Academic journal article Journal of Behavioural Sciences

An Exploration of Undergraduate Students' Motivation and Attitudes towards English Language Acquisition

Academic journal article Journal of Behavioural Sciences

An Exploration of Undergraduate Students' Motivation and Attitudes towards English Language Acquisition

Article excerpt

The study of language learner characteristics, or individual differences, has a long tradition in second language studies and a substantial amount of research has been conducted in the study of

motivation in second/foreign language learning. From most psycholinguists point of view, attitude and motivation play a major role in the second/foreign language learning (Gardner, 1985; Oxford & Shearin, 1996; Dornyei, 1990). During the past four decades, many studies have been conducted on the relationship between attitude, motivation and language learning (Lin & Warden, 1996; McClelland, 1998; Ogane & Sakamoto, 1999; Warden & Lin, 2000; Lai, 2000; Yamshiro & McLaughlin, 2001).

Attitude is defined as a disposition to respond favorably or unfavorably to an object, person, institution, or event (Ajzen, 1988). Most of the time an individual's attitudes are dormant and can only emerge as reactions to specific stimuli in the form of stated beliefs, expressed feelings, or exhibited behavior and thus cannot be directly observed or measured. Motivation on the other hand "refers to the combination of effort plus desire to achieve the goal of learning plus favorable attitudes towards learning" (Gardner, 1985, ? 10). Attitudes do not influence learning directly but they are instrumental in the development of motivation. Gardner and Lambert (1972) first made the well known distinction between two types of motivation, instrumental and integrative. The motivation is instrumental if the learner is oriented toward instrumental goals: desire to study in the country where the target language is spoken or to get a better job. On the other hand, learners who are integratively motivated want to interact with members of the other community, get to know the target language culture better and even become part of it. What had previously been thought of in the Gardner and Lambert tradition as motivation more recently has been renamed as orientation. Noels (2001) asserted that motivation to language learning is a complex set of variables including effort; desire to achieve goals, as well as attitudes toward the learning of the language. In addition, he remarked that individuals' motivation for second language learning also includes their motivation orientations, interest, attitudes toward second language group or learning situations and anxiety.

It is thought that most successful students in learning a target language are those who like the people who speak that language, admire the culture and have a desire to become familiar with, or even integrate into, the society in which the language is used (Falk, 1978). When someone becomes a resident in a new community that uses the target language in its social interactions and integrative motivation is a key component in assisting the learner to develop some level of proficiency in the language. This becomes a necessity, for operating socially in the community and becoming one of its members (Norris-Holt, 2001). It is also theorized, that "Integrative motivation typically underlies successful acquisition of a wide range of registers and a native like pronunciation" (Finegan, 1999, p. 568). In contrast to integrative motivation with instrumental motivation the purpose of language acquisition is more utilitarian, such as meeting the requirements for school or university graduation, applying for a job, requesting higher payment based on language ability, reading technical materials, working as interpreters, and moving to a higher social status. Instrumental motivation is often characteristic of second language acquisition, where little or no social integration of the learner into the community using the target language takes place, or in some instances is even desired. While both integrative and instrumental motivations are essential elements of success, it is integrative motivation that has been found to sustain long-term success in learning a second language (Taylor, Meynard & Rheault, 1977; Ellis, 1999; Crookes & Schmidt, 1991). …

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