Motivation in second-language learning

Motivation in second-language learning

Motivation is often defined as the psychological quality that leads people to achieve a goal. For language learners, mastery of a language may be a goal. For others, communicative competence or even basic communication skills could be a goal. In linguistics, sociolinguistics and second-language acquisition, a number of language learner motivation models have been postulated. Work by Gardner, Clément, Dörnyei, Usioda and McIntyre are perhaps most known if not all accepted.


Socio-Educational Models

Gardner's socio-educational model

While Gardner (1982) identified a number of factors that are involved when learning a second language (L2), it was earlier work by Gardner and Lambert (1959) of second-language acquisition: the social and cultural milieu, individual learner differences, the setting and context. In Gardner's model, one of the most influential in second-language acquisition are the four individual differences: intelligence, language aptitude, motivation, and situational anxiety.

Revised socio-education model

Gardner (2001) presents a schematic representation of this model. There are four sections, external influences, individual differences, language acquisition contexts, and outcomes. In the socio-educational model, motivation to learn the second language includes three elements. First, the motivated individual expends effort to learn the language. Second, the motivated individual wants to achieve a goal. Third, the motivated individual will enjoy the task of learning the language.

Role of motivation in language learning

Integrative Motivation: Crookes & Schmidt (1991) identified as the learner's orientation with regard to the goal of learning a second language. It means that learner's positive attitudes towards the target language group and the desire to integrate into the target language community. Instrumental Motivation: Hudson (2000) characterised the desire to obtain something practical or concrete from the study of a second language. Instrumental motivation underlies the goal to gain some social or economic reward through L2 achievement.

Integrative Motivation from the Socio-Educational Model

The one who is integratively motivated to learn the second language has a desire to identify with another language community, and tends to evaluate learning situation positively and accurately.


Transformative motivation in second-language learning

The Case of Keinaan, rapnomad. In this study, Hashi argues that unlike the traditional motivational types in second-language learning, second-language learners may be driven by a desire that transcends survival goals; they may seek to learn and use the language for empowerment or to transform some aspect of their life.

Social psychological model

Clément (1980) The learner needs pressure and desperation to learn the language fast.

Process model

Dörnyei (2001)



Willingness to communicate

See also


  • Clément, R. (1980). Ethnicity, Contact and Communicative Competence in a Second Language in H. Giles, W.p. Robinson & P.M. Smith (Eds.) Language: Social psychological perspective. Toronto: Pergamon Press.
  • Crookes, G., & Schmidt R. W. (1991). Motivation:Reopening the research agenda. Language Learning, 41(4), 469–512.
  • Dörnyei, Z. (1994). Understanding L2 Motivation: On with the Challenge! The Modern Language Journal, 78, 515–523.
  • Dörnyei, Z. (2001). Teaching and researching motivation. London: Longman. (pages 85–100, the 'Process Model').
  • Gardner, R.C. (1982). Language attitudes and language learning. In E. Boudhard Ryan & H. Giles, Attitudes towards language variation (pp. 132–147). Edward Arnold.
  • Gardner, R.C. (2001). Language Learning Motivation: the Student, the Teacher, and the Researcher. Texas Papers in Foreign Language Education, 6, 1–18.
  • Gardner, R.C. & Lambert, W.E. (1959). Motivational Variables in Second-Language Acquisition. Canadian Journal of Psychology 13: 266–272.
  • Hudson, G. (2000). Essential introductory linguistics. Blackwell Publishers.
  • MacIntyre, P.D., Clément, R., Dörnyei, Z., & Noels, K.A. (1998). Conceptualizing willingness to communicate in an L2: A situational model of L2 confidence and affiliation. The Modern Language Journal, 82 (4), 545–562.
  • Tremblay, P.F., Gardner, R.C. (1995). Expanding the Motivation Construct in Language Learning. The Modern Language Journal, 79 (4), 505–520.
  • Usioda, E. (2003). Motivation as a socially mediated process. In Little, D., Ridley, J. & Ushioda, E. (Eds), Learner autonomy in the foreign language classroom: Teacher, learner, curriculum and assessment (pp. 90–102). Dublin: Authentik.

External links

The European Union lifelong learning programme has funded a project to research and build a set of best practices to motivate adult (over 18 years) language learners called Don't Give Up.

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