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The Motivation Towards Learning English

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 5363 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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English language is a required school subject in the Malaysian schools. Students experience 11 years of schooling prior to entering the upper educational institutions. Students in secondary schools spend five 40 minutes English periods per week. Regardless of the shift from the conventional teaching methods to communicative language teaching, most English language classrooms continue to be places to commit textbooks to memory rather than practice communication and English is still to be treated as a school subject that needs to be mastered and tested rather than a tool for communication. Students in Malaysia cannot get a degree from the institutions of higher education without passing the Malaysian University English Test (MUET). So, triumph in learning English might determine ones growing mobility and prospect.

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It is significant in mentioning that regardless of the great labors and pains being put forth in Malaysian secondary schools to educate English, one can barely encounter fluent and confident school graduates. Disadvantage in listening and speaking skills are obviously noticed since teachers are “required” to teach students in an approach which is directed to achieve the requirements of the exams (extensive vocabulary and grammatical rules). For the reason that the General Secondary Exam is not directed in the direction of the speaking and listening skills of students, the teachers of English discover themselves dispassionate in preparing their students for things which will never be tested in exams. Regrettably, loads of students in Malaysian secondary schools have an aversion to learning English and therefore they be present at the English training to pass the compulsory exams. Consequently, from my concise experience in the teaching turf, I found out that the majority of students have passive and inert attitudes in the direction of learning English because of the prior experiences, that English is tough to become skilled at and it is observed that students in the present school systems are feeling hopeless and vulnerable because they lack the skills needed to facilitate them build up motivation.

The word motivation appears to be simple, straightforward and easy but it’s so complicated to describe. It seems to have been impracticable for theorists to reach agreement on a particular definition. Martin Covington (1998:1) states that “motivation, like the notion of gravity, is easier to express in terms of its superficial, observable effects than it is to define. Certainly, this has not stopped people from trying it.” A a small number of definitions were found for the duration of the research process. According to the Macmillan’s dictionary (1979), to motivate means to provide with a motive; move to effort or action. Gardner (1985) said that motivation is related to four aspects, which are the goal, effort, desire to attain the goal, and a favorable attitude toward the activity.

Motivation is defined as the momentum and force to generate and maintain intentions and objective seeking acts (Ames& Ames, 1989). Oxford and Shearin (1994) defined motivation as a craving to achieve a goal combined with the energy to work toward that goal. Keller (1983) states that motivation is the degree of the choices people make and the degree of effort they will put forth.

Moreover, when we comprehend or take notice of the word motivation, many words and expressions are triggered in our minds, words like aim, aspiration, motivation, effort, purpose, vigor, perseverance, accomplish, encourage, and reward. Indeed, motivational issues consume a great part of our daily life. When we have a discussion about likes and dislikes, interests, or wishes we are in fact concerning ourselves with the most important motivational determinants of human. When we grumble and whine about stretched working hours, deprived salaries, rough colleagues, or instead when we are pleased by the acknowledgment of our achievements, promotions and munificent incentives, we are addressing issues at the core of the motivational psychology.

1.1 Background of the Problem

Kanfer (1998:12) explains that motivation is “psychological mechanisms governing the direction, intensity, and persistence of actions not due solely to individual differences in ability or to overwhelming environmental demands that coerce or force action. In short, the concept of motivation is very much part of our everyday personal and professional life and few would ignore its importance in human affairs in general.” Dornyei (2001:1).

In fact learning and teaching English as a second/foreign language is no exemption or exclusion in this aspect. When we think of how to persuade and give confidence to slow learners to work harder, how to produce an attractive and eye-catching learning ambiance or how to recompense the hard-working students we deal with motivation without a doubt.

Since motivation is one of the most noteworthy factors in language learning, it is not easy for the low motivated students to learn English as a foreign language. Dornyei (1994) obviously explains that motivation is one of the main determinants of second/foreign language learning. Amusingly, motivation is perceived by Dornyei (2001) as recurring, going up and down, affecting language accomplishment and being affected by it. He also claimed that a demotivated person is someone who initially has had motivation to accomplish an objective or to involve in an activity and has lost the motivation to do so because of unenthusiastic external factors which related to the surroundings in which learning takes place for instance the classroom and school. Nikolov (1999, in Dornyei, 2001) found that the most essential demotivating factors for all the age groups were related to the learning situations such as materials, the teacher or teaching techniques and he added further that these factors had great consequence on language acquisition and accomplishment.

Therefore, understanding the students’ aspiration and motivation for learning English in addition to the demotivating factors assist the teachers, educational policy makers and curriculum planners to develop the students’ proficiency.

1.2 Problem Statement

Motivational factors have an effect on students’ proficiency and advancement in learning English. Many studies (Krusdenier, 1985, Dornyei, 1994) have established that measures of proficiency in the second/foreign language are related to motivational distinctiveness of students. In this respect, Corria (1999) claims that a full understanding of students’ motivation is necessary to make the most of the English language results and positive outcomes. To put emphasis on the significance of discovering the students’ needs, he cites an example of students at the school of nursing in Holguin who rejected learning English because they did not find any relation between English and their own livelihood and learning some unrelated, irrelevant and distasteful material that wouldn’t satisfy their needs.

Purpose of the Study

The research is designed based on one purpose which is:

to investigate the motivational factors in learning English among lower secondary school students

1.4 Research Questions

The following research question is considered in the study:

Are the students motivated integratively or instrumentally in learning English?

1.5 Significance of the Study

Realizing and comprehending the essential responsibility of motivation in learning English, in addition to the aspiration of school administrations and teachers to discern what affects the students’ motivation towards learning English and the lack of studies about motivation in Malaysian secondary schools forced me to bear this survey. Consequently, the main objective of this study is to distinguish the factors affecting Malaysian students’ motivation in the direction of learning English as a foreign language. It also focuses at exploring the students’ integrative and instrumental motivation for learning English.

The study will first and foremost give information on motivation toward learning Second Language through literature review in two significant and pertinent areas: integrative (positive attitudes toward the target language group and a enthusiasm to assimilate into the target language community) and instrumental (practical reasons for learning a language, such as to achieve social recognition or to get a better job) motivation and factors influencing the motivation of L2 learners.

1.6 Limitations of the Study

The study is being conducted at one school, which may limit the generalizability of the findings. The results of the study may again be limited in generalizability to a larger population because a convenience sample was being used, and because random assignment is not employed in the research design.

Chapter 2

Literature Review

To improve the understanding of students’ motivation in learning English as a foreign language; it is useful to analyze and focus the literature in two relevant areas: Integrative and Instrumental motivation, and also the factors affecting the students’ motivation as they are major determinants for language acquisition and achievement.

2.1 Sources of Motivation

“Without knowing where the roots of motivation lie, how can teachers water those roots?” Oxford & Shearin (1994: 15). Fisher, (1990) points to three major sources of motivation in learning, which is the learners natural interest (intrinsic satisfaction), the teacher/employment and etcetera (extrinsic reward), and success in the task (combining satisfaction and reward).

Intrinsic motivation is mainly about acts or behavior performed to experience enjoyment or fulfilling ones inquisitiveness, while, extrinsic motivation relates to the behavior and actions to obtain a little extrinsic reward (e.g. -good grades, employment) or to avoid punishment and it can function as a temporary source of motivation for a demotivated learner. Ryan & Dec (2000) reveals that intrinsic motivation is the most vital kind and it is defined as the yearning to engage in an activity for its innate satisfaction rather than for some divisible consequences. To encourage intrinsic motivation, many characteristics as challenge, control, inquisitiveness and desire should be vacant to reflect the learners’ enthusiasm to learn (Lepper &Hodell, 1989).

Small (1997) stated that intrinsically motivated learners habitually demonstrate intellectual curiosity, regard learning as enjoyable and keep on in quest of knowledge even after the formal classes and this is the major goal of education. The lack of intrinsic motivation among the learners not only discourages them, but it also upsets the teachers who are the keystone of the educational practice. Luce (2002:1) explained that “over the years I have watched them (teachers) collapse, falling hard into vinyl seats of the faculty bun, heard them grunt the ‘oh. hell’ and ‘damn’ that come from the experience of working with students who wouldn’t learn. I have listened to the sighs of frustration and then the discussion of the fact that students are largely unmotivated, unwilling slugs taking up my time and best performances”.

Littlejohn (2001) think that not many students have a sense of intrinsic satisfaction. Some teachers strive to affect positively the pupils’ sense of intrinsic satisfaction by means of games or puzzles. This has momentary impact. So, natural interest of the learners is undependable to produce constant motivation in language learning. Vroom (1995) originated the Expectancy theory in which motivation is almost certainly to take place when learning is significant to the learner (valence), the endeavor to learn will be practical and useful to the learner (instrumentality) and the learners’ effort and hard work will be rewarded by the learners expected result (expectancy).

Realizing these facts, many teachers choose to prefer the extrinsic reward and the extrinsic punishment. In the classrooms, teachers may reward good students with good marks or flattering words or penalize other students with low marks. Therefore, the reward system itself can be exasperating and demotivating for the weaker students. The third source of motivation is the most important and crucial one. For the weak and failing students, “we, as teachers have to develop their sense of success and a feeling that they “can” do something, rather than a feeling that they “can’t”.” (Littlejohn, 2001:4)

2.1 Motivation and Attitudes in Second Language learning

Numerous theorists and researchers have discovered that it is vital to take a look at the construct of motivation not as a single entity but as a multi-factorial one.

In relation to the learner attitudes toward the target language, it was indicated by Gardner’s results (1959, 1983, 1985) that Second Language learners with positive attitudes towards the speakers and culture were more thriving in learning the language than those who had negative attitudes. Gardner (1983) argued that, because language is the fundamental part of culture, the learning of a second language is dependent upon the learner’s eagerness to recognize with the culture of the target language and to fit in aspects of the target- language culture, including linguistic repertoire into his or her own behavior.

In addition, Fasold (1984) stressed the function of learners’ attitudes in language growth or perish and he stated that the notion of language attitudes not only includes attitudes towards speakers of a particular language, but it as well includes all kinds of behavior relating to language to be treated.

Captivatingly, achievement in learning Second Language for the most part depends on the social relation among the First and Second Language communities. Wong-Fillmore (1991) suggested that accomplishment in learning a second language is dependent on the presence of the following conditions: (a) motivated students who realize they need to learn the target language, (b) target-language speakers who support the second- language learners, and (c) frequent social contad between target-language speakers and learners.

Regarding the outcome of learning a foreign language one’s own culture, Kramsch (1995) writes about how language plays an imperative function not only in the building of culture but also in the surfacing and emergence of cultural change. Kramsch (1995: 85) also claimed that “social change occurs slowly, but inevitably at the edges of dominant cultures. This is true also of the change that we might want to bring about by teaching people how to use somebody else’s linguistic code in somebody else’s cultural context.” Educating members of one society how to talk and how to behave in the context of another community potentially changes the social and cultural equation of both communities, by ingeniously diversifying mainstream cultures.

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The intensity of the relationship between students’ own cultural background and the background anticipated by the target community culture usually affects their attitudes and motivation toward learning Second Language. Lambert (1990) differentiated between two types of bilingualism: “additive” and “subtractive”. In additive bilingualism, the Second Language learners believe that by learning a new language, something new to their knowledge and experience is added without taking anything away from what they already know. But, in subtractive case, the learners feel that learning Second Language threatens what they already achieve for themselves. So, it can be said that additive circumstances lead to successful Second Language learning and integrativeness.

Obeidat (2005) conducted a study to inspect Malaysian students’ attitudes who were studying in Jordan Universities, toward learning Arabic as a foreign language. He concluded that the students were integratively motivated and their integrative orientations could be credited to the shared belief in Islam which made them prone to expand their scope and construct up their character in the course of learning Arabic.

Besides, attitudes of the foreign language learners may be affected by the apprehension that participation with the target language group may effect in estrangement from one’s own group. For example, opinions that English is in rivalry with Arabic, may have a negative affect on attainment of English in the Arab World. Pennycook (1994:204-10) stated that “that whether or not tension exists between Western and Islamic knowledge , there is a strong feeling that English is linked to forms of culture that threaten an Islamic way of life.” Consequently, an analysis into learners’ attitudes is a technique by which language teachers, education planners, syllabus designers and researchers can boost better insight into the language teaching and learning process.

2.2 Integrative and Instrumental Motivation

Motivation and needs are strongly related. On one hand, motivation is perceived as the realization of needs, and on the other, human needs function as drives or incentives which shift one to a particular action. The best well-known theory of human needs is Maslow’s (1970) hierarchy of need. Maslow put together a fivefold hierarchy of human needs which begins with biological needs and advance upward to psychological ones: physiological needs, as well as the need for food and water; the need for safety; social needs, as well as belongingness and love; esteem needs, e.g. the feelings of self-respect and positive acknowledgment from others; and self-actualization, which means the need for a sense of self-fulfillment.

In relation to the foreign or second language learning, the need for safety indicates that the Second Language learner needs to be protected that learning the target language and culture doesn’t affect negatively his/her own culture or language. Furthermore, openness in general and learning languages in particular needs a secure and an unstressful atmosphere to facilitate language acquisition. Admiration and social needs also indicate that the learner needs to be a educated person who is capable to communicate and assimilate with others by learning their language. Failure to suit students’ needs is prone to hamper their risk-taking and motivation. Psychologically self-doubting Second Language learners can be awfully anxious (Macintyre & Gardner, 1991) and if this happens, Second Language learners relapse in their needs, motivation, and achievement in the classroom.

Motivation for learning a second/foreign language is defined as the learners’ point of reference with regard to the objective of learning a second language. (Crookes & Schmidt 1991). To investigate and realize the effect of motivation on second language acquisition, the two basic types of motivation (integrative and instrumental) should be identified. Integrative motivation is characterized by the learners’ optimistic and positive attitudes towards the target language society and the aspiration to join together into the target language society. Instrumental motivation contains the purpose of gaining some social or economic incentive through Second Language achievement, consequently, referring to a more functional reason for language learning (Gardner& Lambert, 1972).

To evaluate a variety of individual differences variables based on socio-educational model, Gardner developed the Attitude and Motivation Test Battery (AMTB) which consists of these five categories: integrativeness, instrumental motivation, motivation, anxiety and attitudes toward learning situations. Gardner’s model has been used in many motivational studies (e.g. Tremblay & Gardner, 1995, Masgoret, 2001).

It is acceptable to say that Gardner’s model place too much stress on the integrativeness and the responsibility of learners’ attitudes towards L2 group in learning the second language. Regardless of the fact that both kinds of motivation are crucial fundamentals of success in learning the second/foreign language, much debate and disagreement among researchers and educators have been happening about which kind of motivation is more important for the second language learners. Lambert (1974) perceived integrative motivation as being of more importance in formal leaning environment than the instrumental one and it was a more influential forecaster of linguistic accomplishment.

Falk (1978) agreed with Lambert’s allegation by pointing out that students who are most thriving when learning a target language are those who fond of the people that speak the language, have a high regard for their culture and have a longing to become familiar with the society in which the language is used. On the other hand, Lukmani (1972) found that an instrumental motivation was further significant than an integrative one among the non-Westernized Students of Second Language (English) in Bombay, India. Dornyei (1990) opposed Gardner by claiming that instrumental motivation and the learner’s need for accomplishment are more essential than the integrative motivation. Brown (2000) stated that second language learners hardly ever select one form of motivation when learning a second language, but rather a mixture of them and he cites the example of the international students in the United States.

However, in response to calls for the implementation of a wider image of motivation, Tremblay & Gardner (1995) included other motivational variables into the socio- educational model and they acknowledged that other factors as instrumental orientation, attitudes toward the teacher and the course, learning strategies and self confidence might contribute to motivation.

In relation to the Malaysian circumstances, second language learners might conserve their identity by instinctively selecting to be motivated instrumentally. Desire related to integrative motivation might affect their Malaysian identity and the dread of identifying with English (Western) culture and values may be related to the colony or to the latest American campaign against some countries in the area. In sense of review of the literature available in the area of students’ motivation for learning foreign languages, loads of studies try hard to investigate the learners’ integrative and instrumental motivation. Oller et al (1997) studied educated Chinese speaking ESL students and he realizes that those who perceive Americans as helpful, sincere and friendly perform better in a cloze test of English as a second language. Man-Fat (2004) have the same opinion with Oller when he explored the motivation of English language learners in Hong Kong (grade10) and his study reported the noteworthy association between integrative motivation and language proficiency.

Conversely, instrumental motivation was found more important in some situations particularly where there appears to be modest amount of desire to assimilate. Fu& Lee (1980) found out that Chinese students in Hong Kong were instrumentally motivated and Second Language linguistic achievements correlated more with instrumental motivation. Dornyei’s study (1996) of Hungarian secondary school learners of English exposed that instrumental motivation is a innermost element of motivation where comparatively down-to-earth benefits are actually reachable for the learners. He also claimed that foreign language learning in a classroom doesn’t involve attitudes towards the Second Language community because learners have little or no contact with members of Second Language group.

In brief, as it is understood from the above discussion, the researchers and educators haven’t resolute on what the most important kind of motivation a second/foreign language learner should have. The 1970s studies (Gardner, 1972, 1979, Lambert, 1974) have shown that integrative motivation is more important for success in Second Language acquisition and instrumental motivation did not seem to relate to successful language learning. However, the following studies (Gardner& McIntyre, 1991, Dornyei 1994, Oxford, 1994) discovered that integrative motivation may not be the strongest forecaster for language learning and the issue of motivation may not be as straightforward as integrative-instrumental dichotomy. They recommended that other mechanism such as aspiration for knowledge need for accomplishment, intellectual inspiration and personal challenge can also play important roles n second language learning.

2.3 Factors Demotivating Foreign Language Learning

The similarities of concern between most foreign language classrooms where the language in question is a compulsory school subject, is the problem of demotivation. Nevertheless, the disadvantage of English language learners in general has been attributed to an assortment of factors such as teaching methodology, lack of the target language environment and the learners demotivation (Mukkatash, 1983, Zughoti,1987). For that reason, it is vital for the teachers at least to be conscious of the possible factors that may be disturbing their students’ motivation. With those factors in mind, they may be able to build up strategies to help unravel the problems that take place relating to students motivation and aspiration to learn English as a foreign language.

A great deal of research has been conducted on language learning motivation but a lesser amount of research is being done on the demotivating factors in learning the second language and a few studies have addressed them. Dornyei & Otto (1998) don’t distinguish motivation or demotivation as a stationary occurrence. In contrast, they are considered as dynamic, increasing and declining, affecting language accomplishment and being affected by the neighboring learning environment. The demotivated learner is defined by Dornyei as the one who is originally motivated and lost his/her motivation because of negative outer factors. Some studies have shown relatedness between demotivation and the learning environment such as classroom environment, teaching methods and curriculum (Gardner, 1985, Skehan, 1991, Sivan, 1986).

Gorham& Christophel (1992) examined the factors that students identify as motivators/demotivators in college classes in West Virginia University. The study compared students’ perception of the demotivating and motivating factors. As to demotivating factors, the factors related to teacher’s behavior were the most common, 43%, those under limited control of the teacher were second in occurrence (e.g. assessment and choice of text books), 36%, and only 21% related to contextual factors over which the teacher has little control. In terms of the data as a whole, the teacher behavior contributed in the same way to both motivation and demotivation. However, the researchers concluded that motivation is seeming as a student-owned state, while lack of motivation is perceived as a teacher-owned problem.

Chambers (1993) (in Dornyei, 2001) explored demotivation in language learning in four schools n the UK. The study was done on the school students and their teachers. Students placed most responsibility on teachers and learning materials. The teachers claimed that the students’ motivation caused by psychological, social and attitudinal reasons.

Generally, most studies conducted in the ground of motivation and demotivation as its backside found out that the personality of the teacher, teaching methods, learning context in addition to the learners attitude toward Second Language could play a fundamental role in the students’ motivation or demotivation on the road to learning languages.

Chapter 3

Research Design


This survey is a quantitative type of research which involves the use of questionnaire. Quantitative studies emphasize the measurement and analysis of causal relationships between variables, not processes. In a quantitative research, questionnaires, and computers are used as data collection methods. The data collected is numerical and statistical. The general objective of the researcher is to observe but does not actively participate. Research design is also structured and well-tested.

3.1 Participants

Participants consisted of 30 Form 2 students in Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Pekula Jaya located in Tikam Batu, Kedah. The socioeconomic status of the school and the area that the school served was largely middle class, and students were primarily Malays. The instruments were administered in the classroom during two periods of English lesson. During the session, students were asked to complete the questionnaire. Directions and individual items were read aloud by the administrator.

3.2 Instruments

For the purpose of obtaining data on what negatively affects their English learning motivation, I conducted this study by using a questionnaire (see appendix). The questionnaire was adapted from Gardner’s (1985) AMTB to measure the students integrative/instrumental motivation in learning English. This part of the questionnaire contains 8 items reflecting the integrative/instrumental motivation and a five- point Likert Scale which ranged from strongly disagree to strongly agrees was being used in this survey.

The integrative motivation scale includes four types of items to investigate how well the learners learn English with an authentic enthusiasm to absorb with the target language, culture, community, their manner of life and literature; this would show their Integrativeness in the direction of the target language. However the instrumental motivation scale includes four items aiming at measuring the respondents’ functional reasons for studying English.

3.3 Procedures

At the very beginning of the study, permission was gained from the principal of the targeted schools who showed a willingness to collaborate in this study. To guarantee a positive participation, the subjects were informed that their answers would be confidential and they were not required to write or give their names at any stage of the study. The questionnaire was administered by the researcher and 40 students participated in completing the questionnaire during their English class.

The students were assured that the main objective of the researcher was to find out why they like to study English and what makes them sometimes dislike the English classes. Moreover, the students were told that their answers and opinions would not affect their grades or their teachers’ impression and their participation in the survey would help teachers to understand their desires and problems. Students were encouraged to ask questions at any time during the process.

The survey was administered to the students in a classroom environment. Prior to the survey, the participants were assured of anonymity and confidentiality. Then, they were a brief explanation to facilitate the administration, and were asked to respond to the questionnaire items as spontaneously as possible. The students were asked to tick the answer wherever seemed necessary. The participants took approximately 30 to 40 minutes to complete the questionnaire, although there was no time limit. Upon completion of the administration, the participants were offered some refreshments for their participation


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