The Best Predictor of Success in Second Language Acquisition Is Motivation

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The best predictor of success in second language acquisition is motivation Benjamin Woelders
University of Queensland

The following essay will look into the importance of motivation as a predictor of success in second language acquisition. The report will critically analysis some popular theories of motivation and allow of a better understanding to the different types of motivation. Moreover, the report will use the scholarly journals of other scholars who have actively tested and proved some of the popular conceptions regarding motivation and its importance in successfully acquiring a second language. Those findings will be supported further by personal evidence to support the topic.

It is relevant in order to support topic, one must be able to define motivation itself in relevance to second language learning. Earlier work on defining and categorising the different types of motivation experienced by second language acquirers was carried out by Robert Gardner and his colleagues. . Gardner proposed that in order to understand why learners were motivated, it is necessary to understand the learners’ ultimate goal or purpose for learning the language, (Liuolienė and Metiūnienė, 2006). Two terms of motivation were derived by Gardner, INSTRUMENTAL MOTIVATION (in simple context, the student is driven by external influences such as business or practical goals. It refers to learner’s desires to learn the language in order to accomplish some non-interpersonal purpose such as to pass an exam or to advance a career.) and INTEGRATIVE MOTIVATION (more of a personal driven motivation; a will to learn about another’s culture; to promote personal growth. This is a very communicative based form of motivation). The underlying theory of second language learning motivation is based on the definition of motivation as “the extent to which the individual works or strives to learn the language because of a desire to do so and the satisfaction experienced in this activity” Gardner, (1985). Although Gardner’s theory was well defined, Dörnyei developed another framework of motivation. Dörnyei’s model dealt specifically with the phases of motivation rather than categorising motivation in different forms. The first phase, ‘choice motivation’ refers to getting stated and setting goals, the second phase, ‘executive motivation’, is about carrying out the necessary tasks to maintain motivation and the third phase, ‘motivation retrospection’, refers to the students appraisal of and reaction to their performance, Zoltán Dörnyei (cited in Lightbown & Spada, 2006). Dörnyei’s main critique of Gardner’s theory was that he believed that motivation was determined more from external factors, ie, from how a teacher conducts a lesson; rather than Gardner’s argument that motivation is more retrospective and relevant to the individuals desire to learn a language whether it is instrumental or integrative. Although both theories focus on a different direction, Dörnyei and Gardner both agree on the significance motivation plays in learning a second language. Moreover, in many of the scholarly journals written about the direct correlation between the students motivation and the success of their second language acquisition, the authors debate on what models are more suitable rather than debating the effect motivation has itself. (Dörnyei, 2001) Most research however suggests that greater success in second language acquisition is related to a student’s integrative motivation rather than an instrumental motivation. Early research in various school settings has indicated that integrative motivation and/ or its components are related to various aspects of second language learning. Many studies have reported significant correlations with measures of achievement in a second language such as objective tests and course grades (Gardner, 1985) Further research also conducted by Gardner et al (1992), Cantos Gomez (1999) and Hernandaz (2006) all suggest that...
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