Learners’ motivation has become more commonly recognized as perhaps the major determining factor for successful learning in general, whether one is a high school student pushing one's way through the battery of required courses needed to graduate, or an adult learner taking distance education courses. In any learning setting, the dynamics of motivation will be different. What will help a high school student sustain motivation may not apply to an adult learner, for example. Similarly, what factors affect and enhance learner motivation in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) setting (in our case) will differ as well. Furthermore, motivation for EFL learners in a middle school or high school class will differ from the experience of an EFL adult learner. It is important to grasp the key concepts of motivation as they are understood in the realm of education. Motivation is an unconscious, psychological process that varies by individual over time. It is a social process which can be affected by past experiences and environment. According to psychologists, intrinsic motivation refers to a source of motivation which emanates from within the learner. Extrinsic motivation refers to motivation which is sourced by the expectation of a tangible reward. Ideally, the learner will have a healthy combination of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation working for themselves. The extrinsic element may help push the learner through tougher times by helping them keep their eye on the goal, such as a foreign language certificate, or a decent TOEFL score, for example. Instrumental motivation (which closely correlates to extrinsic motivation) applies to the language learner who holds a specific, more isolated purpose for learning a foreign language, such as qualifying for a job, or achieving higher social status. Taking into account the latest socio- political changes Romania has faced – the integration of our country into European Union, the opportunities Romanians have nowadays to study abroad or to get a work permit in different English speaking countries, or the increasing number of people applying for a ‘green card’ to the United States of America or Canada- we may also speak of the integrative motivation, which is associated with the English learners' orientation toward the target language and culture, and the presence of a desire to integrate into that culture.
The following sections of my paper deal with motivational differences people (adults, children and adolescents) have, the reasons why they learn English and considerations on the degree of motivation students have in learning English, based on my personal `experience` as a primary/secondary school teacher. I will dedicate more space to sections dealing with children and adolescents, since my teaching experience with adults has been occasional and collateral.
Adults’ reasons/ goals:
‘One should have English speaking skills nowadays…’
This is what I have heard so often lately, on different occasions - while zapping through TV channels, seeing friends, making new acquaintances, meeting my students’ parents. All agree on `the necessity of speaking/learning English’ as a way to: push careers forward (to get a job abroad, to put ‘good knowledge of English’ on CVs; to gain technical knowledge; to learn computer science or use computer more effectively), to communicate with people (to contact people all over the world, to travel more easily), to enjoy art (American-British movies in original, great books, English-language music) so on.
A friend working in sales for a private company: ‘The manager of the company had a talk with me some time ago. He reinforced his trust in my abilities as a sales-person, and he informed me that I have pretty good chances to get a promotion and start to work in a ‘higher division’ of my company. My single worry now is that I need good English speaking skills, as my manager informed me. So, I...