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Mark Crocker

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Motivation and the Language Learner - The Major Factors That Influence It

Motivation and the Language Learner - The Major Factors That Influence It | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Motivation is one of the most influential aspects of learning a new language. For all language learners motivation varies, but it is surely an essential part in achieving fluency within any given language. Motivation can be dependent upon age, language fluency (both first language and second language), affective filter (i.e. an individual’s comfort level within a particular setting), and many other factors.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Nicole H.

How Age Can Influence Motivation

In learning a new language, motivation is often dependent upon age. Age can affect an individual’s desires and reasons for learning a new language and thus influence the motivation to learn and become fluent within the language. As children, it is often thought to be naturally easier to learn and acquire language than it is for adults, rather than being motivation that drives the learning. Children often learn in response to their environment – perhaps they moved to another country where they are required to speak a different language or they were placed in an academic situation where language acquisition was necessary to achieve success. Opposingly, in adults, language learning is often less forced than with children and is more dependent on an individual’s desire and motivation to learn the new language. For whatever reason it may be – choosing to move to a new country, wanting to learn a new language to challenge oneself, needing it to improve job prospects, or one of many other circumstances.

Also read: How to Motivate High School Students in the ESL Classroom

How Language Fluency Can Influence Motivation

In terms of language fluency, the better equipped an individual is in their own language, the more easily they are able to acquire additional languages. To learn a new language an individual must first have a foundational knowledge of what language is, how it functions, and the basic principles concerning language. With these basics, second language acquisition comes more naturally. In the same way, the more languages an individual knows, the more likely they are to learn an additional language as there are many overlapping aspects of languages, especially Latin based languages. In regard to motivation, an individual’s confidence within language learning and their knowledge surrounding their first language, greatly affects their motivation to continue learning additional languages. The more languages an individual knows, or the more confidence they have in the languages they do know, the more motivation they will have in continuing to pursue and learn other languages.

Also read: Top 5 Tips: How to Learn a New Language When Teaching English Abroad

How the Affective Filter Can Influence Motivation

In addition to age and language fluency, the affective filter must be considered in terms of motivation. The affective filter is often one of the leading factors in terms of language learning as well as motivation and potential barriers. The affective filter describes an individual’s comfort level within a particular setting. The more comfortable an individual feels, the more likely they are able to learn a new language. This is true both inside and outside of a classroom setting. If a student feels like many other students are in the same language learning phase they are in, there is a better likelihood of participation and success in practicing using the learned language. In a similar way, if an individual is surrounded by all native speakers, their affective filter will be higher and they will feel less comfortable testing out the language that they have acquired or have been learning. Ultimately, the affective filter alters motivation because confidence is a key aspect in growing and learning a language and as the affective filter grows higher, confidence is diminished, and motivation decreases.

Also read: 5 Simple Ways to Motivate Your EFL Students

Motivation matters because it is the driving factor in language acquisition. Without motivation, there is no pursuit or desire to learn a language, thus fluency is difficult to reach.

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