Learning a foreign language is often regarded as the constant process of learning by heart the new words, grammar rules, exceptions from these rules etc. Nevertheless, the teaching practice reveals the fact that the learning process depends on the motivation of the students, the professional approach of the teacher, and the educational level of the group in general.
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The aim of this paper is to define the key motivation factors of the people who choose to study a foreign language.
The reason why this research topic was selected is based on the premise that the reason of studying the language may define the teaching approach, which may be applied towards the student. Originally, if people pursue particular aims, while studying language, the teaching methodology and learning direction is defined. Moreover, methods, which are suitable for tourists’ language, are not suitable for business language and vice versa. Consequently, the reason of researching this topic is closely associated with the aim of the paper – to study the motivation factors, the learning preferences of the students, and outline the teaching objectives, in accordance with the aims and goals of the students. The benefit of this research is the following:
- To find out why adult learners choose to learn a foreign language
- How they manage to meet their learning goals by looking at learning activities in and out the class room,
- Look at internal / external factors, which may help them, approach their learning goals.
The challenges that these students face while learning foreign languages and whether it affect them directly or indirectly and the results of these challenging factors on learners’ achievement will be also reviewed in the interviews and analysis.
The study itself is based on the qualitative methods of research, and the main instrument of research is the interview. Students from adult language study groups will be interviewed on the matters of their motivation, the reason and the main impulse, which made them start or renew the learning process. Basing on their answers, and the specialization of the language study group, the teaching methods will be outlined. Then, the focus groups will be arranged in order to classify the obtained data, and to provide the more detailed answers on the maters of aims, goals and motivation.
When the interview was designed, the main aim was to make it clear, brief and straight to the point in order to find out the essence of the required answers, to minimize the possible discomfort, which respondents may experience, and simplify the further proceeding of the acquired materials. Thus, the questions were categorized into three parts:
- Language experience
- Purpose of learning this language
- Effort and attitude towards this language
Learning a foreign language
Originally, the researcher’s experience in teaching Arabic language is the essential and solid basis for studying the students’ perceptions and motivations for studying foreign languages. Originally, people of various backgrounds, social classes, of various interests and life styles prefer studying foreign language, and the motivations are different. Nevertheless, the main groups of motivations factors are the following:
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In the light of this fact, it should be emphasized that the teaching methodologies may differ essentially, basing on these motivation factors. Moreover, it should be stated that this research area provides numerous efforts and studies been conducted to improve it and to make it more achievable and productive. Originally, there will be a strong necessity to define why there are a lot of attendants of the courses for the beginners, and why the advanced levels often experience lack of students.
Originally, learning foreign languages, as well as the regarded motivation points and challenges are more related to the adult audience. Moreover, studying of foreign languages is more common for those who are professional in the sphere of Arts and Humanities in higher education, as it is generally regarded as their university credit. Considering the fact, that there are not only students and young adults among the attendants of the language courses, it should be emphasized that the attractive note in their CVs motivates people, as preference is given for those, who speak one or several foreign languages.
Challenges and Motivation Factors
The most challenges, which people generally experience, are closely associated with their fear of making a mistake. Originally, it is a psychological problem, which cannot be overcome by learning by heart, accomplishing grammar exercises etc. The fact is that, when people are in a classroom environment, they clearly realize that the tutor evaluates everything they say; consequently, they are afraid to make a mistake, misspell a word etc. It is generally regarded as a psychological inadequacy complex, which creates serious barriers for people who try to start speaking any foreign language. Thus, tutor should not only give and explain the rules, but also explain the notion that everyone has the right to make mistakes, and even native speakers make them, as often the violation of the basic grammar rules have become the conversational norms.
In the light of the fact, that challenges are common while learning a foreign language, it should be stated that in accordance with Barnett (2005, p. 329), the following statement should be emphasized:
Learning another language gives the learner the ability to step inside the mind and context of that other culture. Lack of intercultural sensitivity can lead to mistrust and misunderstandings, to an inability to cooperate, negotiate, and compromise, and perhaps even to military confrontation. Intercultural understanding begins with individuals who have language abilities and who can thereby provide one’s own nation or community with an insider’s view into foreign cultures.
From this point of view, it should be stated that the main challenge of the entire learning process is the understanding of the minds of the people of the other cultural background. The more detailed information will be provided in the Interview part.
As for the issues of motivation, it should be stated that the identification of motivation basis for foreign language learning among adults has raised considerable debates and controversies. Some linguists (Cook, 2000) relate this phenomenon to psychological and social needs; nevertheless, much criticism is dedicated to the domination either extrinsic or intrinsic motivations for foreign language learning.
Intrinsic motivation can be understood based on psychological processes analysis being generated by emotions. Social activities causing positive emotions identify this type of motivation among middle-aged population; it is connected with the desire to understand foreign music or be involved in entertainment. The relation between cognition and emotion leads to social thirst satisfied by learning languages of other cultures.
The analysis of extrinsic motivation can be connected with the development of tourist sector in the majority of European countries. It is necessary to underline the fact that tourism covers huge chains of hotels, restaurants and tourist pensions taking central place in social life of modern world population. These sections are considered to be presented in the form of ‘family businesses’ integrating an individual with international tourism activities. Foreign languages learning activity is directed to the key approach of ‘Being multilingual’ centralized by the greatest part of modern middle-aged people.
To be more specific it is necessary to analyze the most important factors motivating modern society learning foreign languages.
People’s desire to be closer to original creators’ intention and be able to understand their true message conveyed through the art or business stimulates foreign languages learning. Imagine the knowledge of many languages; it gives an opportunity to listen to Italian music or watch Indian films. Despite the fact that media is usually presented in English as an international language, there is a filter in the data perception provided by the translator’s vision. (Sikorska, 2007)
Work and Business
Business is considered one of the greatest motivations for foreign language learning. Modern technological development and globalization led to international unity making specialists study foreign languages. It is necessary to underline the fact that court and medicine sphere representatives are intended to study foreign languages to share their experience and ensure existing medical and legal instructions on the international level.
The necessity to translate documents for manufactured abroad products raised the demand on translators as qualified specialists. Goods and service transference from one market to another motivates marketers and industrial sphere worker has to master foreign languages. Language skill lacking provides limitations to people’s opportunities in modern multinational professional world development. (Johnson, 2007)
Besides, the involvement in global business development or a corporation is related to export and import operations and close contact and negotiations with the customers. This is the main reason for rapid increase of adult language learners with every passing year. The knowledge of foreign language makes business partners feel their customers’ interest and conduct effective beneficial deals.
Traveling and Tourism
High levels of tourism development resulted in the establishment of specialized traveling agencies providing guides speaking foreign languages. For people being fond of traveling is of great importance to master foreign languages. For example, the knowledge of foreign language being in a foreign cultural environment can help to get around easily; besides, plenty of budget accommodations operate only in county’s native language. (Sikorska, 2007).
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Creativity and Entertainment
Knowledge of foreign languages provides unlimited opportunities in people’s life expression. Most adult people becoming perfect specialists and having a good career are seeking for mental flexibility increase. To master foreign language is motivated by human thirst for their creative self-expression.
Play as a valuable part of entertainment is considered to be highly influential in foreign languages learning. According to Cook (2000), adult people are intended to be involved in play as a type of entertainment and as a method for language learning. This can be explained by opposite spectrums composition comprising the elements of pragmatic contextualized meaning and patterned sound based on verse, semantic meaning and speech. (Cook, 2000).
Lantolf (2001) managed to identify the fact that such a play among adult population group is promoted in the form of speaking to oneself in a foreign language. People try to demonstrate their creativity through imagining different communicative situations or business presentations making them to stick to foreign language units and present their part of speech successfully. Psychologists identify this language learning process as self-entertainment for the purpose of mental thirst satisfaction. (Lantolf, 2001).
This study targeted adult learners who learn foreign language in Manchester; ethical issues are highly monitored and applied throughout the research process:
- The aims and procedures will be explained in details to the participants.
- Consent form will be issued for them to read and accept before taking part of the interviews.
- The participation is voluntary, and participants will be selected on a random basis, regardless of their gender, age, religion, or ethnicity.
- Confidentiality and privacy will be fully respected and granted.
- No harm or embarrassment should be caused because of the interviews.
- Participants will be able to refuse from answering any part of the interviews or withdraw at any stage.
- The whole research study will not be used in any way to assess participants’ ability or their institution performance.
Recruitment of Participants
Participants will be recruited from colleges and universities in Manchester. Recruitment will be performed by sending letters to head of departments or tutors, and by the means of personal to their universities.
First, the permission should be obtained from the schools and colleges for arranging the interviews and studies, then the procedures will be explained to students by letters or personally, since the very moment the essences and the aims of the interviews are explained to them. The interviews will be held in the college and university surroundings in order to minimize the factor of an unknown surrounding, and if the respondents agree, the interviews will be audio recorded. Originally, the participants will be able to withdraw at any time, or refuse to answer any question.
Data Protection and Confidentiality
Is highly respected and monitored, information will be kept in secure manual files and on my personal computer for a period of time for the purpose of processing the study then it will be discarded, no institution or individuals should be identified in the research paper.
The Approximate Set of Questions
- Please tell us about yourself: Age, education level, Job.
- What language do you study?
- Have you studied this language before i.e. in school, college?
- Have you ever visited any country, where this language is spoken, or have you ever communicated with native speakers?
- What is your purpose of studying this language?
- How much time do you spend for the learning process?
- Do your friends or family members speak this language?
- What makes your language class more enjoyable?
- What makes your language class less enjoyable?
- What discourages you when practicing this language in your daily life?
- How would you describe your language performance and achievement so far?
- Why have you decided to improve your knowledge of the foreign language?
- What is your biggest impression while attending the language courses?
- Could you assess your language abilities in:
- What type of work you like the most?
- Home work
- Class activities
- Does listening to songs and / or radio broadcasting, as well as watching movies help you understand the studied language and use it more extensively.
- How often do you read newspapers or magazines, issued in the language, you learn.
- What would you like to add to or remove from your language classes in order to make the learning process more effective and enjoyable?
- Do you participate actively during the class activity? If yes, please describe your purpose of this activity. If no, please, state the reasons.
Three adults were interviewed for acquiring the necessary materials for the research. These are two males and one female, who agreed to give the extended interview on the matters of their experience and practices of learning a foreign language. As it was planned, the interviews were arranged in the institutional environment in order to make the respondents feel comfortable.
Basing on the results of the interviews, it should be stated that people prefer various exercises and methods for learning foreign languages. The results of the interviews revealed the fact that basic methodologies of foreign language learning are developed in accordance with highly promoted position of adults to become multilingual. Thus, one of the respondents appeared to be involved in tourism and two others – in business spheres. Consequently, the methods of studying language differ essentially for these three people. While one of the respondents preferred watching movies, cartoons and listening to radio broadcasts, the two others concentrated on studying journals and participating in discussions.
It should be stressed that product oriented pedagogical methods are based on so called ‘open materials’ and authentic materials, while process oriented ones cover personally focused and skills based methods. Contextualized foreign language learning is based on the adult learners’ focus on self directed and content oriented programs. Tense links between the motivations and the methodologies used by the learners simplify the process of linguistic units mastering by an individual. Thus, those who are involved in tourism sphere generally resort to the content oriented programs, which are concentrated on practical issues related to tourist industry, such as real materials and modules.
In accordance with the results of the interviews, the adult language learners are very responsible for their study activities and results they get. The way for appropriate learning method selection is dependent on the professional sphere learners are involved. It is an open secret that vocabulary base is the most important element in foreign language mastering. Careful study of professionalisms and high communicative language is especially centralized.
Besides, according to Cache (2005), one of the most effective methods for foreign language learning is ‘Immersion Method’. It is based on the integration of foreign language learning with daily activities. ‘Speaking, reading, listening and communication to oneself on a daily basis lead to linguistic benefits in any professional sphere.’ (Ratner, 2000) The fact is then any of the interviewed people have never heard the name of this method, nevertheless, closer inspection revealed that they practice some elements of this method on a regular basis.
According to Schleppegrell (2003), adult foreign language learners require materials developed for presenting vocabulary and structure needed for their immediate usage in specific contexts, which reflect specific functions and situations. In the light of the results of the interview, there is strong necessity to underline the fact that adult stick to foreign language learning to be able to survive in particular linguistic situations or to use language for instrumental reasons. Usually adults try to avoid tolerating irrelevant lessons and content stressing necessary grammar and rules learning. The most important materials are dedicated to enlarging professional vocabulary base and simple sentence structure. It should be noted that activities and materials related to foreign language learning incorporate real life experience.
Formal education is rarely used among adult learners and serves as the way of appropriate organization of learned rules. It should be noted real life practice in foreign language communication is privileged among adult learners (Gadamer and Weinsheimer, 2004)
The focus groups were arranged in order to confirm and characterize the findings, made based on interviews and the outlines, based on the literature review of the selected research topic. Originally, this part of research was mainly aimed at studying the challenges, which people generally face. The basic information on the focus groups is the following:
- Only six participants agreed to participate in it (two mails and four females)
- The dialogues were not recorded, as one of the participants refused from audio recording.
- All the participants are attending part time language courses.
Originally, all the participants were active enough for obtaining the necessary answers, nevertheless, one of the women appeared to be very shy, and her answers appeared to be very brief. Later, it was revealed that her behaviour was the same during the classes, and this was her original problem while studying languages. Originally, any tutor could not understand the reasons of her shyness, and her final grades often appeared to be low, in spite of the fact that all the written assignments were accomplished diligently. In the light of this fact, there is strong necessity to give the words by Artiles and Ortiz (2002, p. 192), who give rather valuable recommendations on this point:
Do not worry about what you cannot remember, cannot yet understand, or cannot yet say. It does not matter. You are learning and improving. The language will gradually become clearer in your brain, but this will happen on a schedule that you cannot control. So sit back and enjoy. Just make sure you spend enough time with the language. That is the greatest guarantee of success.
The other participants appeared to be open and communicable enough, nevertheless they experience essential problems in learning. In spite of studying diligently, their problem is also rooted in speaking. Thus, the problems, which were revealed, appeared to be common: people are afraid to talk. The reasons of this fear are the following:
- They are afraid to make mistakes
- People often do not know what to start with
- They are shy because of the imperfect pronunciation
- They are afraid t talk on public
All the other reasons, if found, are closely related to these. Originally, all the participants of the focus group agreed that the origins of these problems are not in the motivation; however, it is not less important. The main origin of these problems is the lack of communication practice. Thus, the shy girl should practice speaking within her native language surrounding for overcoming her problem, while the other participants who experience conversational difficulties should focus on speaking, listening and participating in discussions, as written exercises will not help automatize the conversational skills.
Another finding, which the focus group revealed, is the following: those who are doing the language for the academic purpose were the most motivated. The fact is that, the motivation appeared to be the key success factor. The key issues of motivation have been researched in the corresponding part of the paper, nevertheless, there is strong necessity to state that in accordance with Johnson (2007, p. 453) motivation determines the entire progress of learning a language. Thus, he stated the following:
If you do not want to learn the language, you will not. If you do want to learn the language, take control. Choose content of interest that you want to listen to and read. Seek out the words and phrases that you need to understand your listening and reading. Do not wait for someone else to show you the language, nor to tell you what to do. Discover the language by yourself, like a child growing up. Talk when you feel like it. Write when you feel like it. A teacher cannot teach you to become fluent, but you can learn to become fluent if you want to.
Considering the fact, that the teaching practices, which are generally used, are often of the informative character, as the main problems are generally covered in the conversational and language experience of the students. In spite of the fact, that most students are diligent enough for studying the foreign languages, they often have trouble in speaking, while inexperienced teachers consider it the improper preparation. Consequently, these students have to overcome their psychological barriers, and try to talk in public as much as possible. In the light of the fact, that the methodologies are different, and the problems are similar, it should be stated that the main emphasis should be made not on making students memorize, but creating the friendly atmosphere within the group, for the students could feel more at ease.
Finally, there is strong necessity to emphasize that the main aim of the research paper was achieved. The motivation factors are outlined, and the methodologies for approaching these factors are defined. Nevertheless, the interviews have revealed the fact that in spite of the motivational factor and the methods, which are used by tutors, the challenges and difficulties are of the same origin. Consequently, a particular emphasis should be made not only on the learning environment, but also on the matters of psychological atmosphere, which often appears to be the determining factor for most students.
Artiles, A. J. and Ortiz, A. A. (2002). English Language Learners with Special Needs: Identification, Placement, and Instruction, Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.
Barnett, H. (2005) ‘A new challenge: the foreign language learner with special educational needs’, New York State Association of Foreign Language Teachers Language Association Bulletin 36(3).
Cook, G. (2000). Language play, language learning. New York: Oxford University Press.
Gadamer, H. and Weinsheimer, J. (2004). Truth and Method. 2nd Edition. Continuum International Publishing Group.
Johnson, K. (2007). An introduction to foreign language learning and teaching. 7th Edition. Pearson Education.
Lantolf, J. (2001) Sociocultural theory and second language learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Ratner, C. (2000). A cultural-psychological analysis of emotions. Culture and Psychology, 6, pp. 5-39.
Sikorska, A. (2007). Raising Motivation of Foreign Language Learners by Implementing Modern Ways of Learning in the Tourist Sector. Progress Report, Lifelong Learning Programme.