How to Use English as a Global Language to Improve Student Motivation
In this paper, I will discuss the reasons for students to learn English, and ways in which the teacher can help the students find motivation for learning said language. My arguments stem from the fact that English is one of the most beneficial languages to know in an increasingly global economy and a great number of different areas.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Vemund V. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Reasons to learn English
A teacher might encounter a great variety of motivations their students may have to learn English. When student motivation is high, teaching and learning should be easier both for the teacher and student. However, some students may not have as much motivation to learn the language, which can decrease their willingness to put in the necessary work, thus making learning more difficult and less rewarding. It is hard to argue that it is solely the responsibility of the teacher to motivate their students, but it is equally hard to argue that the teacher has no such responsibility.
The teacher should encourage their students to find their motivation for learning, and where young learners are concerned the importance of this is amplified, as they might not have a specific job or hobby in mind, and may not have chosen to attend the course themselves. While some may have a personal reason for learning (like being able to talk to relatives/customers etc.), others may find the general usefulness of knowing English more motivating.
English in the global world
The lingua franca, originally referring to a mix of French and Italian used by traders, is a term that is now often used to describe the position of the English language globally. "The status of English is such that it has been adopted as the world's lingua franca for communication in Olympic sport, international trade, and air-traffic control. Unlike any other language, past or present, English has spread to all five continents and has become a truly global language." (G. Nelson and B. Aarts, "Investigating English Around the World," The Workings of Language, ed. by R. S. Wheeler. Greenwood, 1999). The fact that English is so widespread should afford the teacher some benefits in regards to improving student motivation for English specifically. Students that are lacking motivation due to not seeing the usefulness of the subject might be inclined to improve their English by hearing that it provides an opportunity to work in many different countries around the world, not only English speaking nations. Some might want to improve their English to consume popular media, such as books, movies or even computer games, and some students might want to work in their own country while dealing with international investors and so on. There is a plurality of interests that is to some extent reliant on knowing English, and this is something the teacher should use to his/her benefit. Getting to know their student's interests, therefore, is an integral part of improving motivation and consequently their learning.
Motivation and happiness
A teacher that emphasizes student motivation may find themselves in a situation where it is easier for them to make an engaging lesson since they have already asked what interests their students. As such, motivation may come easier for the teacher, as a larger part of their workload may be focused on improving how they teach rather than what to teach, and for the students that can get more beneficial training to the purpose for which they learn English. They may find that mastery comes easier when they enjoy the contents of the lessons.
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Another benefit of the widespread use of the English language is that there is a great number of students that speak little to no English, lives in an area where English is not the native language, who still know someone who knows at least enough English that they may help increase their vocabulary, or even converse within English for practice. In some European countries, this might be more the case than in rural areas of certain Asian or African countries. The chance of knowing someone who speaks English in, say, Uganda is higher than finding someone there who speaks Polish. Although this may not be something the teacher can influence in any appreciable degree, the benefits of having beginner level students that know a few phrases or words in English might help the class along. Some of the students may have parents that can help them with their homework, and the stronger students might be able to aid students that struggle more to learn or motivate them to get as good as the best students.
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In conclusion; teaching and learning English has some advantages over virtually any other language worldwide, and the teacher should take advantage of that fact. Student and teacher motivation may improve if the teacher takes the time to ask what motivates their students, and help them find some motivation if they struggle to find one themselves. The advantages of knowing English will not only be useful in the classroom but is something that the students bring along for many years.
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