18 January 2018

The 4 Main Sources of Motivation in Language Learning


Language learning entails the whole gamut of experiences. Travelling to a foreign country without any knowledge of the local language might be comparable to careering on a bicycle down a single-track road in a mountainous country, swerving around stray animals, dodging landslips and listening out for trucks.

Alternatively, spending endless hours, months and years glued to the gaudily coloured grammar books and dictionaries but not venturing to practice it and make errors, experience the excitement and exhilaration of mastery and infinite opportunities is like playing Hamlet without the prince of Denmark.

Learning a new language might be an arduously intensive and hugely interesting process. Conversely, an agile and motivated mind can easily fall into the doldrums if methods and techniques applied are not grounded in the personal preferences and choices. Efficient language learning hinges on planning and sequencing of the process and identification of factors that might impair the achievement of the desired outcome.

It is widely agreed that motivation, i.e. the combination of effort, desire to achieve the goal of learning the language, and favourable attitudes, form the backbone of the successful learning. Some researchers of the language learning strategies emphasize the salience of the type of motivation that drives a person’s learning process.

Integrative motivation entails the desire to become familiar with the target culture, integrate into the society and typically underlies successful acquisition of a wide range of registers and a native-like pronunciation. In contrast, instrumental motivation is generally characterized by the desire to obtain something practical or concrete from the study of the second language and the purpose of language acquisition is more utilitarian, such as meeting the requirements for school, reading technical material or achieving social status.

Task motivation is the drive for performing particular learning tasks, that is if the teacher designs appropriate tasks which will lead students to successful performances, such constantly pleasant and rewarding experiences will provide students with increasing confidence and consequently, they will gradually develop a liking for second language learning.

The instrumental and integrative dimensions of motivation are frequently defined as extrinsic and the task orientation forms the foundation of intrinsic motivation. In the field of study of foreign language learning, the basic differences between the learners of the former group are driven by the external rewards, conversely, the members of the latter group learn for the joy of personal mastery.

Language teaching and learning is a complex process and these dimensions and elements attached to it need to be well comprehended before embarking on the path of acquisition of foreign languages. Few would argue that taking a Swiss Army toolkit to the hiking trip is wise. Most likely you will have to wade through conjugations and irregular verbs that will equip you with, at least basic level of any language.

Before you start trekking, take a helicopter view of your route and think of particular situations or reasons why taking a personally very dear object, e.g. The Chronicles of Narnia or Rubik’s Cube to the same trip would make you feel fulfilled, harmoniously content and unique. The answer may not come in one glorious, sudden stroke of inspiration but learning about yourself and what motivates you is surely a leap forward in the journey of language learning.

Contact Simon & Simon today to find out more about how you can introduce your team to language learning in a way that is fun and inspirational, and which will lead to new opportunities for personal and professional success within your organisation.

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