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Motivations Effect on Second Language Learning

Statement of Research Problem

In the current globalized society, many people are finding it increasingly important to learn foreign languages because of socio-economic and political reasons. According to Huang (2011), the ease with which people learn foreign languages depends on many factors. Some people find it easy to learn a second language, while others face numerous challenges. In a report by Mackey and Gass (2016), the number of people learning English as a second language has been increasing, especially among people of East Asia.

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However, many of them are unable to develop fluency in the spoken and written the English language even after several years of study. Harvey (2017) believes that one of the best ways of solving this problem is to ensure that the learners are motivated. In this study, the focus is to determine the motivation effect on learning a second language.

Research Aim and Objectives

The following are the objectives that the researcher seeks to achieve:

  • To determine the impact of motivation on learning a second language.
  • To identify ways in which second language learners can be motivated.
  • To identify other ways of promoting the learning of second languages.

Research Questions

The following are the research questions that will be answered in this paper:

  1. What is the impact of motivation on learning a second language?
  2. What are the ways or strategies that can be used to motivate second language learners?
  3. What are the other ways of promoting the learning of second languages?

Research Rationale

Learning a second language is becoming a critical requirement for many people across the world, especially those who have to travel out of their country for social, economic, and political reasons. The rationale for this study is to find ways that can enable them to learn the language with ease.

Literature Review

According to Huang (2011), learning a second language depends on one’s age, environment, instruments available for learning the language, reasons why one is learning the language, and the motivational factors. The effect of the first language has a significant impact on one’s ability to master a foreign language. Scholars have conducted studies to explain these factors and how learners and teachers of the language can manage them. In this section of the proposal, the researcher will look at some of the relevant theories before discussing these factors and their relationship with the theories.

Theory of Behaviorism

According to Heinzmann (2013), behaviorism is a learning theory that focuses on observable behavioral patterns of individuals and ignores independent activities of the mind which are not practically demonstrated. The theory defines learning as an acquisition of new behavioral patterns as influenced by environmental conditions (Vyas & Patel, 2015). It talks about two types of conditioning, which often yield different behavioral patterns.

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Classic conditioning takes place through reflex response to a stimulus. An individual may not have the capacity to control these natural reflexes, some of which may have a negative impact on their learning capabilities. Anxiety and fear of failure, phobia towards specific subjects, and fear of public speaking are reflex forces that may not be controlled easily by an individual without the support of others. Operant or behavioral conditioning, on the other hand, occurs when the response to stimuli is reinforced (Gkonou, Mercer, & Daubney, 2016).

It is a feedback system based on the reinforcing forces. One of the common reinforcements often used is reward and punishment. When people are informed that behaving in a specific pattern would earn them a reward or some forms of punishment, Harvey (2017) argues that they are likely to adjust their behavior. People tend to avoid punishment and go for rewards. When these forms of reinforcements are introduced in learning, then students can be motivated to act in a given desirable manner.

Bandura’s Social Learning Theory

Bandura’s Social Learning Theory, according to Li (2017), posits that people often learn from one another. Observation, modeling, and imitations are some of the ways through which people learn from one another. Alrabai (2014) believes that Bandura’s theory is based on three premises that help people to learn from one another. They include attention, memory, and motivation. People need to have attention and interest in the learning process for them to observe and imitate the actions of others.

In learning the language, people need to take their time to listen to how others speak and develop a genuine interest in learning the new language. Without attention and interest, it may be impossible to learn new concepts. The theory also emphasizes the importance of memory. Learning can only take place if people have the memory to retain what they learn. The ability of people to memorize new concepts varies from one person to the other (Dornyei & Chan, 2013). That is why the performance of people learning new concepts also varies.

Good memory guarantees a learner a speedy mastery of the new concepts. The third factor is motivation. People can only learn new concepts if they are motivated. Without motivation, they may lack the drive to learn new concepts. If it is a new language, one needs to understand how it would be beneficial to him or her. The motivation is what makes an individual sacrifice time and resources to learn a new language.

It justifies the need for one to spend time in a classroom or any other setting, learning the new language. The study focuses on this motivational aspect of learning a second language. Ushioda (2016) notes most people who learn second languages as adults must have very strong motivation because of the challenges involved in such a process. The fact that such a person already has a good command of the first language makes it difficult for them to adjust to the new language. In the sections below, the researcher will look at factors that may hinder an individual from learning the English language and ways in which motivation can be used to overcome them.

Foreign language learning anxiety

According to Dörnyei, MacIntyre, and Henry (2015), anxiety is one of the most common factors that influence one’s ability to learn a new language. The constant feeling of nervousness, worry, and unease about a new language may impair one’s ability to understand the concepts taught in class. Anxiety may be caused by the pressure that one is subjected to as they try to acquire a new language. It may also be caused by the immense fear of ridicule by others of the mistakes that one may make when trying to learn the new language. Such fears make one retreat to self, always avoiding discussion forums that would have otherwise helped them overcome the challenges. Ushioda (2016) says that people need to be motivated to overcome anxiety.

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Linguistic self-confidence

Self-confidence is one of the most important factors when one is learning a second language (Galajda, Zakrajewski, & Pawlak, 2016). Believing in oneself enables the learner to make personal commitments towards learning a language. Ni (2012) emphasizes that one needs to appreciate his or her unique ability to learn a second language. Looking down upon oneself may hinder from acquiring the concepts of a new language.

The learner should develop some sense of pride that, after leaning the first foreign language, he or she is making an effort to learn another language. Sometimes motivation may be needed to boost self-confidence. Alrabai (2014) believes that teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) should require a constant boost of learners’ self-confidence. The teacher should try to understand the issues students may have and find ways of addressing them in time.

Attitude towards foreign languages

Attitude defines the approach that a learner takes when trying to acquire a new language (Pfenninger & Singleton, 2016). When one loves a new language, he or she is likely to put in extra effort to improve personal competence. However, when such a learner feels that he or she is forced to learn a new language, then the learning process may be marred by numerous challenges. One may develop a mental barrier that limits his or her ability to master a language.

Heinzmann (2013) argues that such people may need some form of motivation to overcome their condition. The responsible teacher may need to identify the source of a negative attitude. Overcoming the negative attitude requires the affected student to change his or her mindset. They need to appreciate the importance of the second language in their social, economic, and political lives.

Cultural issues

Culture is another significant factor that may influence one’s ability to learn a new language. Some cultural practices may hinder a learner’s ability to master a new language, as Alrabai (2014) observes. For instance, Muslims faithful are required to make their prayers in the Arabic language as a standard cultural practice. Sometimes one can be motivated to learn a new language so that he or she may know how to recite a prayer in that language. However, when the culture strictly stipulates that prayers must be made in a given language, then the motivation to learn that language may lack. Such issues need to be addressed.

Parental encouragement

Crystal (2012) emphasizes parental encouragement for second language learners. Parents have immense power when it comes to influencing the attitude of their children towards learning a second language. They need to make their children understand and appreciate the relevance of the new language. They can use various motivational approaches such as rewards to ensure that their children place extra effort in class (Dewaele, 2005). They should also provide the needed material support for their children to facilitate their learning of a second language.

Research Gaps

The study strongly suggests that a student’s first language and cultural forces have a significant influence on his or her ability to learn a second language. It means that students in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other neighboring countries have unique challenges when trying to learn new languages compared with students in other parts of the world. However, Heinzmann (2013) observes that most of the current literature is based in Western countries, especially North American and Europe. Very few of them focus on the challenges that the local Saudi students face. It is important to address these existing research gaps.

Research Methodology

Research Hypotheses

The primary objective of this study is to determine the motivation effect on learning a second language. The initial review of the literature done at this proposal development stage shows that motivation has a significant impact on learners’ ability to acquire a second language. The review also shows that learners need the support of parents and teachers to enhance their mastery of the second language. The following hypotheses were developed based on the findings from the review. They will be tested using primary data that will be collected from the respondents.

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  • H1. Motivation promotes learning of a second language.
  • H2. Learners need the support of teachers and parents to influence their attitude and ability to succeed in mastering a second language.

Research Methodology

Collecting primary data from the respondents is a tasking process that requires one to understand the nature of the study and forces that may influence the process. Soureshjani and Riahipour (2012) advise that the chosen method of collecting data should be capable of meeting the research objectives. The researcher will use a multi-method approach to collect the needed data. The survey will be used to collect data from the participants.

With the help of questionnaires, the researcher will conduct an online survey to gather information from 75% of the chosen sample size. The researcher will use face-to-face interviews to collect data from the remaining respondents in the chosen sample. It will also be necessary to use observation to understand challenges of these students and how motivation can help them overcome the problems. Finally, the use of case studies will help in understanding some of the unique behavioral patterns of the learners.

Rationale for the Methodological Choice

The decision to use a multi-method approach to data collection was informed by a number of factors. First, it will be critical to collect data from as many respondents as possible. However, time for the study is limited, and it might not be easy to reach out to all of them. As such, an online survey makes it necessary to collect data from many people within a short time because the need for physical interaction is eliminated (Pfenninger & Singleton, 2016).

Secondly, the researcher wants to observe the environment under which these students learn foreign languages to understand these challenges. That is why observation will be used as a method of data collection. After the observation, it will be necessary to conduct a face-to-face interview with some of the learners and teachers to understand these challenges and how motivation could be used to overcome them. The case study was used to understand specific phenomena that can help in explaining how motivation can help learners to overcome challenges associated with mastering second languages.

Research Context

It is critical to define the context of this research so that it may be possible to understand the population upon which the findings can be generalized. The primary data in this research will be collected from various schools in Saudi Arabia. The study will look at how students within the country struggle to learn foreign languages, challenges they face, and how to overcome these challenges. The findings of this research will be generalized to this population (students in Saudi Arabia) or those in similar settings within the region.

Method of Sampling

It will be important to come up with a manageable sample from which data will be collected. The nature of the study makes it necessary to collect data from students and teachers because the issue affects them directly. As such, stratified sampling method will be used. The two strata will be for the students and teachers. A sample of 100 respondents will be used in this study. The choice of the sample size was informed by the constraints of the study, especially the time within which the study had to be completed.

Development of Data Collection Instrument

A questionnaire will be developed as the primary instrument that shall facilitate primary data collection from the respondents. Kara (2015) advises that when collecting data, it is important to have a common pattern of obtaining the needed information to facilitate both qualitative and quantitative data analysis. The questionnaire is considered appropriate in creating such a harmony in the process of data collection. The questionnaire will have three main sections.

The first section will focus on demographical factors of the respondents (age, first languages, and level of education). The second section, meant specifically for the teachers, will focus on the level of experience in teaching ESL students and academic qualifications. The last section of the questionnaire will look at the specific questions relating to the effect of motivation on learning a second language.

Validity and Reliability of Data Collection

Enhancing validity and reliability of data collection will be crucial. The researcher believes that multi-method approach that will be used in collecting data will enhance validity and reliability of the information. Weaknesses of one method will be addressed by the strength of the other method.

Data Collection and Data Analysis Procedure

As explained above, the study will use various methods of collecting data. The first method will be an online survey. The researcher will send the questionnaires to the sampled respondents through their e-mails. They will be requested to fill the questionnaires and then e-mail them back. The researcher will also take some time (about 3 days) observing English as second language learners in a classroom setting to understand challenges they face and how they can be managed using motivation. After observation, a face-to-face interview will be conducted with a sample of students and teachers to help in understanding of the issue further.

Analysis Method

When answering the questions and testing the hypothesis, the researcher will use primary data collected from the sampled respondents. The researcher will conduct both qualitative and quantitative data analysis to respond to the questions and test hypotheses. Where necessary (in a quantitative analysis), the outcome of the analysis will be presented in graphs and charts for the purpose of enhancing clarity for the readers of the document.

Time Plan

This research project must be completed within the stipulated time in the academic year. It is prudent to complete the project earlier than the stipulated time than to wait until it is too late. As such, the table below estimated timeline of the activities that will be involved in this project.

Gantt Chart.
Table 1: Gantt Chart.

The first activity is the proposal development that will need about ten days to complete. This activity comes to an end with the completion of this proposal. Adjustments can be made on the proposal in case the instructor feels it is necessary during the approval stage. The approval of the proposal is expected to take about two weeks. If the proposal is approved, the researcher will then develop a questionnaire to be used in primary data collection.

Proposal development will take about three days. The next step will be to review the literature, an activity that is expected to last for the entire period of the research. The researcher will then embark on primary data collection that is expected to take slightly over one month. After collecting primary data, its analysis will take one week. Writing the report is expected to take two weeks while reviewing and editing is expected to last for about ten days. The project is expected to be complete by April 27, 2018, if all goes as per the plan.


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