Language Learning: What Motivates Us?

By Nika Goddard

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Language Learning – a Process of Acquisition & Motivation?

Besides being one of the most important research area of Linguistics, language learning or language acquisition is constantly present in our daily life. From the day we are born, until the day we die, we bear in our brains the intrinsic properties of a universal grammar, with which we can model and construct in such a way that we can acquire any language we want.


Naturally, when deciding which second speech we can incorporate in our acquisition system, it depends on our native language, motivation and upbringing to a certain level.

There is no doubt that several theories attest the importance of learning a second or even a third language. Besides the obvious reason that learning a language purports, that of communication, knowing a language is our access gate towards understanding a culture, meeting new people with whom you might share interests or building connections. Whatever the reason of learning might be, it will all be to your advantage and you will be the one benefitting from it.

Has Motivation Become an Aptitude?

Since learning a second language will require time, as a primary resource, it might be the case that the lack of time thereof might lead to lack of motivation. However, learning a new language might have different reasons behind, which will contribute to reinforcing motivation in the process. For example, if learning a new language is a requirement to get a new job, which is paid better, then your motivation will be quite strong, as you will always be aware of the benefits.


However, if we take the example of English native teenagers, we notice that we are facing a totally opposite situation. The complete drop of interest of students who are already speaking an international language is almost inherent.

Integrative Motivation – Social Learning

The most important reason for which one would like to learn a new language is the cultural one. The need to feel part of a culture, as well as the need to be part of a social group or to understand a specific target group, have always been seen as great motivators.

Another situation where you might make use of the integrative motivation is the situation of multi-culturalism within the boundaries of the same country. For instance, in countries like Canada or India, where people speak 2 or more languages, you will have access, as a native, to those from the day you are born.

This involves that your brain will be exposed to a second or a third speech and will start the acquisition process almost naturally.


If your family has roots in another culture or you have relatives that are not in direct contact with you living and speaking different mother-tongues, then the motivation will turn into finding a way to communicate with them. At a more personal level, getting to understand relatives that have a different culture will result in getting to know yourself better, through learning and speaking their language.

Using Language as a Tool – Instrumental Motivation

When looking at things from a different perspective, some of us also get to learn a second tongue because they study it in school or they need it to apply for a better job. While the first situation applies more to the student life, the second is more and more present in our daily life.

When starting the learning process, the contact you have with its culture and country where this is spoken and a positive attitude are essential. Otherwise, even if you are dedicating 5 hours per week to learn the language in school but have no curiosity about the culture it represents, the instrumental motivation will have no base grounds. This means that the learning process will stop at some point and will restrain you from improving your language skills.


There might be cases that you will lose motivation on the way, but you still have to continue the process of acquisition, there are some tips that you might try in order to find your motivation again:

  • Create your own space for studying – a touch of the culture whose language you are studying might make a different to your motivation.
  • Create a routine – usually motivation comes on the way, so set up a time to start on a constant basis.
  • Have fun – understand what you are studying, read about the topics you are interested in in the language you are studying and don’t forget to smile – studying is fun!


All in all, learning a new language might be as difficult or easy as your motivation is. Even though we can find online resources of how to better study a new language or study it in school, the key ingredient will always be how inclined we are to understand the culture that is represented by it. Moreover, giving up on the traditional methods and finding one that matches our personality and study profile will compliment motivation and result in a healthy and successful acquisition process.

Author`s Bio

Nika Goddard
Psychologist, writer-freelancer, traveler and just creative person, lover of world cultures, languages,food, wild spaces and urban places by nature.Facebook

P.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out the English Harmony System HERE!

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  • zema

    Where the hell are the new articles from Robby?