“Teacher skills in motivating learners should be seen as central to teaching effectiveness.” – Zoltán Dörnyei
There’s no denying the positive impact language learning has on students. Research shows that learning a second language improves cognitive skills and enhances mental development, leading to overall improvement in school performance. Despite its benefits, however, students may not fully understand the value of language learning, which could lead to disengagement and low achievement.
Therefore, a more effective question is how educators can foster student engagement and help students achieve a high level of success when learning a second language. A recent article by the Guardian suggests, “the secret to [learning a second language] is rooted in the science of motivation,” and “most people who succeed at learning another language turn out to be strongly motivated.” And according to Zoltán Dörnyei, an expert on motivation in second-language learning, motivation is contagious, and a learner’s motivation depends largely on the level of interest and involvement of their fellow learners and instructors.
Simply stated, motivation is the key to language learning. The next step is deciding the best ways to foster it. The following tips can help educators increase student motivation and deepen language learning:
- Display enthusiasm. Demonstrate a commitment to and interest in the language, which will impact students’ behavior and their enthusiasm to learn.
- Establish a safe and supportive learning atmosphere. Learning environments should be organized, well managed and supportive in order to provide students with ample opportunities to learn. Language learning isn’t simple; therefore, students should feel comfortable taking risks and making mistakes without ridicule from fellow learners.
- Make the curriculum relevant to students. Discover their goals and the topics in which they are interested, and try to incorporate them into the language-learning activities.
- Diversify instructional methods. Students learn in different ways, and educators can use multiple strategies to help students master a second language. A key factor is allowing students to discover the best methods and techniques for themselves.
- Create meaningful learning experiences. Use tools, such as Skype in the Classroom, to connect with a group of students that speaks the language your students are learning. Building relationships with native speakers is a great way to increase students’ motivation to learn. Students can also role-play situations in which they would need to speak and understand the language, like shopping at the market or asking for directions.
In order for students to achieve language-learning success, educators must implement engaging, student-focused instructional strategies to foster motivation. To learn more, check out, “Wanting it enough: why motivation is the key to language learning.”