Motivation In Second Language Learning

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18th May 2017 Education Reference this


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Motivation, as other individual differences in second language learning, plays a significant role which could affect second language learning success. It is an incentive to start L2 learning and sustain the later learning process. In classroom settings, same teachers, same materials, it could be seen that even one with highly aptitudes in learning a second language could fail in its achievement if there is no adequate motivation. For the past several decades, social psychologists and educators have made much effort to study this complicated topic through different aspects. This assignment will try to give a description of key findings from literatures in this field which will mainly focus on two of the most influential approaches: Gardner’s motivation theory and self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan,1985, 2002). And then I will present a brief critique on an empirical research which was worked by Lucas etal (2010) A Study on the Intrinsic Motivation Factors in Second Language Learning Among Selected Freshman Students. This study had found that ….At last, I will examine that this research is helpful in understanding second language learning and teaching from my personal experience.

Key Findings in this research

According to Zoltan Dornyei (2005), second language learning motivation research has gone through three phrases: The social psychology period, the cognitive-situated period, and the processed-oriented period. In these three different periods, it could be found that social psychologist Gardener and his colleagues made the great contribution to their theory about integrative motivation and instrumental motivation. They indicated that second language learning is different from learning other subjects. Because it could be seen that it shows one’s personal disposition and identity. For example, learning English has been a fevour for many years in China. People learn it may be in order to pass the various examinations or to communicate with westerners freely. The former one could be instrumental motivation, alternatively, the later on could be seen as integrative motivation.

Integrative motivation and instrumental motivation

During the social psychology period, Integrative motivation and instrumental motivation has played a influential role.The definition of integrative motivation given by Gardner and Lambert is that learning a second language is an interest to communicate with other communities which is a way to acknowledge to their people and culture. Relatively, instrumental motivation is somehow a desire to learn a second language so as to get a job opportunity or fulfill a credit points in study.

The following research later on found that integrative motivation and language learning success had positive relationship at different aspects. (Clement, 1980;

Gardner, 1985, 2000; Gardner, Day,&MacIntvre, 1992; Gardner&Lambert, 1972;

Gardner&MacIntvre, 1991, 1993; Gardner, Tremblav,&Masgoret, 1997; Masgoret&

Gardner, 2003).

For instance, Gardner and Lambert (1972) identified that the students in French courses. They studied how their integrative motivation and instrumental motivation functioned when they learning. They found that integrative motivation played an imortant role in successful learning French. Further evidence were given by Gardner, Tremblay, and Masgoret(1997) which support the point of view. During their research, participants did multiple choice test, a doze test, a vocabulary test, a composition and grades in French who had been measured by one hundred items. Important relationship was found between integrative motivation and each second language learning achievement. Examination given by Ely (1986) studied that to what extent the integrative and instrumental motivation theory could describe motivation of learning Spanish for freshmen in one university. He indicated that validity and the significance of Gardner’s theory. And then Ramage (1990) identified a group of students’ motivation in learning French or Spanish when they finished the second year of high school studying. She also investigated their desire to keep on learning French or Spanish. She confirmed that there was a positive relationship between in interest toward the second Language culture and the willingness to continue learning French or Spanish.

As it has been mentioned above, the definition of integrativeness plays a key role in Gardner and Lambert’s (Gardner, 1985, 2000; Gardner&Lambert, 1972) dominant conceptual framework of second language learning motivation. Other researchers, inspired by this theory had made a great numbers of empirical studies from various aspects (e.g., Clement, 1980; Clement, Dornyei,&Noels, 1994; Clement&Kruidenier, 1985; Dornyei, 1990, 1994a; Dornyei&Kormos, 2000; Gardner, Day,&MacIntyme, 1992; Gardner, Lalonde,& Moorcroft, 1985; Gardner&MacI.., 1991; Schumann, 1986). To some extend, it could say that these studies supplement and enrich the understanding of relationship between second language motivation and its attitudes toward culture. It has been found a positive view for second language learners who want to integrate other communities and get contact with people. Yet, as a enigma, integrativeness has still existing difficulties for the researchers to define its nature. Gardner’s (2001) said that the “term is used frequently in the literature, though close inspection will reveal that it has slightly different meanings to many different individuals” (p. 1). Further studies has still be needed.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

When it turns into cognitive-situated period, Self- determination theory which proposed by Deci and Ryan provides two kinds of motivation. Intrinsic interest focous on the activity for its own sake. On the other hand, extrinsic interest based on the rewards such as points, candies, compliments, money, test scores, or grades. However, These two types of motivation are not absolutely dichotomy.

It could define that intrinsic motivation (IM) is a motivation which emphasize the enjoyment of engaging in activity. Ryan and Deci(1985) suggested that the nature needs for competence and self-determination is rooted in intrinsic motivation. What’s more, they supposed that people will choose to engage to an activity which is according to their propensities. Because the degree of the activity could rise. And then with challenging those difficulties, learners will realize a sense of competence in their abilities. However, the precondition is that they could be given free opportunities to choose.

Ryan and Deci’s (2000) hypothesis cited in Lucas etal (2010: 6) stated that “no single phenomenon reflects the positive potential of human nature as much as intrinsic motivation¼Œwhich is defined as the inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extend and exercise one’s capacities, to explore, and to learn.” Developmentalists confirmed that even without rewards, children are active and curious from the time when are born. It is so important for cognitive and social progress and that describe a main source of pleasure in life.

Ryan and Deci (2000) posit that no single phenomenon reflects the positive potential of human nature as much as intrinsic motivation¼Œwhich is defined as the inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extend and exercise one’s capacities, to explore, and to learn. Developmentalists acknowledge that from time of birth, children, in their earliest and healthiest states, are active, inquisitive, curious, and playful¼Œeven in the absence of rewards. The whole construct of intrinsic motivation describes this natural inclination toward assimilation, mastery¼Œspontaneous interest, and exploration that is so essential to cognitive and social development and that represents a principal source of enjoyment throughout life (Csikszentmihalyi&Rat hund e, 1993; Ryan1995 in Ryan &Deci¼Œ2000).

Ryan¼ŒKuhl and Deci (1997) also argued that despite the fact That humans are liberally endowed with intrinsic motivaions, it is clear that the maintenance and enhancement of this inherent propensity requires supportive conditions, as it can be readily disrupted by various non supportive conditions. Thus, their theory of intrinsic motivation does not concern what causes intrinsic motivation¼Œbut rather¼Œit examines the conditions that elicit and su staff n¼Œversus subdue and diminish this innate propensity.

Thus, Deci and Ryan (1985) presented the Cognitive Evaluation Theory (CET) as a subtheory within SDT self-determination theory that had the aim of specifying factors that explain variability in intrinsic motivation. CET was conceptualized in terms of social and environmental factors That facilitate versus undermine intrinsic motivation, being inherent, will be catalyzed when individuals are in conditions that conduce toward its expression. The study of conditions that facilitate versus undermine intrinsic motivation is an important step in understanding sources of both alienation and liberation of the positive aspects of human nature. Furthermore, CET specifies that feelings of competence will not enhance intrinsic motivation unless accompanied by a sense of autonomy (Fisher¼Œ1978; Ryan¼Œ1982 i n Ryan & Deci.2000).

To sum¼ŒCET framework suggests that social environments can facilitate or forestall intrinsic motivation by supporting versus thwarting people’s innate psychological needs. Strong links between intrinsic motivation and satisfaction of the needs for autonomy and competence have been demonstrated.It is critical to remember that people will be intrinsically motivated only for activities that hold intrinsic interest for them¼Œactivities that have the appeal of novelty¼Œchallenge, or aesthetic value.(Ryan and Deci 2000)

The term extrinsic motivation refers to the performance of an activity in order to attain some separable outcome, and thus, contrasts with intrinsic motivaion¼Œwhich refers to doing an activity for the inherent satisfaction of theactivity itself.

In contrast to intrinsically motivated behaviors, extrinsic motivation (EM)are those actions carried out to achieve some instrumental end¼Œsuch as earning a reward or avoiding a punishment. This type of motivation does not necessarily imply a lack of self-determination in the behaviors performed.Ryan an d Deci (1985) and Vallerand (1987) maintained that different types of extrinsic motivation (EM)could be classified along a continuum according to the extent to which they are internalized into the self- concept (i.e., the extent to which the motivation is”self -determined “).

Critique on a empirical research

The paper focused on intrinsic motivation factors that may help identify what specific L2 communicative skill students are more motivated to learn. The study involved 240 freshman college students from different universities and colleges in Metro Manila. A 48-item questionnaire was administered to the selected respondents. The results of the study showed that students are intrinsically motivated to learn speaking and reading skills and that they are intrinsically motivated via knowledge and accomplishment. These may suggest that students are motivated to learn these linguistic skills due to the very nature of the skills which they find interesting and relevant to them. The mastery of these linguistic skills somehow helps them achieve their learning goals which may bring benefits to them in the future.

The study investigated if students are intrinsically motivated to learn L2 communicative skills such as writing, reading, speaking and listening. It also examined the factors of intrinsic motivation that may help determine why and why they are not motivated to learn those macro skills. This study adapted Deci and Ryan’s (1985) self-determination theory and Vallerand’s (1997) Academic Motivation

Benefits from the research

The study puts forward the reality that indeed¼ŒEnglish is a

prestigious language and that students will always be interested to

learn this language due to the many benefits it may bring. Their

bilingual exposure at a very early stage in their lives puts the Filipino

young language learner to an advantage over their Asian


It could be seen that motivation is a key component in second language learning. However, in my teaching experience, I could find some students still could be lowly motivated or even lost motivation in learning English. The reasons for this could be found by the research just discussed above.

Lucas etal (2010) generated that “teachers are influential in their students’ motivation towards their own learning competencies.” Thus, it is highly important for the second language teachers to improve their own qualification of teaching continuously. Moreover, sufficient preparation for every class is needed. Students always expected to learn as much as possible interesting and helpful skills from teachers’ instruction. So reasonable design and arrangement of the details of classroom activities could help students achieve their goals. Firstly, factors relating to a class design should be taken into account such as the length of time, the level of students’ proficiency, the size of the class, teaching equipment and approaches. Secondly, it is possible that unexpected problems could happen in the process of teaching. Therefore, how to change and adapt other ways of teaching should be considered. For example, at different stages, the teachers’ role could be instructors or friends. Thirdly, during my classroom settings, the procedures often go by the following process: leading in, explaining, practicing and output. It could be said that each steps have their own features. Thus, it is significant to noticing activities adoption, the ways of communication and giving feedback. I found that students could get fulfillment and satisfying from a successful classroom teaching process. Thus, in other words, a teacher with more competence in teaching could help students become more confident in learning. At last, students’ motivation could be motivated and improve their achievement in second language learning.

In addition to intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation could also function as a positive role in teaching English. Bilingual exposure in a second language environment could stimulate student’s extrinsic motivation through different ways. After entering WTO, it has become a heated-topic to learning English. Student extrinsic motivation have been highly strengthened when they found other people were all learning English. Relatively, it could say that if one found the other students have no interest in learning this kind of language, he or she will probably feel the same way. From another aspects, further more, it could also say that parents’ positive attitude towards English language and cultures of English speaking countries could generate their children’s extrinsic motivation toward English learning . Conversely, parent’s negative attitude could result their lack of learning .

4 how to stimulate students’ motivation

During teaching process, teachers could combine the teaching materials and specific classroom settings to help students to establish a conducive learning motivation, for example, to develop learners’ interest in learning the language and its culture. At the same time, it is helpful if students could to change their attitudes toward learning second language. At last, they could turn their extrinsic motivation into extrinsic motivation.

4.1 to provide a good classroom environment

The classroom environment is very important to language teaching. As Gardner (1981) stated that we can not actually teach students a foreign language, but only to create a suitable language learning environment for students. Good classroom atmosphere could not only make students learning actively and enhance their motivation but also could greatly improve their ability to learn. Psychological research shows that studying in a relative relax and joyful environment could maintain fine mental state and enhance one’s memory. Furthermore, it is helpful for letting students thinking creatively and find their potential abilities. Conversely, if the classroom environment is tedious, the state of students’ learning could be poor. Consequently, negative attitudes toward learning could appear which will weaken the motivation, learning effect will not be guaranteed. In addition, the establishment of the communicative environment is also very important for teachers. It is very likely to stimulated students’ second language learning motivation by providing their opportunities to use language in an authentic environment. Therefore teachers should as much as possible to try to create communication opportunities and harmonious environment to improve students’ motivation to learn.

Inspire students’ learning motivation through classroom activities.

It could be seen that providing students’ successful learning experience and cultivating their intrisinc interest in activities could achieve the aim of improve students learning motivation in second language learning. there are part of students who have not been inspired by extrinsic or intrinsinc motivation in the classroom settings. For them, targeted activities could be important. Because they could find their learning interest during the participation of various and useful activities. It could say that offering opportunities for students with experience of success by designing suitable actives is a key role in second language learning achievement.

4.3 helping students to establish learning goals

Learning objectives could be divided into long-term goals and short-term goals. Long-term goals could relatively ensure learners’ learning behavior to keep a longer time. Alternatively, achievement of the short-term goals could give students the fulfillment of learning experience, so that students can have a strong learning motivation. Therefore, according to learner’s different levels of learning, teacher could help students to establish specific long-term goals and short-term goals. What’s more, Long-term goals should have high standards and short-term goals must be feasible.

4.4 understand the student’s learning needs

It is significant for language teachers to understand students’ learning needs so as to instruct them what they want to learn. Because it is a useful way to arouses student’s study enthusiasm, and cultivate their interest in learning by fulfill their’ thirst for knowledge.


So far, second language learning motivation is still a complicated topic which has many aspects waiting for further study It is has been widely accepted that motivation plays a very significant role in second language learning achievement. The reason for some students learning poorly mainly is that they do not have highly motivation. Motivational strategies for second language learning is important . it is obvious that teacher could not create students’ extrinsic motivation, but teachers’ attitudes towards second language and its culture could have a great effect on its development. Activities in the classroom could cultivate students’ intrinsic motivation. .

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