Motivation as a Factor in Second Language Acquisition

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2017

15 Pages, Grade: 1,3



Table of Contents


2.What is Motivation?

3.1 Gardner and Lambert
3.2 Dörnyei and Ottó
3.3 Self-determination theory by Deci and Ryan

4. Use of Motivation-Theories in Language Classroom

5. Motivation in the Classroom - How can Teachers influence the Motivation of their Students?
5.1 The Teacher’s Personality
5.2 Fulfilling Student’s Needs




The limits of my language are the limits of my world.- Ludwig Wittgenstein

Ludwig Wittgenstein was a philosopher of the 19th century; his quotation underlines the importance of second language acquisition. We live in a globalised world where language is the most important way of communication. People all over the world share their cultures and beliefs through their language and interact with each other. Aside from social factors, language plays an important economic role. Nowadays it is not enough to speak one language; many employers prefer employees, who are multilingual.

Moreover, many children are growing up multilingual, which is regarded as a huge advantage. In larger terms, they are seen as positive result of our globalised world. Besides this, English is the world language and connects the world. Many schools in foreign countries started offering English lessons in primary schools to increase the number of fluent English speakers. According to this, many teachers try to optimise their lessons and way of teaching. Second language acquisition has become a huge field for further research.Theories and models are getting improved in order to create better learning environments and help teachers to use authentic and optimised methods in their lessons.

Many theories and models underline the significance of motivation during language acquiring processes. But how important is motivation in second language acquisition and what effect does it have while acquiring a new language? This term paper will give a brief definition of the term motivation. Then it will present some important and influential motivation theories in order to discuss the influences on second language acquisition. Finally, it will answer the question what teachers can do to increase the motivation in language classrooms.

2.What is Motivation?

There have always been theories and concepts to describe and define the term motivation. Even in ancient times people believed that in order to achieve something you need to have the will to do so:

“You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.” (old English Proverb) The proverb above is a good example explaining the term of motivation. It shows that motivation is an inner process that leads someone to action. But even under the best circumstances it is nearly impossible to complete a task when there is not enough motivation. Nevertheless, the definition of motivation is very difficult because it is a highly personal and cognitive process (Hedge 2011: 19). According to the Oxford Dictionary “motivation” is defined as “the (conscious or unconscious) stimulus for action towards a desired goal, especially resulting from psychological or social factors[..], a motive.” Again, this definition shows that motivation covers a wide range and is connected to many factors. Furthermore, human behaviour is highly complex and that makes it nearly impossible to include all factors influencing it in one model. That is the reason why it is difficult to create perfect motivational strategies, theories or methods. A first step is the agreement that any kind of motivation is connected to a personal and desired goal or achievement. When we talk about motivation in second language classes, the desired goal is obvious: to acquire a new foreign language. Many teachers claim that the lack of motivation is one of the main reasons why failing to acquire a new language is prevalent (Hedge 2011: 20). However, there are also students who are highly motivated but still make slow progress, so it cannot be always be blamed on a lack of motivation. But what are the reasons for it and which theories can explain these kinds of side-effects?


3.1 Gardner and Lambert

There is an increasing diversity of approaches and methods to achieve more efficiency in language classrooms. Most of them deal with motivation. Motivation is seen as one of the key factors which influence the achievements of students. Many people claim that the lack of motivation is one of the main reasons why failing to acquire a new language is common. Human beings tend to be inconsistent within themselves. Each person appears to be a unique complex of variables, which makes it even more difficult to classify groups together.

Robert Gardner and Wallace Lambert were the most influential L2 motivation researchers in history. They did many studies on motivation and tried to explain the connection of motivation and language learning success. In 1972 Gardner and Lambert published a report which influenced many approaches in the L2 field (Ushioda 1996: 8).

Furthermore, their results initiated more researches and the number of new models based on this research increased. The results showed that learners’ motivation distinguishes in language learning success and that the effects do not depend on aptitude or ability factors (Gardner and Lambert 1972: 132). The study took place in Canada, which is a bilingual country. Gardner and Lambert found out that the goals of language learners can be narrowed down into two broad categories: integrative and instrumental orientation. According to Gardner an orientation “is a class of reasons for studying a language”. The integrative orientation describes the interest of learners towards the L2 group and culture. Furthermore, it is about the learners’ certain desires to interact with the L2 community and to become a valued member of the target community (Dörnyei 2001: 16). Whereas, the instrumental orientation is highly connected to fulfilling requirements like learning a new language to get a better job or a higher position (Ibid.).

The hypothesis of Gardner and Lambert suggests that the expectations towards bilingualism and attitudes towards a target language and its culture create a basis for second language learning. The theory has four main aspects: the integrative motive, the socio-educational model, the attitude/motivation test battery and the extended second- language motivation construction. The first aspect is the integrative motive which is seen as the motivation to learn a new language because the target language and culture is interesting for the learner. This aspect is narrowed down into three more significant components: the integrativeness, the attitudes towards the learning situation and motivation. While, integrativeness explains the interest in foreign languages, the attitudes towards the learning situations explain the evaluation of the teacher and course. Motivation consists of effort, desire and the attitude toward learning the language in general terms (Oxford 1999: 2). However, the socio-educational model is connected to the role of individual traits of learners in foreign language classes. The language learning process is divided into four more aspects: antecedent factors, individual differences or learner variables, language acquisition context and language outcomes.

Additionally, Gardner and Lambert tried to measure levels of motivation. In order to do this, they created a quantitative approach: the attitude motivation battery test. The test was designed with statements and multiple choice questions which measure the motivational intensity, orientation and the learning outcome. Even nowadays the use of this test is common and it is seen as a standardised test for foreign/ second language motivation (Dörnyei 17).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

In general, the test covers all important aspects of Gardner’s theory and emphasise aspects like language anxiety and parental encouragement. The good and solid structure and high validity of this test lead to it being used in many data-based studies in language learning and acquiring fields.

Gardner and Trembley extended the theory in 1995. Three new variables were added to the process of language attitude, motivational behaviour and achievement (Dörnyei 2004: 50): goal-salience, valence and self-efficiency. The newer model has been tested empirically and statistical samples showed its adequateness.

Nevertheless, it is still questionable if such a difficult and complex area (motivation) can be measured or scored. Some criticise that Gardner’s model is based on theory and does not cover the practical dimension. Moreover, the classification of motives of language learners is difficult to categorise, an example would be if someone were to learn a new language in order to travel. Another criticism of this is that for second language learners in schools the integrative orientation is less important or even senseless because they have no contact to native speakers at all. The results of which is that they cannot say if they have the desire to integrate themselves into a community.

3.2 Dörnyei and Ottó

In 1998 Dörnyei and Ottó conducted a process-oriented approach for second language learning. The most important aspect which is regarded in this approach is the dynamic dimension of motivation. Motivation is not a constant state, instead it goes through “ebbs and flows” (Dörnyei 2004: 19). The differences can be caused by many factors such as time (phase/term in school) or task complexity. Dörnyei and Ottó divided their model into three stages: preactional, actional and postactional stage. Within these three stages they distinguished some more motives.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 2

As it can be seen in figure 2 the preactional stage explains the generation motivation and leads the learner to select a goal or task. The second phase is the actional phase which is referred to the action itself and the self-regulation. The last stage determines the kind of activities and task the student will be motivated to pursue in the future. The main idea of this model is that it shows the different characteristics of motivation. Furthermore, it shows the reached stages of learners in pursuing their goals.


Excerpt out of 15 pages


Motivation as a Factor in Second Language Acquisition
University of Duisburg-Essen  (Department of Anglophone Studies)
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englisch, anglistik, linguistic, efl, fachdidaktik, secondlanguage, language, motivation, sla, sll, icc, factor
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Anonymous, 2017, Motivation as a Factor in Second Language Acquisition, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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