Motivation – The Key to Success in Learning English as a Foreign Language

Motivating English Learners

Helping Teachers

Helping Teachers

I think that most of us, whether we are teachers searching for stimulating classroom tools and techniques, or individuals in quest for further personal development, will agree that motivation is essential if we wish to achieve any benefit or objective in any given field.

In fact, most tasks we perform daily will be all the more successful if motivation is the force behind our actions. Take a simple daily task for example, such as getting ready for the day, work or school.

These tasks can be dreary and repetitive, and often tiresome, unless the day ahead has some exciting prospect, which renders those actions easier, or even fun.

If we agree that motivation helps us get moving, then the same would be true when learning a new language. Unfortunately it is also true that motivation tends to wane as we progress in the learning phase. This can be due to many factors-and these should be closely considered if we want to keep the motivation going throughout the learning process in order to achieve our goal.

The hitch is that most results take time to be apparent, resulting in a slack of our driving force somewhere along the way. This is why it is essential to keep the motivation strong. As a teacher you can achieve this with regular encouragement under the form of compensation of work achieved or effort accomplishment. The learner should be able to see his or her progress in the language. Compensation should be genuine, as a good rapport based on respect and honesty is essential in building a motivating environment.
Why do some learners succeed while others struggle?

Although this question cannot be easily answered, as this would involve a deeper analysis of each learner, what many teachers have found, according to Jeremy Harmer ( The Practice of English Language Teaching 1991 ) is that if a learner really wants to succeed in any given subject, then he or she most likely will despite the difficulties or circumstances of the learning environment.

This result leads to the obvious conclusion that if a student is successful in learning English-although the tools and teaching methods are poor-then it is his or her motivational force that is the main reason for this success.

Why is a Motivational Plan Important?

Most foreign students learn English for exam purposes, work progression in their profession or to get around when travelling for work or fun. Although some do wish to learn English for personal development, this does not include the majority.

The initial driving force that motivates the learners to progress, tends to wear out as they proceed with their learning. A motivational plan is needed to keep the motivating factor going as the students progress. This eventually turns out to be problematic without the help of a motivational plan.

Initial motivation for wanting to learn a language is the easier part in learning and teaching. A student who chooses to learn English on his or her own accord has done so because it is what she or he is interested in. The difficult part is keeping the fire burning during the whole process of learning up until the student has achieved the aim.

There are two strategic factors to keep in mind when devising a Motivational Plan:

1.Ability to Generate Initial Motivation

During this phase a teacher should be able to establish a positive rapport with the students, by creating a comfortable and pleasant environment in the classroom. The next step is getting to know the students in order to be able to adapt to their needs and anticipating their interest areas when planning a lesson.

The programme should be relevant to their aims and capacity. This will allow for successful achievement and provide them with self-confidence as they progress. Encouraging self-evaluation in a positive way is also motivating for the learner, who becomes aware of his or her individual capabilities. Emphasizing and praising effort rather than ability will enhance the learner’s satisfaction thus spur on motivation.

2.Maintaining and Sustaining Motivation

Once the positive and motivating learning environment has been establish you should keep it that way. Allow your learners to set their own personal goals as they progress in the language. Help them find other fields of interest within the course or at home. Make sure you provide them with regular and genuine praise for their efforts and achievements.

Reducing the level of anxiety will stimulate a more favourable and pleasurable learning environment.Encourage autonomy and self-evaluation. The more independence a learner achieves the more self-assurance in the language he or she will have. This will keep their motivation high as they realize that they are now walking on their own two feet. They can now function alone and are ready to go.

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