Lauren Razavi (Language
learning: what motivates us? 19 March 2014) assumes we can only
be motivated in language learning in two ways: by wanting to get to know speakers of that
language (=integrative motivation) or by wanting to use the language to get a certificate or
job or as a tool (=instrumental motivation). But what about pure interest in language? Plenty
of people enjoy exploring languages - finding out how grammar and sounds work, how
vocabulary represents the world. And if you're already used to looking at your own language,
studying another language becomes even more interesting because you can make
comparisons, and this makes you better at learning even more languages! That's how
language education works in lots of countries, and it could be like that here. Foreign language
education here over the last 3 decades has emphasised the idea that we learn a language for
travel or economic purposes. Sadly, this is reflected in the exams that learners and teachers
have to work to. Research (e.g. by Taylor and Marsden at the University of York) suggests
that children's motivation is closely associated with perceptions of languages and lessons as
enjoyable, achievable, and personally relevant. Their motivation seems less related to a
desire to integrate with speakers of the language or by society telling them 'languages are
Promoting interest in language itself, in meaningful content, and intercultural curiosity are possible and
could motivate. In an age of global English, in our largely English speaking country, instrumental and integrative
reasons are not really doing the job. Let's hope the revisions to the GCSE and A level are bearing this in mind.
The Committee for Linguistics in Education, UK.