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The Effect Of Motivation For Adult Learners English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 3364 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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This assignment investigates the effect that motivation brings to L2 adult learners and the development of motivational theories in L2 learning, which has received considerable attention recently. Dornyei (2001) highlighted the progressing importance in the motivational field studies and mentioned that the study of L2 motivation reached an unprecedented boom in the 1990s, with over 100 journal articles published on the topic. Motivation is a highly complex term, widely used not only in everyday life but also in many areas of social sciences, for example in various branches of psychology, in educational studies and in applied linguistics. It is intended to explain nothing less than the reasons for human behaviour. That causes and influences an action or the reason for doing something, in other words, motivation is taken as a key factor in L2 learning. According to Vanessen and Menting,

Motivation refers to some internal state or attitudes of the learner and not to what brings it about. A language learner may be strongly or weakly motivated; that is to say, he may want to learn the language very much or not very much.

In addition, Dornyei and Skehan offered the more precise definition about motivation and divided it into three parts:

Motivation concerns (i) the choice of a particular action, (ii) the persistence with it, and (iii) the effort expended on it. In broad terms, motivation is responsible for why people decide to do something, how long they are willing to sustain the activity, and how hard they are going to pursue it.


The purpose of this essay is to discuss that language learning motivation plays an essential role in both research and teaching; however, it used to be regard as a dynamic emotional or mental trait, also in the more recent research, learning motivation has been taken as fluctuating during the learning process. Nevertheless, the argument has not been well demonstrated in Asia. Therefore, this paper aims to investigate whether and how English learning motivation changed of adult L2 learning process in Taiwan.

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Given these premises, the paper is divided into three sections. The first section, I will analysis the different theories of motivation, such as Gardner’s Integrative Motivation with Instrumental Motivation, Dornyei’s L2 Motivational Self System and Process Model of L2 Motivation those concerns with the main development of motivational theories. The second section, I will briefly explore the factors that make adult learners change their motivation on L2 learning. The third section, I will provide some effective suggestions and possible solutions to arouse adult learners’ learning motivation for classroom practice.

The Development of Motivational Theories

Dornyei defines the notion of motivation that ‘The direction and magnitude of human behaviour, that is, the choice of a particular action, the persistence with it and the effort expended on it’ (2001:5). Gardner (1985) contributed to explain the distinction in motivation between integrative and instrumental has been significant in studies of motivation. Gardner (1985) saw L2 learners’ goals as being integrative or instrumental motivated. By practicing the advanced research that developed by Gardner and his associated colleagues in Canada. They analyzed the integrative motivation and instrumental motivation as the branches of social-psychology in the following:

Integrative dimension

The notion of integrative motivation was introduced into L2 studies by Gardner and Lambert (1959, 1972) in an attempt to explain variation in L2 motivation in multicultural environments. It is firmly based on the personality of the learner, and they suggest that the people who have stuck positively to resemble the foreign peoples concerned, to understand the culture, and to be able to participate in it from Skehan (1989). An integrative orientation involves an interest in learning an L2 because of ‘a sincere and personal interest in the people and culture represented by the other language group’ (Lambert, 1974:98).

Dornyei, Csizer and Nemeth (2006) defined that the most specific concept of the integrative dimension has been explained by Gardner’s (1985) theory of integrative motivation, there are three integrative components: Integrative Orientation, Integrativeness and Integrative Motivation/ Motive. Figure 1.1 shows a schematic representation of the construct. According to this following Figure 1.1, the integrative components participate in three levels of abstraction.

Integrative Orientation directly feeds into integrativeness, which has effects on one of the three main elements of integrative motivation. Moreover, Gardner defines that ‘orientations’ involve the hidden reasons of learning an L2; in a more precise way, they ‘represent ultimate goals for achieving the more immediate goal of learning the second language’ (1985:11). He clarified that integrative orientation is not only “stresses an emotional involvement with the other community” but also “reflect a positive non-ethnocentric approach to the other community” (Gardner, 1985:133-134).

Gardner (1985) illustrated the meaning of Integrativeness by using the Figure 1.1, which presents that it is a combination as made up of following variables: integration orientation, interest in foreign languages and attitudes towards L2 community. Back to Gardner’s explanation of integrative motivation:

reflects a genuine interest in learning the second language in order to come closer to the other language community. At one level, this implies an openness to, and respect for other cultural groups and ways of life. In the extreme, this might involve complete identification with the community (and possibly even withdrawal from one’s original group), but more commonly it might well involve integration within both community.


The integrative motive is constructed by the attitudinal, goal-directed and motivational variables. From Figure 1.1, it generalizes integrativeness, attitudes towards the learning situation (evaluation of the L2 teacher and L2 course) and motivation. Furthermore, motivation here is defined as (1) desire to learn the L2, (2) motivational intensity (effort), (3) attitudes toward learning the L2.

As for integrative motivation, Gardner and Lambert (1959) investigated English speaking high school students studying French in Montreal. In this context those students with an integrative motivation were more successful in their language learning than those with instrumental motivation. Young children might have simple goals in L2 learning. They may want to know more about the foreign country and may wish to experience their culture, so that is the reason why they learn an L2.

Attitudes Toward L2 Community

Interest in Foreign Languages



Desire to Learn the L2



Evaluation of the L2 Course

Evaluation of the L2 Teacher

Attitudes Toward Learning the L2

Motivational Intensity (Effort)




Figure 1.1 Schematic representation of Gardner’s integrative motive

(based on Gardner, 1985)

Instrumental dimension

In L2 motivational research, instrumental motivation has been highly discussed and compared with integrative motivation.

Vanessen and Menting gave a brief overview of instrumental motivation:

The instrumentally motivated learner requires the language as a means to some other end, whereas for the integrative learner the language and all that it brings by way of culture is an end in itself.”


This type of motivation is on the basis of the advantages which will bring with L2 learning. For example, for better professional achievement, for a better job or a higher salary as a consequence of mastering an L2 as Dornyei, Csizer and Nemeth (2006) pointed out. However, in Gardner’s opinion (1985), he categorized instrumentality as a type of orientation rather than motivation, that is, a goal for L2 learning.

From Gardner and Lambert’s (1972) example to illustrate the instrumental motivation, they conducted the research in the Philippines, English, has definitely great instrumental value, as an international language adopted there for business purposes. People have vital needs to master it, so high school pupils with instrumental motivation were highly encouraged.

Comparisons between Integration Motivation and Instrumental Motivation

Although Gardner (1985) has continued to put emphasis on integrative motivation, the studies showed that instrumental motivation can also lead to successful learning. However, there is a doubt on the statement of finding a positive relationship between integrative motivation and L2 achievement. Oller, Baca and Vigil (1977) provided an example that Mexican women in California who rated Anglo people negatively were more successful in learning English than those who rated them positively. Hence, they conclude the result that sometimes learners may be motivated by negative attitudes toward the target language community. Gardner and Lambert (1972) mentioned that both types of motivation frequently co-exist in the same learner, but it should be admitted that it is hard to classify one thought to either one motivation and decide which one is which one.

Lantolf and Genugn (2002) presented a case study of a doctoral student’s Chinese learning experience of an intensive summer course as describing the dynamically changing of motivation. This learner was taking Chinese learning as part of her PhD studies. At first, the learner began with the goal of developing communicative ability in Chinese but because of strictness of the instructor, the learner abandoned her goal, replacing it with passing the requirement of the PhD program. This showed the shift of motivation changed on L2 learning.

The L2 Motivational Self System

In more recent studies, Dornyei (2005) proposed a new theoretical approach to understand ‘L2 motivation’, that is, L2 Motivational Self System. It attempts to combine findings of self search in psychology with a number of essential theoretical L2 constructs together. The central theme of the L2 motivation self system has been interpreted as ‘integrativeness/ integrative motivation’ with the Ideal L2 Self (Dornyei, Csizer and Nemeth, 2006). Nevertheless, Ideal L2 Self refers to all the characteristics that a person would like to maintain. (e.g. hopes, aspirations, desires). Dornyei (2005) has highlight the significant of The L2 Motivational Self System that it broads the frame of the traditional conception of L2 motivation. The Ideal L2 Self is a powerful motivation to learn the particular language; therefore, learners would like to reduce the contradiction between their actual and ideal selves.

Process Model of L2 Motivation

Pre-actional Stage Actional Stage Post-Actional Stage

Motivational Retrospection

Motivational Functions:

Forming casual attributions

Elaborating standards and strategies

Dismissing intention and further planning

Main Motivational Influences:

Attributional factors (e.g. attributional styles and biases)

Self-Concept beliefs (e.g. self-confidence and self-worth)

Received Feedback, praise, grades.

Executive Motivation

Motivational Functions:

Generating and carrying out sub-tasks

Ongoing appraisal

Action Control

Main Motivational Influences:

Quality of the learning experience (pleasantness, need significance, coping potential, self-and social image)

Sense of autonomy

Teachers’ and parents’ influence

Classroom reward-and -goal-structure (e.g. competitive or cooperative)

Influence of the learner group.

Knowledge and use of self-regulatory strategies (e.g. goal-setting, learning and self-motivating strategies).

Choice Motivation

Motivational Functions:

Setting goals

Forming Intentions

Launching Action

Main Motivational Influences:

Various goal properties

(e.g. goal relevance, specificity and proximity)

Values associated with the learning process itself, as well as with its outcomes and consequences.

Attitudes toward the L2 and its speakers

Expectancy of success and perceived coping potential

Learning beliefs and strategies

Environmental support or hindrance.

Figure 1.2 A process model of learning motivation in the L2 classroom (based on Dornyei and Skehan 2003:619)

Dornyei and Otto (1998) proposed a process model of L2 motivation. This is dynamic time-related process model, incorporating three stages, the first as we prepare to engage in an action, associated with the pre-actional phase; the second actually getting engage into the action and after the event, the final stage involves the learner’s final analysis of the actional process when it is completed, as explained as Figure 1.2. illustrating three stages processing in language activities and the factors affect L2 learners set motivation during the learning process. In addition, this dynamic process model of L2 motivation uses time to organize the relevant motivational influences into various stages and also affects student’s language learning behaviour in classroom settings.

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Discussion: What factors make Taiwanese learners change their motivation on L2 learning?

Motivation has been taken as an understanding of a complex mental process. Ellis (1994:524) pointed out that researchers have investigated the operational system about motivational construction and nearly all of the theories are rooted by the conscious brain working; however, human beings make decisions may in a conscious or unconscious situation, but nowadays the technology has not had the effectiveness to search for answers of motivational decisions making from which parts of the brains and the relationship between consciousness and unconsciousness. Nevertheless, as Gardner (1985) explained that for some people a wish to integrate, in some sense, with the speech community of the language being learnt seemed to be more strongly associated with success, while for others a wish to capitalize on the usefulness of knowing a language within the learners’ own culture was more effective. This was the distinction made famous by him and his colleagues (Gardner 1985) between ‘integrative’ and ‘instrumental’ orientations.

Although it is difficult to distinguish from the conscious or unconscious decision making, there is now a colourful mix of approaches to the understanding of L2 motivation for adult L2 learners on language learning. Age is one of the factors that make adult learners change their motivation on L2 learning. Ellis (1994:523) stated that children generally enjoy the advantage over adult in L2 learning because of their age, but adult may learn faster than children during a short term learning. Moreover, adult learners often have already set up goals for the reason why they want to learn an L2, and instrumental motivation always overweighs integrative motivation on L2 learning.

As we can see from Dornyei and Skehan’s (2003) L2 motivational learning process model (Figure 1.2), learners are affected by the environment very much during the Pre-Actional Process and Actional Process. Kharma (1974) also argued that motivating factors may vary so widely from one community to another that what applies to one situation may not apply at all to another. For adult learners, the age factor should also be taken into consideration in L2 teaching. He straight highlighted the significance that the age at which the student begins to learn the foreign language and the impact of the maturational stages on the continuation of the foreign language course at school have great influence on motivation set up. Most of the adult learners decide to learn an L2 may because of instrumental motivation. Furthermore, the other influence factors of adult L2 learners’ motivation changed are the student’s linguistic and cultural background and the status of the mother tongue; the teachers’ attitude to the teaching profession in general and to foreign language teaching in particular, the relationship between teacher and student, and the school’s attitude to the language may play an enhancement of motivation.

Implications for Taiwanese Adult Learners on Second Language Learning

Since most of the adult learners are eager to learn an L2 because of the reasons for better job or higher salary and so on, but for the rest of the adult learners may still want to explore the foreign culture or be interested in achievement on L2 learning. No matter for what motivation, the adult learners should be encouraged by teachers on L2 learning.

The recent motivational research has focused on more classroom learning than the early work of Gardner and associates in Canada. Dornyei and Csizer (1998:215) listed ten commandments for good teachers who motivate their learners in classroom practice.

Set a personal example with your own behaviour.

Create a pleasant relaxed atmosphere.

Present tasks properly.

Develop a good relationship with the learners.

Increase the learners’ linguistic self-confidence.

Make the language classes interesting.

Promote learner autonomy.

Personalise the learning process.

Increase the learners’ goal-orientedness.

Familiarise learners with target language culture.

Kharma (1974) stated that the foreign language teacher is unquestionably the most important element of all. For being a foreign language teacher should have great attitude towards arousing learners’ motivation in learning an L2, and always be ready for the situation of competence. In this way, the learners may be affected positively by the teachers more and more, therefore, the learning efficiency and learning motivation can be much more stable. In addition, Ellis (1994:516-17) reported that language teachers tended to lead to increased motivation, thereby, to increased productivity. He believes that good language teachers may link L2 learners with the ‘real world’ and lift up their persistence and effort in language learning.

5. Conclusion

The study of L2 motivation reached a great turning point in 1990s, and an increasing number of researchers investigate the underlying theories or discover the new models of theoretical approaches to explain the complex mental process on Second Language Learning. The development of motivation theories as I mentioned above which all have close relationship between each other, and explain the construction of learners’ motivational setting. Motivation is a dynamic perspective and so called an ‘educational shift’ that Ellis (1994) named. Due to the complexity of motivation, language teachers may have great responsibility on enhancing the link between language learning and motivation maintaining.

In Taiwan, most of the adult learners who decide to learn an L2 because of requirement of the professional qualifications. However, sometimes they may have both integrative motivation and instrumental motivation co-exist. The Ideal L2 Self also helps adult learners pay more attention on L2 learning in order to achieve the goals for themselves; therefore, the language teachers once understand the process of motivation setting, the efficiency of learning can be promoted better as well.

word count: 3091


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