Lesson 2: Motivation

Instrumental Motivation

People have many different reasons for studying a foreign language; sometimes people study a language for practical reasons while other times people have a special affinity for the particular language and its people. Language teachers are often very aware of the career advantages that language proficiency can bring, but to many language learners, studying the language is only an abstract undertaking required for an academic degree.

Since the seminal work of Gardner and Lambert in 1972, language teachers and researchers have recognized the important role that motivation plays in language learning. Gardner and Lambert are responsible for proposing the most commonly used framework for understanding the different motivations that language learners typically have. They distinguish two types of language learning motivation: instrumental motivation and integrative motivation.

Learners with an instrumental motivation want to learn a language because of a practical reason such as getting a salary bonus or getting into college. Many college language learners have a clear instrumental motivation for language learning: They want to fulfill a college language requirement! Integratively motivated learners want to learn the language so that they can better understand and get to know the people who speak that language. In the North American context, integrative motivation has proven to be a strong impetus to successful language learning.

The new language teachers in this video clip discuss their own and their students' instrumental motivations for language learning. The motivations described here range from using the language to study philosophy to imagining a career in beer production. In addition to having different reasons for language learning, some of the learners described here are more strongly motivated than others.

Think of the instrumental reasons your students might have for studying your target language.


Responses to the question: "What motivated you to learn a second language?"

Duration: 01:48

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