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К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2007

Автор: Самойлова И.М.

Talking about motivation in learning language I would like to begin with a definition of “learning” itself. Learning is conscious, or explicit knowledge about language. Learning is developed; it is aided by the practice of error correction. Error correction helps the learner come to the correct mental representation of a rule. In everyday language, acquisition is “picking up” a language, while learning is “grammar”, or “rules” [7]. Learning language is a process that demands a lot of efforts which should be supported by something that can help to achieve goals of learning. I mean the significance of motivation as a contributing factor in second language acquisition.

The term “motivation” is very close to them who work with people and their main goal is to involve others in some activities. I speak about educators and teachers. Especially it is hard to work with children who do not understand yet why they should study and fulfill different tasks even when they are too dull or difficult. Teaching adult students is always easier on account of their understanding the purpose of studies. They are motivated by the reason of having higher education compulsory. There is a question: how can we motivate children as well as adult students? I would like to take up this problem by the example of teaching English as foreign language. It is directly connected with my professional activity.

Talking about “motivation” and its types, first of all we should give an accurate definition of this term. Jacqueline Norris-Holt gives the following one: “Motivation is defined as the learner’s orientation with regard to the goal of learning a second language”. In her article “ Motivation as a contributing factor in second language acquisition” she tries to distinguish the basic types of motivation: integrative and instrumental. Norris-Holt gives the following definitions of these types.

“Integrative motivation is characterized by the learner’s positive attitudes towards the target language group and the desire to integrate into the target language community.” In this case that students are most successful when learning a target language are those who like the people that speak the language, admire the culture and have a desire to become familiar with the society in which the language is used. If we take note of the situation from life there is an example: someone becomes a resident in a new community (e.g. USA) that uses the target language (English) in its social interactions. In this situation integrative motivation is a key component in assisting the learner to develop some level of proficiency in the language [4]. It becomes a necessity to take part in all social interactions and become one of its members. It is also theorized that “integrative motivation typically underlies successful acquisition of a wide range of registers and a native like pronunciation” [4].

If we pay attention to the actual meaning of the term “integrative”, a more appropriate approach to the concept of integrative motivation would be the idea that it represents the desire of the individual to become bilingual while at the same time becoming bicultural. It occurs through the addition of another language and culture to the learner’s own cultural identity. Talking about our country we may say that we are predominantly a multi-national country, consequently, there is a polycultural society in Kazakhstan. As our country is one of the ex-Soviet republics, all the cultures remain to be more collectivistic having a public language. Earlier it was Russian but today, after getting independence, the country has its own official language that coincides with the language of the indigenous. But still Kazakh and Russian are the dominant languages in our country. Therefore, opportunities to use the target (L2) language in daily verbal exchanges are relatively restricted. There is also limited potential for integrating into the target language community.

In contrast to integrative motivation is the form of motivation called instrumental motivation. This is generally characterized by the desire to obtain something practical or concrete from the study of a second language [4]. In this case the purpose of language acquisition is more practical and necessary, such as applying for a job (it demands to speak a foreign language), meeting the requirements for school or university graduation, requesting higher pay based on language ability, reading technical material, translation work or achieving higher social status. There is no need to integrate socially into a community using the target language, and so, the learner can stay in his/her country and using his/her second target language just for commercial, practical purposes.

While both integrative and instrumental motivation are essential elements of success, it is integrative motivation which was found to sustain long-term success during learning the second language [4]. In one of the researches of Lambert and Gardner integrative motivation was viewed as more important in a formal learning environment than instrumental motivation. Later integrative motivation has continued to be emphasized, although now the importance of instrumental motivation is also stressed [4]. However, it is important to note that instrumental motivation has only been acknowledged as a significant factor in some research, whereas integrative motivation is continually linked to successful second language acquisition. It has been found that generally students select instrumental reasons more frequently than integrative reasons for the study of language. Those who support an integrative approach to language study are usually more highly motivated and more successful in language learning [4].

Instrumental motivation can prove to be successful in the situation where the learner is provided with no opportunity to use the target language and therefore, no chance to interact with members of the target group. Norris-Holt gives the following example: instrumental orientation was more important than an integrative orientation in non-westernized female learners of English as the second language in Bombay. The social situation helps to determine both what kind of orientation learners have and what kind is most important for language learning [4]. Also in India, where English has become an international language, it is not uncommon for second language learners to be successful with instrumental purposes being the main reason for study. Here I can draw a parallel speaking about Kazakh language in our country. Being an official language it is becoming common for second language learners (basically Russians) to be successful with instrumental orientation.

There is also possible a combination of both orientations when international students reside in the United States and learn English for academic purposes while at the same time wish to become integrated with the people and culture of the community. Another real example: a student went to Germany for half a year after graduating from a university. His/her goal is German language improvement through the integration with the community of this country. Both integrative and instrumental orientations take place here.

So, we can say that motivation is an important factor in the second language achievement. For this reason it is important to identify both the type and combination of motivation that assists in the successful acquisition of a second language. At the same time it is necessary to note that motivation depends on situational factors most of which are unique to each language learner.

Taking English as the most popular foreign language in our country, we will try to observe language learning in Kazakhstan. At schools English is studied for a purpose of teaching the basic points of the language. Mainly, too much attention is paid to grammar and translation. Therefore, the focus of what is taught at school is geared toward passing entrance examinations. These exams include “a rigorous test of grammatical understanding” [4] of the English language and complex passages to translate. Such kind of exam demands good knowledge of extensive vocabulary and grammatical structures. The focus of the exams is not directed toward the speaking and listening skills of students. For this reason schools see no need to prepare students for something that will not be examined. It can be suggested that having to undertake such university exams is the main reason or source of motivation for school students studying English. There is a small number of schools that have a program proposing the more advanced study of English. They are considered to be prestigious and serve a good guide during the entrance exams at a university, especially for linguistic specialty. Even at the university non-linguistic specialties like “management” are not supplied with an effective program of English study.

There are only some linguistic specialties at the universities of Kazakhstan, which can provide a student with good knowledge of a foreign language, English in particular. Their most popular of their best graduates are teachers of English and interpreters. First of all, a foreign language achievement is the main goal of studying there.

In comparison with Western countries, is less developed of learning foreign languages. As English is an international language, it is studied in many countries at the same level as an official language. Therefore, integrative motivation takes place there.

Turning back to our educational system, we can say that the underlying motivation to study the language is largely instrumental.

In order to make the language learning process a more motivating experience instructors need to put a great deal of thought into developing programs which maintain student interest and have reachable short term goals [4]. At university level this may include any number of foreign exchange programs with other universities, overseas “homestay’ programs [4], or any other activities which may help to motivate students to improve their target language proficiency. At the secondary school level, and especially in the senior years, it is also possible to include exchange programs like living in a foreign family for a definite period of time. Involving students into different language programs like DAAD (supported by Germany) gives an opportunity to visit this country and have courses of language improvement there. It lets to liberalize, get new friends, and become interrelated with a new community.

One more point of increasing the motivation is creating interesting lessons. Teachers should gain the students attention. This can sometimes be accomplished by the use of teaching strategies. Encouraging students to become more active participants in a lesson can sometimes assist them to see a purpose for improving their communication skills in the target language. Successful communication using the target language should result in students feeling some sense of accomplishment [4].

Sometimes teachers should conduct classroom activities incorporating students’ interests and preferences. Sakui, K. gives an example when one of the teachers captured student’s initial attention by using stuffed animals or singer’s photos when introducing new grammatical features, situations in which if they did not understand, they can ask other friends nearby [6].

The use of an interesting text can also help to increase the motivation level of students in the classroom. Many “Russian” texts often contain material that fails to capture the interest of students due to the heavy emphasis on vocabulary and grammar. Many foreign texts often contain topics which can create a great deal of classroom interaction and help to motivate students to develop their language skills. It is important for the instructor to take advantage of such discussion topics and help students to realize that, even though they may see no need to become proficient in a second language, the study of another culture can only enhance their perception and understanding of other cultures [4].

Instructional material such as texts, lesson plans and extra-curricular activities should be designed to target and to appeal to both clusters of motivation, the instrumental and integrative cluster. In addition, to enhance a commitment to language learning, the development of both motivation clusters should be encouraged [1]. For example, to increase learner’s interest in the second language culture, many aspects of that culture can be presented through the use of videos, the web, ethnographic interviews and classroom visitors. To help learners become aware of the occupational benefits of learning a second language, courses that emphasize business writing could be developed, along with programs that would require learners to use their second language skills and interact socially and cognitively in a professional business environment. Addressing the motivation of learners may enhance their chances that they will develop higher levels of language proficiency [1].

If we continue our talk about motivation we can touch upon one more classification that distinguishes the following two types: extrinsic and intrinsic. Howe explains them in a very simple way. “Money provides an external or extrinsic reward for an activity. In contrast, internal or intrinsic rewards are more closely connected to the activity itself.” Such rewards include interest in the task itself and the enjoyment that a person gets from doing something out of a sense of curiosity. Quite often an activity is both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated, as when people work at improving a skill partly they enjoy it and partly because they enjoy the success it brings [3].

A person perceives control to be internal when he believes that events or outcomes depend on his own behavior or personal characteristics, such as ability [2]. High levels of intrinsic motivation are characteristic of learners who are mature and truly independent. At school, a student who is used to getting plenty of attention and praise may function perfectly well as a learner. But after leaving school, if that person has become too independent on those kinds of external support he or she may be reluctant to take up new learning challenges, simply because the old incentives are not longer present. It makes sense to encourage learners to be motivated less by “extrinsic” factors, like praise, approval, and financial rewards, and more by internal or “intrinsic” ones that are closely connected to whatever is being learned. In other words, “a person is said to perceive events as being externally controlled if his believes them to be caused by factors that are beyond his control, such as luck, fate or the actions of other people [2].

Although it is true that intrinsic motivation may eventually come to play a big role in sustaining a person’s learning or study activities, in the early stages of learning something new and unfamiliar it is unlikely that internal motivation, on its own, will be enough to provide adequate incentives. Often, it is only when a certain level of competence has already been reached that an activity becomes interesting for its own sake. Especially for a young and immature learner, praise and encouragement may do much to help an individual reach that stage [3].

The extent to which a person desires to do well influences their activities, and consequently their degree of success [2]. This source of influence has been systematically investigated in research that began with some studies undertaken by a psychologist named David McClelland, who investigated achievement motivation [3]. He defines it as “the desire to perform well and reach high standards”. In other words it means that everyone wants to do well and strives to achieve. However, there are substantial differences between individuals in the strength of their achievement motivation [2]. Children who try to succeed often become adults who are equally motivated to do well. It doesn’t mean that children inherit a given level of motivation. It can be acquired as a consequence of a person’s early experiences. Howe and Michael state that “achievement motivation tends to be strong in young people whose parents have been warm and supportive, have given their children plenty of rewards and encouragement, who have encouraged their children to be independent, outgoing and self-reliant, and to make their own decisions”. But just encouraging independence and self-reliance is not enough, especially when parents fail to give their child enough support or often criticize his/her undertakings. For a good result there should be “a combination of encouragement for independence and self-reliance with plenty of help and support”.

Talking about school education David Ausubel suggest at least three components of achievement motivation. The first is cognitive drive that “refers to the motivational effects of a learner finding a task interesting, or relating to the individual’s need for competence” [2]. In this case the motive for becoming involved in the activity is intrinsic to the task itself. The second component of achievement motivation in the classroom is an ego-enhancing one. Here we can talk about learner’s feelings to such concepts like “status, self-esteem, being adequate and having success” [2]. Ausubel maintains that these factors can motivate learning, but indirectly, through events that are external to the actual learning task, such as high marks, praise and rewards. Although these factors motivate indirectly they have a positive influence on learning. Anyway, they depend on other people, they do not make a contribution to the individual student’s independence and self-control as a learner [2]. The third component is “affiliative that is directed towards bringing a person the approval of others” [2]. It can be seen in actions, which are designed to win the admiration of other individuals. Each of the three components of achievement motivation, cognitive, ego-enhancing and affiliative, can vary in both strength and direction. Their relative strengths change as children get older. In young children, for instance, the affiliative drive is very strong, and the attention of adults is important for them. That is one reason for the success of those behavior modification techniques for classroom management in which the teacher’s attention is contingent on good behavior. In older children, the need for the teacher’s attention is less strong, and consequently such techniques are considerably less effective. For the older child, the attention and approval of other pupils is likely to be at least as important as the teacher’s attention [2].

Turning back to university students we can suggest that one of the most important drives of their motivation is the cognitive one. They are quite adult people who have made their choice in life. Students realize the fact that they enter the university for the purpose of getting knowledge that could be applied in their future. They do not need to be unmissed as the best students who have won the admiration of their classmates.

According to these concepts, teachers should always remember that age-related changes play a big role in achievement motivation. They serve as keys to motivation development, and a teacher should use them in an appropriate way.

By now it is clear that “in speaking of motivation one is not referring to one single influence on learning” [3]. It is a whole range of influences that can have various kinds of effects, depending on the circumstances. The relationships between motivation and learning are not always straightforward: a reward that provides an effective incentive for one kind of person on one set of circumstances may be less effective in different circumstances. For instance, although the praise and encouragement of adults is often helpful for children, particularly with new and unfamiliar activities, it can have negative effects when introduced in conjunction with activities that are intrinsically motivated [3].

Many different factors can affect the incentive value of a particular motivational influence. These include the individual’s personality, age, and developmental stage, and various aspects of learning situations such as their perceived familiarity and difficulty [3].

Foreign language learning motivation has mainly been studied as a trait, as part of students’ personality. Students may be integratively, instrumentally, or even cognitively oriented towards language study. Less research has been done in the actual learning situation, although it would be reasonable to assume that students’ motivation and attitude can best be affected in the classroom. The learning process can be made enjoyable. Learning activities, instructional materials, and even individual tasks can motivate students [5]. Teaching and learning can have both motivating and demotivating components. Teacher can modify his/her lessons and the teaching process as a whole. In the classroom context, motivation can be seen as a continuous interaction process between the learner and the environment. It can be conceptualized both an impulse arising from the organism and as an attraction arising from an object outside the individual [5].


1. Frank A.Morris. Language Learning Motivation for the Class of 2002: Why First-year Students Learn English. Puerto Rican High School, USA, 2002.

2. Howe H.A.J., Michael J.A. A Teacher’s Guide to the Psychology of Learning. UK, 1999.

3. Howe H.A.J. Principles of Human Learning and Abilities. Psychology Press, 1998.

4. Jacqueline Norris-Holt. Motivation as a Second Factor in Second Language Acquisition. Japan.

5. Kyosti Julkunen. Situaton- and Task-Specific Motivation in Foreign Language Learning. University of Joensuu, Finland.

6. Sakui, K. Motivation in Language Learning: From Teachers’ Perspective. New Zealand.

7. Stephen D.Krashen. Applications of Psycholinguistic Research to the Classroom.

К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2007

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