Motivation and Attitude in Language Learning

This article tackles how motivation and attitude affect language learning and what classroom implications can be drawn. This paper, originally submitted as an assignment in Psychology of Language Learning class, consisted of 1,900 words. This is a condensed version of that paper.  

 I learned from my readings and from the studies shared by my classmates that intelligence, aptitude and age do not play a major role in language acquisition or language learning. But, we cannot also deny that these factors contribute to the ability of a person in learning a language.

Aside from the factors given, I believe that motivation and attitude affect language learning. But what is the difference between the two?

The concepts of motivation and attitude are closely related but they appear different in certain respects. Motivation is generally defined as the factor which impels the student to study a target language in the first place and to continue or to stop studying it.

On the other hand, attitude is generally defined as the positive or negative feelings that students have towards the language, the language teacher, the language class, the culture(s) of people who speak that language. For example, a student might be highly motivated to study a language and culture for instrumental reasons, but he would not necessarily develop a positive attitude towards the target culture.

In a study by Massey in 1986, it was found out that attitude became more negative and motivation decreased the longer students studied the target language. So, there is a possibility that students will get tired studying the language and have a more negative attitude towards learning a language.

Thus, teachers should find out the reasons and make alternatives or changes in teaching or in setting out the learning environment. They should also know students’ interest, background, purpose, and learning styles to maintain their level of motivation and positive attitude towards learning a language.

A group of researchers found that girls tend to be more positive in their attitudes toward the French language. This is an interesting finding. Girls tend to have more positive attitude than boys. So, it only means that teachers should focus more on boys than girls in developing their attitude towards language learning. Perhaps, this may explain why males would rather like math and logic than learning a language.

Likewise, going to a place or having a field trip does not improve attitude. Attitude change can be done by attending a traditional classroom.

Thus, teachers may plan for activities inside the classroom where students can communicate effectively. They can require the class to gain contact with native speakers by writing or speaking to them. Or the school administrators must hire native speakers of a language as teachers.

On the other hand, students are highly motivated to learn if they realize the importance of learning a language in their career. For them, learning a language would mean a better opportunity, a bigger salary and a chance to travel abroad. They are more interested in linguistic rather than cultural interests for practical reasons.

Having said all these things, teachers should motivate their students by reminding them the importance of learning a language in their career.

© 2014 September 19 M. G. Alvior

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