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Key Ideas: Factors that affect language learning - Motivation

When we talk about motivation, we mean the drive that leads people to make certain choices, to make
efforts and to keep going. A customers motivation to learn the target language, to actively participate in
learning activities and to take and create opportunities to use the language will be one of the most
powerful influences on whether or not that customer is actually successful.
We want to help our customers be successful, so we what does that mean for us?
We need to understand what is motivating our customers, what can positively or negatively affect their
desire to learn and keep learning, and we need to have a range of strategies to protect and positively
influence student motivation.
So, what do we know about student motivation? Take a look at this snapshot of different motivational
factors that may affect one of your learners at different points during his course with you.

He is having lessons with a


He has a powerful external group of colleagues from Two junior colleagues from his
motive. Skill in English is a different departments. Its department are in the group.
condition for promotion in his good for company networking. One of them is very good, and
company. We call motivation The social side is important. quite arrogant. He HATES to
like this Instrumental. lose face in front of him.

He often holidays in Ireland He wasnt good at languages in


and has friends there. He likes school. This bothered him he
the way of life and would like likes to do well. Its better if
to fit in there better. We call people think hes not making
motivation like this Integrative. an effort than that hes stupid.

His kids learn English at school. He enjoys some class activities,


Its fun to help with homework e.g. working things out in a
and not feel stupid. Again, this small group. Then he really
instrumental motivation a gets into it especially if he is
means to an end. designated leader in the group.

He has a problem with one Class can be a high risk


teacher. Nothing they do environment. At school it was all
One teacher is great. He feels
seems relevant. He makes heads down, looking at the book.
relaxed and ready to speak out
more mistakes in those classes Now its all about speaking out.
and take risks. Everything they
and has a feeling he cant learn. He doesnt like making mistakes.
do seems relevant to his work
and to his interests.

These are just a few examples of factors that can influence the motivation to learn for ONE learner.
Another learner in another class will have a different set of initial motivations and experience a different
range of feelings during his or her course. In addition, over the sustained, long term effort which
developing skills in a foreign language will require, motivation is not constant. It ebbs and flows in complex
ways in response to various internal and external factors.
So, given how complex motivation is, what do we know? What can we do to help customers be successful?
On the left, read different aspects of motivation that we understand, based on the research in this field of
the last 50 years. On the right, read examples of what we can do to promote, sustain, increase or protect
learner motivation, and what you will be finding out about and practicing during your instructor
development program with Berlitz.
For many of our customers, learning a We need to design customers courses
language is a means to an end. They have from the beginning to help them reach
goals they want to achieve: being able to their real life goals, and that we
talk to customers, earning a promotion, continually evaluate progress. You will
getting a new job, passing an exam, etc. learn how we do this during your course.

The end goals customers have are very We need to continually set sub goals
important when they are planning or first (proximal goals), create milestones,
starting their course, but they may be too evaluate progress and achievement and
long term to have an immediate congratulate students. You will learn how
motivating effect for each lesson. to set motivating goals during your course.

The teacher in any class has one of the Enthusiasm and interest are infectious. If
most powerful influences on motivation. you are enthusiastic about lesson
Research consistently shows that this is activities and about students
true. Teacher enthusiasm and interest in participation, progress and success, you
students are two powerful factors. will motivate your students.

Learners are more motivated if their The more we learn about our students,
learning goals are personal, but learners the more we can find ways to personalize
dont always choose their goals. This the lessons and make them relevant. We
happens in adult life as well as at school. also need to ensure that lesson activities
Sometimes the company sets the goal. are intrinsically interesting and fun.

The connection and sense of value a Because English is a global language now,
language learner has regarding the culture this integrative motivation may not be a
and society where the language is spoken big factor for all students, but encouraging
will often have a significant influence on varied experiences with the target
their desire to learn the language. language culture will motivate many.

Believing you CAN do something is one of The best way to give students a sense that
the drivers for motivation. If learners feel the CAN learn the language is to create
they can learn, they are motivated to try multiple experiences of success in every
and keep trying. If they dont believe in lesson: managing a learning task;
their ability, their motivation decreases. successfully achieving a lesson goal, etc.

Learners make assumptions about their Regular moments of success are essential
likely future learning experiences and to help students have a sense of what
successes based on their past experiences. they CAN do. In addition, we want to
They may also use strategies that are good encourage use of any learning strategies
and bad based on those experiences. students have used effectively in the past.

Adults hate situations where their self If we are asking students to take risks as
worth is potentially challenged. They hate they try out and use new language, we
to lose face. Language learning is full of have to create a safe environment.
risky public situations as they try to Praise, positive correction, encouraging
understand and use new language. student collaboration all help with this.