Motivation in learning languages
For a long period of time motivation has been the most popular topic for discussion in almost all spheres of human life. Numerous theories have been developed, and motivation is still being considered as one of the major determinants of success. Learning languages is not an exception. Nevertheless, as long as it is largely complicated process, motivation cannot be suggested as the only reason to succeed.
Ray Williams (2010) defines motivation as, “predisposition to behave in a purposeful manner to achieve specific, unmet needs and the will to achieve, and the inner force that drives individuals to accomplish personal organizational goals”. Concerning learning languages it seems to be essentially important to set individual perspectives and to realize the ways to obtain them. Adults have clearly defined purposes while young children’s goals are commonly vague. Some learners, especially those who are forced by parents, are not able to answer the question: “Why do you learn English?” Apparently, one of the main tasks for ESL teacher is to assist their students in setting goals in order to promote successful learning.
It is accepted to distinguish extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is designated by outside factors such as exams, future travel or financial rewards. Students set clear and distinct goals with determined limits and assessed results such as final exam score, well-paid job or even opportunity to travel or live abroad. Intrinsic motivation, on the contrary, comes from within the individuals who simply enjoy learning process itself or have a desire to make themselves feel better. This type of motivation is generally viewed to be more efficient and produce better results because it is not restricted by any external circumstances that can be vanished or ceased. However, my personal experience as a teacher has revealed the opposite case in group of adult learners who firstly were inspired by the process of learning new language and spending spare time in a useful way without any external factors of motivation. Yet having no opportunity to use the language outside the class and to estimate their results, students became demotivated. For as Alan Rodgers wrote many years ago “ ... we forget that initial motivation to learn may be weak and die; alternatively it can be increased and directed into new channels”(Rogers:1996). Presumably, the achievement of certain visible results can enhance further successful learning. In other words, extrinsic motivation can simulate its intrinsic counterpart.
Therefore, motivation in general is undoubtedly one the most important factor affecting the students’ success. In addition, Jeremy Harmer (2007) reminds that ESL teachers need to remember about differences of motivation factors in various cultures. This fact is proved by the study which Judy Chen and her colleagues have undertaken showing that we need to look carefully at who the students are, where they are learning and what their aspirations are (Chen:2005). Schumann in his work argues that “motivation for second language acquisition varies across individuals, the talent and aptitude for it varies across individuals, and the opportunity for it varies across individuals" (Shumann: 2009).
Despite the fact that motivation largely affects the students’ success, from my point of view, it cannot be the single factor. The factor of time sufficient for preparation determines faster and better results. Being overloaded with other activities both young and adult learners are not able to achieve greater results.
In addition, teacher’s experience and competence considerably impact on students’ success. The final scores of primary school pupils taught by ESL teachers of different professional standards all other conditions being equal could have been substantially disparate. What is more, individual talent and aptitude enhance successful learning, but without motivation these factors may not be effective.
All things considered, it can be concluded that motivation is of great importance in the process of learning languages. Both intrinsic and extrinsic types of motivation affect the achievement of students’ goals. Moreover, cultural differences of motivation factors should be taken into account by ESL teachers. Obviously, such additional factors as time, teacher’s experience and competence, student’s talent and aptitude may also lead students to successful results in learning second language.
Rogers, A. (1996). Teaching Adults. Open University Press
Harmer, J. (2007). How to teach English. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited
Chen J., Warden C., Chang T. (2005). Motivators That Do Not Motivate: The Case of Chinese EFL Learners and the Influence of Culture on Motivation. TESOL International Association
Shumann J. R., Lee N., Mikesell L., Joaquin A., Mates A.W. (2009). The Interactional Instinct: The Evolution and Acquisition of Language. Oxford University Press
Williams R. (2010). How to motivate employees: What managers need to know. Wired for Success
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