Developing and sustaining students’ motivation in a language class

A lot of people around the world have begun to develop interests in learning a second language. This is not unconnected to the fast and innovative development in science and technology as well as in communication, transportation, migration, internet and computer sensitisation. By learning a second – or even third – language, people can not only gain more access when it comes to discussing and learning about other cultures or people around the world but will also enable them to blend well in case they visit those areas in the future.

Why motivation?

Nobody likes undergoing stress, and learning a language that is foreign to your native land does not come easy at all. This is why it is essential for students learning a new language to remain motivated during the learning process. It is perhaps the only way for them to retain their interest in learning the new language and will also speed up the learning process.

The role that motivation plays in the process of learning a new language cannot be quantified. It is highly crucial for language teachers to understand the intimate relationship between motivation and its effect on language learning. Passion is the core of motivation, and it relates to an individual’s deep-seated desires and goals. Therefore, to learn a language successfully calls for passion, and language teachers should endeavour to find methods or techniques to connect students’ motivation to the learning.

It is true that motivation fluctuates, and keeping language learners’ motivation high at all times may be next to impossible. When instructors are designing a language course, they should consider that each learner or student has different expectations and interests.

Practical Strategies to increase the external motivation of language learners

Establish a welcoming or approachable atmosphere in the classroom

Instructors should create a pleasant and welcoming climate in the classroom which makes each student feel valued and recognised. Once students get to know their peers and teachers, they relax and become more at ease and willing to participate in classroom activities. Creating a comfortable and safe environment that fosters the language learning process is a motivating factor that will sit well with the students.

One of the most effective and proven ways of encouraging familiarity among language learning students is to initiate the ‘nickname’ activity in which every student writes or invents a nickname. If they already have one, then all the better. Then let every student attempt to explain the reason behind his or her nickname. It is a form of introduction that will not only break the ice of unfamiliarity while creating a flexible and friendly classroom atmosphere but will also create a bond between them.

Creating short-term goals

Encouraging students to set their short-term goals by themselves will enable them to achieve success faster even as they direct their students towards their expectations. Learning a new language becomes more natural when learners understand why they want to learn the language. Having expectations and goals leads to a boost in motivation, and this invariably leads to an advanced level of language capability.

Creating conditions to make learners feel a sense of achievement

When you create situations or circumstances that enable students to feel a sense of accomplishment, it can be a massive boost in motivating language learners. You can even enhance that feeling by giving positive reinforcement and feedback. Students’ satisfaction will be improved, and positive self-evaluation will be encouraged. According to research, even though negative and positive feedback tends to influence motivation, students that receive positive comments are more affected than their peers who receive negative feedback. Praise is powerful and builds the self-esteem, competence, and self-confidence of students.

Can they personalise their classroom environment?

There is something about having your touch in any environment you find yourself. You will feel more at home, at peace with yourself and with your surroundings. The same is true for students learning a new language. When you allow students to personalise their learning environment, it goes a long way in enhancing a friendly atmosphere in the classroom while making them feel more comfortable about learning the new language. It is not rare for students in such an environment to come out of their shells and display great motivation in reading aloud or conversing in the new language with other students.

Develop students’ confidence by creating group activities

Learning a new language can be enhanced when learners are encouraged to participate actively in the process. This includes creating, designing, writing, doing, making, and solving. Therefore, to achieve this, create group activities that each student will have no choice than to participate in; this helps in encouraging the overly shy students to speak up when carrying out group tasks.

The assertion that motivation is a personality trait of students is incorrect. Motivation is key when it comes to achieving any worthwhile goal. The tips shared above will help in developing and sustaining the interests of students in their quest towards learning a new language.


Ziaga, R. (2016, December 15). 12 Ways to Motivate Students. Retrieved December 13, 2017,  from the Web.

Brown, D. (2001). Teaching by principles: An integrative approach to language pedagogy (2nd ed.). White Plains, NY: Longman.

Cheng, H., & Dörnyei, Z. (2007). The use of motivational strategies in language instruction: The case of EFL teaching in Taiwan. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 1,153–173.

Dörnyei, Z. (2001). Motivational strategies in the language classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dörnyei, Z., & Ottó, I. (1998). Motivation in action: A process model of L2 motivation. Working Papers in Applied Linguistics, 4, 43–69

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.