English classes. I think that this result reflects the students' complaints which usually detected during the listening exercises.
Realizing the importance of listening as a basic language skill, many researchers and linguists point to the effects of listening on the other language skills and on the learners' schemata. Rost (1990) says that listening is the most widely used language skill and it is considered a primary vehicle for language learning because it is a medium through which people gain a large portion of their information and understanding of the world. Moreover, listening as a receptive skill gives way to the productive skills and communicative competence. Therefore, increasing the student's motivation toward listening texts and exercises and investigating the demotivating factors in this respect will reducing the anxiety about the difficulty of recorded lessons.
5.2.2. Social and Religious Factors
Second-language learning is a social phenomenon which is normally affected by the social context where it takes place. In the case of learning English in the Arab World in general, political, religious and socio-cultural factors have been crucial in influencing and shaping the Arab students' motivation for learning English. 24% of the respondents feel demotivated for learning English due to socio-cultural and religious considerations.
Clement (1980) states that the fear of assimilation refers to the fear of becoming completely like the other culture and losing one's native language and culture. So, the fear of losing heritage and native language may weaken L2 learning motivation. However, the anxiety about identity and culture in the UAE context might not be justifiable because the students who are integratively motivated like to integrate and communicate with the English speakers but not be like them culturally or socially at the expense of their culture and heritage.
Generally, it can be concluded that social, religious and political affiliation work together to shape or at least affect the L2 learners' motivation.
5.2.3. Teachers as Demotivators
Although the results of this study indicate that the teacher is not the most demotivating factor for learning English in the UAE secondary schools, both qualitative and quantitative results show that considerable number of students still view teacher as a demotivator. The demotivating factors that students referred to and that were related to teachers could be classified into two main groups: teachers’ style, i.e. the way they taught and presented the material to students (rare use of technology and Arabic), and personality traits, i.e. the way they behaved with students.
Generally, both variables (teacher's personality and style) can play a negative role if perceived negatively by students. In classes where students referred to their teachers as demotivators, they often agreed on the same aspects of their teachers’ personality or style that they perceived negatively. It is worth mentioning that the demotivating elements which students attributed to teachers refer to the current and previous teachers.
As the teacher is the key of the teaching and learning process, his/her personality has great impact on the learners' like or dislike for learning the related subject. Krashen (1987:32) states that "the effective language teacher is some one who can provide input and help make it comprehensible in a low anxiety situation."
In most secondary schools in Malaysia, English classes tend to be teacher centered. The teacher-centered atmosphere makes the students who can't keep up with classes behave poorly, pay less attention and talk to each others and so on. In such atmosphere the teacher considers the side talks among the students during the lesson a challenge or indifference.
5.2.3-2. Rare use of Technology
As we live in the age of science and technology, it is unsurprising to find out
that students like some technological devices (TV, video, computer and so on) to be utilized in their learning. This study revealed that 35% of the respondents feel demotivated toward learning English because their teachers rarely use technology in presenting the English lessons. Many different types of technology can be used to support and enhance learning. Everything from video content, laptop and projectors to language labs have been used in classrooms. Marshall (2002) found strong evidence that educational technology complements what a great teacher does naturally, extends his reach and broadens students' experience beyond the classroom.
The English teachers in the UAE secondary schools have to realize the basic role which technology can play in motivating the learners and enriching the teaching and learning process. The use of technology in classes will cause positive change in the educational process.
I think that the UAE secondary schools students are in need of learning how to utilize some technological devices in their learning because they realize that they would benefit from technology in their university studies and it is indispensable in their future practical life. Therefore, it can be said that the use of technology in classes correlates with students' needs and goals; consequently the rare use of it make the learners feel demotivated.
5.2.3-3. Rare Use of Malay Language in English Classes
The use of L1 in L2 classes is a controversial issue and much debate has been taking place among educators and linguists about the impact of such issue on second language acquisition. To communicate in the target language, students need to have maximum meaningful input of the target language. Both maximum "input" (Krashen, 1982) and "output" (Swain1985) are believed to be very essential for any language acquisition. However, some studies proved the importance of some use of the students' native language in the foreign language classrooms (Atkinson, 1987, Guthrie, 1984).
As noted above , the teachers are placed in a dilemma because they are required to maximize the use of English as well as they need to ensure that their weak students understand what they say and cooperate in the learning tasks. I think it is improper to prescribe any rules of language choice for the teachers without taking into consideration the realistic classroom situations. However, instead of providing the teachers how much Arabic should be used in the English classes, they should be encouraged to examine their own attitudes, values and practice and develop their own system of interaction with their students which they consider to be appropriate and motivating.
Depending directly on the findings of this study and realizing the crucial role of teachers in reducing the learners' anxiety and demotivation, the researcher likes to present some recommendations which might be beneficial to those who are responsible for the educational process in the UAE.
Firstly, teachers should create some school activities which meet the students'
needs and learning goals instead of concentrating solely on memorizing vocabulary and grammatical rules at the expense of the language skills and actual language acquisition. Concerning the vocabulary load, I think if the students are trained and accustomed to guess the meaning from the context instead of memorizing all the new lexical items, learning vocabulary will be easier and more motivating because the "look and remember" way of vocabulary learning seems to be not very effective for learners of the English language
Secondly, it should be borne in mind that students have to be taught in a meaningful way to master the language skills, be able to communicate fluently and use English in real world situations. Knowles (1998) believes that adults are motivated by acquiring knowledge that solves real world problems in their lives or gives them internal satisfaction.
Thirdly, teachers should explain their language teaching approach to their students. For instance, students should realize that student- centred activities such as
pair work or group activities designed to create an interactive learning environment. In other words, motivation levels drop when students are unsure about why they should perform certain language skills.
Another one is that it is recommended that the foreign language teacher should adopt the role of a facilitator rather than an authority figure in the classroom to increase students' motivation (Oxford& Shearin, 1994). At the same time, teachers have to bear in their minds that the maximum use of a target language facilitates its
acquisition and balancing the use of L1 and L2 according to the students' levels and abilities will motivate students to learn English.
Next, It should be realized that integration of culture and language could function as a positive attitude and further motivation to study a foreign language
(Gardner, 1985). This can be done easily by utilizing authentic material and arranging some students' visits to English speaking countries. At the same time, teachers should develop students' cross cultural awareness systematically rather than simply adopting the socio-cultural components to satisfy students' integrative orientations (Dornyei, 1994).
Also, the Ministry of Education should give more freedom to the teachers in
selecting approaches and strategies which suit their learners' levels and abilities particularly in the heterogeneous classes.
To respond to the students' needs about tests , the teachers can reduce the students' demotivation by allocating few periods before the final exams to review and train students on test taking strategies.
In order to utilize technology effectively in teaching English , schools should
be equipped with adequate numbers of technological devices (language labs, computer sets…etc.) . Additionally, teachers should be trained intensively on utilizing technology in teaching English. It should be noted that teachers cannot be expected to learn how to use educational technology in their teaching after a one-time workshop. Teachers need in-depth, sustained assistance not only in the use of the technology but in their efforts to integrate technology into the curriculum (Kanaya & Light, 2005). The time spent ensuring that teachers are using technology to enrich their students' learning experiences is an important piece in determining the value of technology to
In regard to the future research, many methodological and pedagogical questions with regard to different issues in foreign language education in the UAE emerged while investigating the research questions addressed in this study. However, this study might serve as a basis for further research in many ways. First, this study utilized qualitative and quantitative instruments to investigate the students' motivation toward learning English. It is recommended that such an approach can be used to study the context in which English instruction takes place including teachers, schools, and syllabus or socio- cultural barriers. Second, it is recommended to conduct a study about teachers' demotivation to find out its effect on learners' motivation. Finally, this study could be replicated with a larger number of participants (males & females) in the seven emirates of the UAE to give a clearer and a more generalizable picture about the investigated phenomenon.
To conclude, no matter what the underlying motivation to study a second language, what cannot be disputed is the fact that motivation is an important variable when examining successful second language acquisition. It should be realized that making learners recognize a real need to accomplish learning goals and providing them with the motivation to learn is one of the best steps we can take to facilitate learning success. This is best conveyed by Bruner (1960:31): "The best way to create interest in a subject is to render it worth knowing, which means to make the knowledge gained usable in one's thinking beyond the situation in which learning has occurred." Thus, future researches are needed to shed more light on the investigated phenomenon from different perspectives and angles as only the tip of the iceberg has been discovered.
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