Academic journal article College Student Journal

A Study of Changes in German Learning Motivation by Chinese University Learners

Academic journal article College Student Journal

A Study of Changes in German Learning Motivation by Chinese University Learners

Article excerpt


Since 1950s, second/foreign language (SL/FL) learning motivation has been extensively researched from various aspects (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Dornyei, 2005; Gardner, 1985). Even so, the essence of motivation theories and research findings has always been attitudes, integrative motivation, instrumental motivation and motivation intensity, as proposed by Gardner and his associates (Gardner, 1985; Gardner & Lambert, 1972), the pioneer researchers on SL/FL motivation. Moreover, though both motivation theories and research findings indicate that SL/FL motivation is dynamic (Dornyei, 2005; Dornyei, & Ryan, 2015; Gardner, 1985; Morreale, 2011; Ni, 2010), quite a few longitudinal studies can be found on the changes in motivation during a specific period of time, the studies are far from adequate. In addition, as reviewed below, most of the research on SL/FL motivation mainly focuses on ESL/EFL (English as a SL/FL), not enough research on motivation of other languages as a SL/FL can be found. As the world becomes increasingly globalized, learners of other languages other than English such as Spanish, German, Chinese and Russian have been increasing, according to the statistics issued by China's Ministry of Education ( Nevertheless, research on the learning motivation of these languages is scarce. This is worth research because learners of these languages may be more motivated by personal interests and needs rather than by external pressures. Targeting on German language learners' motivation, the present research aimed to examine the changes in Chinese university students' motivation to learn German during a 16-week semester.

Literature Review

Research on SL/FL motivation was initiated by Gardner and his associates in the 1950s, who proposed the social psychological model and later expanded it to be the socio-educational model (Gardner & Lambert, 1972; Gardner, 1985; Tremblay & Gardner, 1995). According to them, SL/FL motivation subsumes three dimensions: attitudes toward learning the language, desire to learn the language and effort expended on learning the language (Gardner, 1985). The desire to learn the language mainly comprises integrative orientation and instrumental orientation (Gardner, 1985). Instrumental orientation refers to the pragmatic reasons for language learning, like the pursuit of a good job or a high salary, while integrative orientation means interest in the target language and its community (Gardner, 1985; 2005). Gardner and his associates (Gardner, 1985; Gardner & MacIntyre, 1992) claim that integrative and instrumental orientations are important factors in SL/FL learning, with the former playing the more important role.

As research on SL/FL motivation has evolved, researchers have found that integrative and instrumental orientations are not opposite ends of a continuum but on the same continuum to different degrees and that there are other orientations for learning a SL/FL (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Dornyei, 2005). Consequently, more theories on SL/FL motivation have emerged such as the self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985) and the process-oriented model (Dornyei, 2005; Dornyei, & Ryan, 2015) and more orientation types are identified such as extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation, getting certificate, traveling, getting higher examination scores, and so on (Cai & Zhu, 2012; James, 2012; Ishikura, 2013; Liu, 2007; Mendez, Mariza & Aguilar, 2013; Ushioda, 2011; Zhao & Li, 2014; Zhou, Gao & Zang, 2011; Zhou, He & Min, 2011).

Research has consistently revealed that motivational factors play an important role in SL/FL learning outcomes, academic performance, and persistent efforts to learn the language (Flemens, 2009; Morreale, 2011; Ni, 2010; O'Reilly, 2014; Qin & Dai, 2013; Ushioda, 2008; Wesely, 2009; Xiao, 2011). For example, to examine the motivation to learn a SL among 6th-grade students who attended a French immersion school, Wesely (2009) collected parent and student surveys based on Gardner's Attitude/Motivation Test Battery, and conducted individual and group interviews with 6 students and their parents. …

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