Motivation and learning a language
What are the underlying reasons that influence someone to begin and maintain the study of a second language? While there may be various influences that affect the learning process, such as learning styles, personality, social context, and age, the area of learner motivation appears to have a great deal of importance on this process. It is believed that motivation is one of the most important factors that determines the rate and success of learning a second language. It provides the primary impetus to initiate learning a language and later the driving force to sustain the long and often tedious learning process.
It has only been in the last two to three decades that an effort has been made to investigate the role and nature of motivation in learning a second language. One of the most influential researchers in this field has been Robert Gardner, who placed motivation in a social-psychological context thereby giving motivation a social dimension. Focussing on language learners in the multicultural setting of Canada, Gardner considered the motivation to learn the language of the other community to be the primary force for enhancing or hindering intercultural communication and affiliation.
Two aspects of his approach were Integrative and Instrumental Motivation. The concept of Integrative Motivation is concerned with the positive attitudes a learner has to the target language community and their desire to interact with members of that community or even become part of that community. On the other hand, Instrumental Motivation relates to functional reasons or practical goals for learning a language such as passing an examination, getting a better job or promotion.
While acknowledging the influential contributions that Gardner’s social-psychological model has made to the understanding of motivation, it is argued that a wider definition and understanding of student motivation is required. Extending the boundaries of motivational research has resulted in alternative models and an evolution in language learner motivation theory. There are in fact different attitudes and orientations that seem to be important in ways that vary from situation to situation.
Kimberly Noels from the University of Ottawa extends the understanding of student motivation by presenting four orientations that have a greater influence on a learner’s reasons for studying a second language. These orientations include; travel, friendship, knowledge and instrumental orientation. Motivation resulting from a travel orientation has also been reported by Yoshiko Mori from Georgetown University. In her research of Japanese learners, Mori discovered that travelling and studying overseas, rather than a desire to integrate into the target language community, were viewed as strong motivational factors in learning a second language
Another new conceptualisation of student motivation has been offered by Zoltan Dornyei (Eotvois University, Hungary) who re-orientates the idea of motivation in respect to a theory of self and identity. Student motivation can be better understood by relating it to aspects of personality psychology, which sees individuals’ perceptions of the self right at the heart of motivation and action. Involved in this idea of self and identity is the idea of the ‘possible selves’ which represent the individuals’ ideas of what they might become, what they would like to become, and what they are afraid of becoming.
This idea of ‘possible selves’ is further broken down into different types, for example, ‘the ideal self’ which represents the attributes that someone would ideally like to possess such as hopes, aspirations, or wishes, and ‘the ought self’ which refers to attributes that one believes one ought to possess such as a student’s sense of duty, obligation, or responsibility. For Dorynei, motivation to learn a language comes not from positive feelings towards the target language community but more from internal representations of what we would like to be or what we think is expected of us.
This approach to students’ motivation is further supported by Bonny Norton from the University of British Columbia. She presents the idea of an imagined community that learners are interested in integrating into. While Gardner saw integration into the local community as a key motivating factor for learning a language, Norton extends this concept to incorporate an imaginary global community. This concept of an imagined community can be used with the emergence of ‘World English identities’ where English is viewed as a world language thereby establishing a virtual language community. This perspective claims that the idea of an imagined community develops in learners an imagined identity which can be used to stimulate motivation towards learning.
The idea of an imagined community with World English as its language finds further support with research conducted at Kansai University by Tomoko Yashima. She argues that students who have a greater interest in international issues, work and activities seem to be motivated to study a second language. According to this research, learners who are conscious of how they relate themselves to the world tend to be motivated to study English, as they probably visualize ‘English-using selves’ clearly.
Idealised notions of what learners would like to be can be situated in the context of a virtual language community. There has been a departure from Gardner’s original definition claiming a learner’s desire to interact with the local community as being a major motivational factor. These new notions see integration into a global community, i.e. World English, as motivational forces in the acquisition of English.
Which THREE of the following statements are true of Robert Gardner’s theory of student motivation?
A. The desire to gain some external reward influences learner motivation.
B. The theory was developed over 40 years ago.
C. His research focused on local factors that influence a learner’s motivation.
D. The personality and age of a student affects motivation.
E. Motivation is not the most important aspect of a student’s approach to learning a language.
F. Motivation is influenced by a student’s feelings towards a particular group of people.
Complete the sentences below using words taken from the reading passage. Use no more than THREE words for each answer.
4) Mori’s research found out that integrating into a community was less important than ______________.
5) A new approach to student motivation argued by Dornyei relates to the idea of _______________.
6) The concepts of ‘the ideal self’ and ‘the ought self’ represent what students want to be and what is ___________.
7) The concept of an imaginary global community develops in learners __________.
8) Yashima claims that students appear to be motivated to study a second language if they have interests in global affairs, _________________.
＜練習問題の解答＞1) A 2) C 3) F (in any order)
4) travelling and studying.
5) self and identity
6) expected of them
7) an imagined identity
8) work and identity