Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Investigation into Motivation Types and Influences on Motivation: The Case of Chinese Non-English Majors

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Investigation into Motivation Types and Influences on Motivation: The Case of Chinese Non-English Majors

Article excerpt

Abstract

Motivation is one of the most important factors affecting students' performance of English learning, which is widely concerned by foreign language teachers and researchers for a long time. However, how to promote students' motivation in learning English by knowing their English learning motivation types at the initial stages and the factors that influence their sustaining motivation in the long process of English learning is still in need of exploration in the Chinese context. The paper aims to investigate Chinese non-English majors' motivation in English learning to facilitate teachers' understanding of ways to increase it.

Keywords: English learning, Non-English majors, Motivation

1. L2 Learning Motivation and Background

Motivation provides the primary impetus to initiate learning the L2 and later functions as the driving force to sustain the long and often tedious learning process (Oxford and Shearin 1994: 12). As Dörnyei (2001) says, motivation concerns the direction and magnitude of human behavior and it can be defined by answering why people decide to do something, how hard they are going to pursue it and how long they are willing to sustain the activity. In China, English is studied as a compulsory subject for all the college students who are non-English majors, i.e., as is often the case in foreign language learning contexts in which L2 is primarily learned as a school subject, English learning is mainly conducted in the classrooms where the language is not typically used as the medium of ordinary communication. Hedge (2000: 23) emphasizes that motivation is of crucial importance in the classroom, whether learners arrive with it or whether they acquire it through classroom experiences. However, As Crookes and Schmidt (1991) state, when teachers say that a student is motivated or not, they are not usually concerning themselves with the student's reasons for studying, but are observing whether the student studies or not, or at least whether the student engages in teacher-desired behavior or not in the classroom. According to Ellis (1994), language teachers readily acknowledge the importance of learners' motivation, not infrequently explaining their own sense of failure with reference to their students' lack of motivation, but teachers are often unaware of their students' specific motivations for L2 language learning. Teachers' lack of knowledge about their students' real reasons for learning a language is one of conditions that impede our full understanding of students' motivation for L2 learning (Oxford and Shearin 1994). In addition, Hedge (2000) says, there are a multitude of reasons why learners may well be highly motivated to begin learning a foreign language, but it is quite another matter to sustain that motivation. Therefore, it is important to find out the underlying causes of students' motivation in English learning and the possible factors that influence students' sustaining motivation, especially in a practical sense to teachers who want to stimulate students' motivation.

2. Literature Review

2.1 Motivation Types

2.1.1 Orientation and Motivation

According to Crookes and Schmidt (1991), motivation is identified primarily with the learner's orientation toward the goal of learning a second language. Orientation of motivation concerns the underlying attitudes and goals that give rise to action, i.e., it concerns the why of actions (Ryan and Deci 2000a: 54). As Dörnyei (1994a: 518) states, orientations and motivation are often interchanged in the L2 literature. The face validity of orientation is closely related to motivation because when referring to someone's motivation to do something, it is often understood as the person's reasons for doing something. Moreover, Spolsky (1989: 160) states: "A language may be learned for any one or a collection of practical reasons. The importance of these reasons to the learner will determine what degree of effort he or she will make, what cost he or she will pay for the learning". …

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