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Successful second language learning (motivation factors)

К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2008

Автор: Савельева Е. А.

In this paper it is argued, what factors are more relevant to successful second language acquisition. The way to do it is to test students and bring successful factors to light, and to compare students’ and the teacher’s attitude towards it.

But let’s first define for the beginning the types of motivation and appliance to our daily teaching activity, and personal experience:

There are 3 types of motivation:

1. Instrumental and integrative.

2. Intrinsic and extrinsic.

3. Global, situational, task.

1. Integrative and instrumental motivation: the desire to identify with and integrate into the target-language culture, contrasted with the wish to learn the language for purposes of study or career promotion.

2. Intrinsic motivation (the urge to engage in the learning activity for its own sake) and extrinsic (motivation that is derived from external incentives).

3. Global: the overall orientation of the learner towards the learning of the foreign language;

Situational: has to do with the context of learning (classroom, total environment);

Task: with the way the learner approaches the specific task in hand.

Instrumental and integrative motivation. Most part of my students has this kind of motivation. Half of them want to go to America and that is why they need to learn English, study traditions and culture of Americans (integrative). Another half is adults who work somewhere and they need to learn English for their job (instrumental). They are hard-working at studying, because as soon as they will be able to speak English they will have bigger salary.

The second type is intrinsic and extrinsic. I meet students who have this type of motivation at school. Intrinsic type has usually students who have all 5s and it is easy and interesting for them to study. Extrinsic have students who earn money as they have good marks or some good affairs like sweeping the floor at home or washing dishes and so on.

The third type is global

Students are interested in English because it is foreign language or because it is modern to know this language. There is a course in an university that students study a new language every month until 12. For example: a student began to study English at the first month, the next month he studies English and German, the next month he studies English, German and one more foreign language. This system exists for people who want to have general understanding of languages.

Situational: The topic clothes is more interesting for girls but sport - for boys. And Students’ efforts will depend on the theme, because they like it more or less.

Task: Sometimes students are good at making the same types of tasks. Their marks will depend on the fact if it’s easy and interesting for a student to make a task.

Because of the frequency among my Students the first type of motivation I can describe it using my own experience. Money is good motivation to study English for people and there is no need to explain to these students’ that it is necessary to study English. They need it for their job and if they are hard working in studying they will move in their carrier ladder sooner. And also sooner they will have bigger salary.

Implications for instrumental motivation

It is always difficult to work with people who are adults and they just need spoken English and refuses grammar explanations. The elder person has less possibility he has to remember something. He needs explanations. But the time he has for English studying is short that is why he needs to memorize a lot of information. If he is a manager he needs phrases and vocabulary just for his profession. It is good to record dialogues of the professions and give to listen to these dialogues, to ask to find a decision in different situations. Give situations for discussion. It is important for the person to be able to express thoughts in English. So for instrumental motivation:

1 Use vocabulary for specialty, profession

2 Use specific situation: prepare speeches,

3 Use terms and phrases for the specialty, to be able to have conversation with English-speaking colleague, to explain and to be understood.

4 Use basic grammars to be able to form sentences right.

Integrative: it connects with culture. What is culture? How can we study culture?

- Historical events; It is important to know the origin of the language, what countries speak the language, what events happened in these countries. Does it connect to the modern version of the language?

- Books; Classics shows culture the best way.

- museums; It is important to see your own eyes everything that happened many years ago.

- films in English. I can say any English, American films, because you have to get acquainted with mentality of English speaking people.

- songs, different kinds and styles of songs: folk, pop, rock and so on.

- art and people who connect with art. Famous people, why they became famous.

- politics and Mass media

- grammar; more possibilities to express point of view. Not only necessity to express and other variety also.

To study culture you have to pay more time, to be careful and attentive to different facts in the language. Implications applied here are listed above and it is impossible not to taught them.

So before beginning to teach English the student has to understand his purposes what does he wants to know and what for and the teacher has to understand what his student wants to know and teach according to the curriculum because, sometimes teachers want to teach much more his student needs. I think every teacher can define his own implications for every kind of teaching style, implications can vary. It shows the practice of every teacher.

What factors are more used and relevant to better learning a foreign language or just do something with great pleasure? In order to get to know students’ opinion towards it, they were tested. They were given a list of paper, where all possible factors included. They had to select only three among them. And they were to comment why they chose exactly these or that factors.

Here is the description of that, how the process was going on. The teacher gave the students papers and said that there was the instruction on the top of the papers and they were to read them and do the task (the teacher wanted to see the students’ reaction and find out whether they can do it themselves or with the help of the teacher). There was a silence for three -five minutes. It was sad and funny at the same time to look at them. The teacher could read misunderstanding and hecpued fear in their faces. Then one of the students asked in a loud voice, what for they do it. Everybody supported her. Then the teacher put that question to them. They said that the author of this paper needed the results. The teacher answered in the negative, proving that everything what teacher research is for the help of the students, in order to know their inner world better and not to be in conflict with themselves. The teacher said the purpose and explained everything, also she added, that they are may be the first students in our town, in our college who tested this way. After saying these words, they began to work with great enthusiasm.

The students chose three components such as:

- self-esteem;

- parents’ and teachers’ influence;

- influence of the learner group.

Self-esteem is probably the most pervasive behavior. It could easily be claimed that no successful cognitive or affective activity can be carried out without some degree of self-esteem, self-confidence, knowledge of yourself, and belief in your own capabilities or that activity.

The following is a definition of self-esteem:

By self-esteem, we refer to the evaluation which individuals make and customarily maintain with regard to themselves; it expresses an attitude of approval or disapproval, and indicates the extend to which individuals believe themselves to be capable, significant, successful and worthy that is expressed in the attitudes that individuals hold towards themselves. It is a subjective experience which the individual conveys to others by verbal reports and other overt expressive behavior.

People derive their sense of self-esteem from the accumulation of experiences with themselves and with others and from assessments of the external world of around them.

There three levels of self-esteem:

General, or global, self-esteem is said to be relatively stable in a mature adult, and is resistant to change except by active and extended therapy. It is the general or prevailing assessment one makes of one’s own worth over time and across a number of situations.

Situational or specific self-esteem refers to one’s self-appraisals in particular life situations, such as social interaction, work, and education or on certain relatively discretely defined traits, such as intelligence, communicative ability, and athletic ability, or personality traits like gregariousness, empathy, and flexibility. The degree of specific self-esteem a person has may vary depending upon the situation or the trait in question.

Task self-esteem relates to particular tasks within specific situations. Within the educational domain, task self-esteem might refer to one subject-matter area. In an athletic context, skill in a sport – or even a facet of a sport such a net plays in tennis or pitching in baseball-would be evaluated on the level of task self-esteem. Specific self-esteem might encompass second language acquiring in general, and task self-esteem might appropriately refer to one’s self-evaluation of a particular aspect of the process: speaking, writing, a particular class in a second language, or even a special kind of classroom exercise.

Adelaide Heyde studied the effects of the three levels of three self-esteem on performance of an oral production task by American college students learning French as a foreign language. She found that all three levels of self-esteem correlated positively with performance on the oral production measure, with the highest correlation occurring between task, self-esteem and performance on oral production measures. Watkins, Biggs, and Regmi (1991), Brodkey and Shore (1976), and Gadner and Lambert (1972) all included measures of self-esteem in their studies of success in language learning. The results revealed that self-esteem appears to be an important variable in second language acquisition, particularly in view of cross-cultural factors of second language learning.

Macintyre, Dorneyi, Clement, and Noels saw the significance of self confidence in their model of “willingness to communicate” in a foreign language. A number of factors appear to contribute to predisposing one learner to seek, one learner to avoid, second language communication. Noting that a high level of communicative ability does not necessarily correspond with a high willingness to communicate, Macintyre et al. proposed a number of cognitive and affective factors that underlie the latter: motivation, personality, intergroup climate, and two levels of self-confidence. The first level resembles what has already been described as situational self-esteem, or “state communicative self confidence”, and the second, an overall global level simply labeled “L2 self-confidence”.

“Willingness to communicate” is an important moment in learning a second language. Most students do not communicate much in foreign language they are afraid not to understand and not to be understood. Intergroup climate is important too in the process of communicating. The author says that studying at “Master school”, sometimes they had classes with managers (specialty “Management”). And there she had a complex to communicate; it was an affective factor, as was mentioned before by Macintyre. “Willingness to communicate” depends on personality too, how to make a student to say something, when his (her) nature is build, not to speak a lot. But when he (she) writes a composition it is a chef d’oeuvre.

There is a question: Does high self-esteem cause language success, or does language success cause high self-esteem? Scientists say that both are interacting factors. It is difficult to say whether teachers should try to “improve” global self-esteem or simply improve a learner’s proficiency and let self-esteem take care of itself. A. Heyde found that certain sections of a beginning college French course had better oral production and self-esteem scores than other sections after only eight weeks of instructions. This finding suggests that teachers really can have a positive and influential effect on both the linguistic performance and the emotional well-being of the student.

It is argued here that language success causes high self-esteem, because when a student succeeds in language, he (she) can easily communicate, share his (her) ideas with others, does not afraid of failure, which is very important in learning, and of course a student’s self-esteem becomes high. This depends on a character of a student too. You know there are students, who do not know the material well, but they are assured in everything they do, and students, who know the material perfectly are always afraid of saying something wrong, or even do not care about answering, because they think that they know the theme and it is enough for themselves.

The second factor is - teachers’ and parents’ influence.

An important part of the teacher’s job is to motivate students. In more recent “learner centred” approaches to language teaching, the teacher’s function is seen mainly as a provider of materials and conditions for learning, while the learner takes responsibility for his or her own motivation and performance. When classes composed of highly motivated adult immigrants learning the target language for purposes of survival in a new country may only need you as provider and organizer of learning activities and texts; whereas schoolchildren learning a foreign language may only learn well if you find a way to activate and encourage their desire to invest effort in the learning activity. Of course, a teacher should be a good psychologist in order to know their inner world, their attitude towards learning itself. Then it will be easy for a teacher to motivate students, he (she) will find the way to do it. A teacher should transfer love to subject to students, always saying that they learn for themselves not for teachers or parents, and what you do now is your future bread. Better you try, sweeter your bread will be. A teacher should try not to cry and shout at students, be always honest and fair. The author tells that when she was a schoolgirl, she had a teacher who always laughed with other schoolchildren if a learner said something wrong. And imagine if that student is a slow one. It will lead to negative consequences like fear of failure. Fear of failure can be a major disincentive to learning. Fear of failure stops many people making the best of their capabilities. In a perfect world fear of failure would not exist at all, and the knowledge of having failed at a learning task would be seen as no more than helpful feedback, providing students and other learners with the useful information that mastery has not yet been achieved and more work still needs to be done. But it happens very rare, people take failure more personally than that. Their self-esteem suffers. It takes an unusually self-confident individual to see that failing is just an indication of the level of performance achieved at one particular moment, rather than a sign that one has failed as a person, it may be our mentality to think so. For someone who is always failing, it is some comfort to believe that success and failure depend on forces outside one’s control. The effects of an occasional failure are usually not disastrous: from time to time we all do badly. But for a child who encounters failure after failure the consequences may be dire. This is demonstrated by the findings of an experiment that was conducted to examine the outcome of experiencing repeated failures. In this study it was discovered that participants who repeatedly failed to do well at tasks lowered their estimates of their own ability. They also became less happy, less confident of success in the future and more likely to experience feelings of shame.

So, let’s see an obvious example: There is a tutor of a second year students. The group is formed enough and some students came from other colleges. A girl came from other college, her knowledge in English was rather well, first two or three weeks she was active, she always took part in discussions, did her home tasks. But then she is failed. She became passive in classes, began to avoid answering questions. The author as a tutor could not understand anything. Then she began not to attend her classes at all. The tutor thought that she was ill meanwhile her mother thought that she was at college. But was the demotive in her learning. Then it was clear out, that the relationship between her and the teacher of English made her demotivated. When she asked to describe students a situation in which a learner experienced conflict with a teacher. In the content analysis, four broad themes emerged:

- the teacher’s personal relationship with students;

- the teacher’s attitude towards the course or the material;

- style conflicts between teachers and students;

- the nature of the classroom activities.

These factors make students demotivated like this girl.

When the tutor and this girl’s mother asked the teacher what the problem was the teachers answers were like in Chamber’s investigation:

- makes no effort to learn, shows no interest, demonstrates poor concentration, produces little or no home work, claims to have lost material, and does not respond to extra help;

- lacks a belief in own capabilities;

- demonstrates lethargy, “what is the use” syndrome, and gives negative or nil response to praise.

At the end of this story mother began to attend classes with her daughter, sitting at the desk she always tried to encourage and empower her, instead of the teacher. All students at the classroom are different, but it is interesting to know that the girl needed exactly mother’s support. This example shows that parent’s influence is important too. Because our parents are more experienced in life and they know better what their children need. If not our parents who will pay for our education then. We are not Americans who say to their children “good bye”, when they are eighteen or nineteen. Our parents support us, for all our life and we in turn do not know what to do without their help.

The third one is- influence of the learner group.

Learner group is your second home, where girls are your sisters and boys are brothers. Much of the time you spent together, you became close friends, whose interests became common. And of course its influence is very strong. The author tells that when she was a student, most of the learners were slow students. They were slow not because of they were stupid, but because of their thoughts what for to loose time for boring things, when there are more interesting entertainments. And those students always persuaded others not to go to classes or not to show home tasks because slow ones did not do them. In order not to be an outsider, they had to do that. And when you began to tell them that they were loosing the dearest thing they ever had, those students became offended asking not to teach them life.

Nowadays they have nothing; no job, no money and of course no social status. They feel pity for themselves, but it is late, they could not catch the train full of knowledge. And of course it is not only their problems but also a society’s one. What will be with the educational and economic system of Kazakhstan, if such students appear year after year as mushrooms after rain? But the author believes that in some years Kazakhstan will be one of the leading countries and such problems will be avoided.

Of course it is difficult to say that exactly above seen factors are relevant to successful language learning. Is it understandable that these written facts will not be enough to prove some factors to relevant learning? But in any case these facts were taken from real life. And the author of these testing hopes that may be in some years her ideas about factors will be discussed by great scientists.


1. Bork. S. “Teacher’s pedagogical systems and grammar teaching”, New York, 1998.

2. Jonson K.E. “Understanding language teaching”, Boston, 1999.

3. Woolds D. “Teacher cognition in language teaching”, New York, 1998.

4. Dornyei K., Clement “Motivation to learn a second language”, New York, 2000.

5. Adelaide Heyde “Language teaching”, New York, 2000.

6. Gardner M., Macintyre K. “Motivation test battery”, Boston , 1985.

К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2008

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