Motivational Strategies for English Language Learners


Many students start to learn a language for many different reasons, study, work, enjoyment are a few examples.  One of the important facts all these students have in common is motivation.  Research shows students motivation and strategies for learning a foreign language are how a student interacts and engages with native speakers of that language, their perception of study and experience from learning a language in school, their teachers attitude towards them, how well they did in assessments and more importantly their self – belief in their abilities.  There can be numerous reasons of what motivation for learning involves, one being a positive learning experience.


Motivation is a factor linked to any form of study and research has been undertaken in this subject, in particular the beliefs that students have about themselves and how they associate this belief to a meaning.  For example, Lucy often says ‘What can I possibly learn from studying poetry’, compared to Josie who states `that learning activities linked to poetry is rewarding’. Boekaerts, M (2012).

Studies undertaken by University students in China, Hong Kong and the UK undertaking courses of study relating to English learning found that participants were keen to study English once they had clearer goals, more confidence and a vision of the ideal self.  Further studies conducted shows motivational belief come from direct learning experiences, these could be positive or negative traits of the student’s self concept of themselves and whether they perform tasks successfully or not lie in their abilities of themselves.  It is a good idea to have some understanding of the motivational beliefs your students hold, then you can plan learning activities around these.  Some students may not complete tasks and this could be due to a lack of self esteem and feel they lack the necessary skills, therefore it is important to establish positive connections where they can see success.


 What makes a student achieve more compared to another?  The answer could be due to their mindset, for example how we approach a problem and deal with it.  In language learning a student may have a fixed mindset, that they cannot progress any further and achieve in their learning, compared to a student with a growth mindset who may take more risk and challenge in learning and find solutions to progressing.  Imagining that your qualities are set and cannot change is known as a fixed mindset, these could be personality, intelligence, skills, this type of mindset can lead to people having to prove these attributes to everyone else as a form of seeking approval.  However, the growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities can be developed through effort, help from others and strategies to overcome the learning barrier, in the growth mindset students will look for experiences that stretch and challenge them outside their comfort zone. Dweck, C. S (2017)


There are many tools and strategies to coach students towards setting goals to help them achieve in their study of language learning. I will focus on two of these.  First is identifying strengths and weaknesses, by getting students to make a list of their strengths and weaknesses, previous successes and things the student has done well, their skills, determine their goals, interests and what they want to achieve, then by using a plan we can help them build a positive identity and encourage reflection through self assessment.  Boekaerts, M ( 2012) by developing awareness this can help the student look for possible solutions to their problems, help them identify their capabilities, recognise any negative aspects of the situation and acknowledge change.  The second tool is overcoming limiting beliefs.  We are constantly making decisions through our lives which include rules, these rules can be linked to our beliefs and become set, unhelpful and hold us back from achieving our full potential, it can appear in our self- talk such as ‘I was never any good at languages’. The Educator can help the student by keeping a record or daily diary of self – talk events, including feelings, emotions, words, pictures which associate with the problem.  After a week, analyse, look for  similar patterns of behaviour then discuss this with the student to help them gain a greater insight into their situation and what is holding them back from succeeding. 


Dweck, C. S (2007) Mindset: Change the way you think to fulfil your potential. Chapter 1, Pg 3-4

Boekaerts, M (2012) Successful Schooling, Chapter 6, Pg 106-107

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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close