Raising Motivation for Studying Foreign Languages through the Interests of the Learner
For a person learning a foreign language, it is extremely important to know what he or she needs it for. To see the goal clearly when you start doing something is the beginning of your success, and this concerns learning foreign languages more than anything else, because this process takes a long period of time, demands persistence, painstaking, and much effort. One of the problems is that the aspiration to learn a language that the person had in the beginning can gradually disappear, so the aim of the teacher is to maintain the same level of involvement during the whole course. Students interested in a subject, willing to learn as much about it as possible, focusing their attention on the task, are every teacher’s dream, I suppose.
Thus, motivation is a key factor to make the language-learning process effective. In educational psyhcology to be motivated means “to be moved to do something”. So what can move a student from a non-linguistic specialization to learn a foreign language? For instance, in our university there are optional classes, where language teaching takes into consideration different motivating factors. Students who attend these classes are divided into groups according to the necessary level of foreign language study, so there is no doubt, that this division makes learning and teaching easier and more effective. Besides, the term of the course can be chosen by the student, depending on what is more convenient.
Another motivating factor is an individual approach. The more attention given to a student, the more efforts he/she will make learning the language. Therefore, the groups must be small. I have already mentioned various alternatives for students that optional courses can offer, so it becomes clear that the groups should be small. This gives an opportunity to every student to participate in classroom activity. Moreover, everyone wants to be involve in discussion if the subject is challenging. For example, we discuss ecological problems, cultural differences and traditions against the backdrop of globalization, and etiquette in different countries. In fact, teachers often see it as their job to motivate students by creating interesting classroom tasks and by using engaging materials to stimulate further interest in the language and the people who speak it. As R. C. Gardner, professor of the University of Western Ontario, showed in his landmark account of a socio-educational model of language acquisition, self-identity and identification with the language speaking community is very important. If a student does not feel comfortable in the native speaker’s culture, this will be an inhibiting factor. And vice-versa: a student can “fit in” with the target language speakers and see himself in the future as a part of this society, fully integrated into it, which is a highly motivating factor1.
There are two more motivations mentioned by Gardner. They are extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation comes from desire to acquire some particular outcome such as a personal challenge, achieving a practical goal, learning a language that is currently in demand by employment markets. Intrinsic motivation results from a student’s interest in the language itself, when one finds the learning process full of joy and pleasure. It is characterized by a student’s desire to learn more about the language structure, to get information about another culture. As a rule students have mixed motivations. For example, the most common selection is integrative (to communicate with foreigners), intrinsic (to learn language peculiarities) and extrinsic motivation (to get a highly paid job).
The teacher is capable of encouraging a student’s motivation and there are different ways for this. First of all is setting a personal example. Teachers can show this by preparing for the lessons painstakingly, being motivated themselves, and being sensitive and considerate. Personalizing the learning process is also important. The materials given to students must be relevant to them, and should coincide with their interests. Among other recommendations, Dornyei and Csizer listed increasing a learner’s goal-orientedness. Teachers should help students develop realistic expectations about their learning and set up several specific learning goals for them. They suggested that teachers do an evaluation with the students, and help students design individual study plans. And one more thing is essential for all human beings: a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere. Teachers should bring in laughter, humor and smiles to the classroom, do fun things and organize game-like competitions.2 Students will never stay indifferent to such lessons.
Thus there are many ways to cultivate student motivation, and the job of the teachers is to reveal it, maybe even in the areas where the students did not expect to find it. Motivation is one of the key factors in student success and fortunately they all bring motivation with them in one form or another.
1 Gardner, R. C., & MacIntyre, P. D. (1991). An instrumental motivation in language study: Who says it isn’t effective? Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 13 (1), 57–72.
2 Dörnyei, Z., & Csizér, K. (1998). Ten commandments for motivating language learners: Results of an empirical study. Language Teaching Research, 2 (3), 203–229.