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Motivation in Language Learning PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 27 May 2011 13:26

The Role of Motivation in Language Learning

Anwar Rahman, S.Pd., M.Pd. 1)


The mastery of English learning is influenced by some variables, one of them is motivation. Motivation in learning second language is classified as integrative motivation and instrumental motivation. Some experts of language teaching also categorized motivation into two types namely intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. This paper discusses about kinds of motivation and how it takes a role in influencing students mastery in learning language. It was literature study that focused to find out some solutions of student’s problem in learning language, especially learning language motivation which was interpreted and conducted at the State Polytechnic of Lampung. The result shows that intrinsic motivation and instrumental motivation have great influence in the success of language learning.



1) Staf Pengajar Jurusan Ekonomi dan Bisnis Politeknik Negeri Lampung Jl. Soekarno—Hatta Rajabasa Bandar Lampung


English subject in vocational higher education or university in Indonesia has been classified as a personality development subject (Matakuliah Pengembangan Kepribadian: MPK). It has a purpose to give communicative English skills not only productive skills (speaking and writing) but also receptive skills (listening and reading). Politeknik Negeri Lampung (Polinela) as vocational higher education, for instance, has put the English subject into its curriculum which is taught for five semesters for non-agricultural major such as accounting, computer informatics management and agribusiness but in the study program majoring in agriculture field, English is taught for only three of six semesters. It could be inferenced that Polinela has seen the English subject as one of important the subjects that could give more additional skills to its graduates especially in foreign language competence.

Although English subject is taught for five semesters in economic and business department but it is only one meeting a week . The number of credits for English subject is 2 credits (SKS) for about two and half hour for each meeting. While the materials of teaching English subject so far tend to apply general English (GE) instead of English for specific purposes (ESP) although Polinela is vocational higher education. Teaching materials are adopted for general English text books published by national or international publishers. Although the students are treated similarly in teaching learning activities, they have different results in target language learning (English). Research found that at the first semester of Economic and Business Department, there are 35 students (32%) of 108 got grade A in their final English score, 33 students (30%) got B, 25 students (23%) got C, 12 students (11%) got D, and 4 students (4%) got E (Rahman. 2010:3).

Facing this situation, the English teachers in Polinela have to put into account of some variables or aspects that can help students master the subject. Ellis cited in Hasan (1999:1) states that there are some variables influencing the student’s abilities in learning language: (1) learner’s state of development that refers to the effectiveness of teaching learning process in the classroom, (2) learner’s age, (3) motivation, (4) personality, and (5) facilities of the environment that give the students to learn.

In addition, Gardner and Lambert (1989:57) state that motivation is one of important aspects in learning language. Without strong motivation, the teaching and learning language will be lame. Moreover, Boey cited in Rahman (2003:6) point out that in learning English students usually have two type of motivation, firstly, to learn English as compulsory subject that should be completed in finishing their study and, secondly, to enrich their life by ability to communicate with people in other communities. These motivation, especially first motivation, seems as the main objective of students in Polinela. Another objective is to get better job with better salary and succeed in competing in global job search.

Since motivation has an important role in English learning, this paper will discuss how motivation influence Polinela student’s abilities in English. It also has objective to describe types of motivation in learning English which influence the successful of learners.


This was a literatures study. It was an interpretative study and conducted at the State Polytechnic of Lampung in November 2010. The study focused on finding out the solutions of student’s problem in learning language, especially learning language motivation. Literatures were gathered to get comprehensive understanding on the topic. Based on the writer experiences in teaching English for vocational higher education, this paper is intended to offer theoretical support for English instructors.

Teaching English as Foreign Language (FL)

According to Brown (1987) cited in Rahman (2003:23) teaching is showing or helping someone to learn how to do something. It also means giving instruction, guiding, in studying about something, providing with knowledge and causing understand. After teaching language, we hope the someone has the knowledge, understanding and able to use the target language in communication, regarding the function of language as means of communication.

Murcia (1978:3) cited in Rahman (2003:5) states that the goal of teaching foreign language would be the learners to gain the ability to communicate in target language that is in language learners. In addition, Wisdom (1978:57) cited in Rahman (2003:5) states that the aim of foreign language in general was very commonly defined is terms of four skills, namely listening, speaking, reading and writing. Furthermore, Finocchiario (1987) states that the objectives of teaching English In her principles of teaching English as foreign language are (1) to give the students progressive ability to understand the English he/she uses of her/his age when spoken by native speaker, (2) to give students progressive ability to read the material in English with the comprehension, ease and enjoyment, (3) to give students progressive ability to write correctly and creatively in English, (4) to give students progressive ability to carry out conversation to a person in his/her group, and (5) to give information, knowledge, attitude and insight to appreciate the cultural similarity and differences of English speaking people.

Motivation in Language Learning

Motivation is often defined as psychological quality that lead learners or students to achieve their goal. For English language learners, mastery in English communication competences or even basic communication skill would be the goal.

Gardner and Lambert (1959) cited in Croockes and Schdmith (1991) identify motivation as primary with the learner’s orientation toward the goal of learning a second language. They first made distinction between integrative and instrumental motivation. Furthermore, motivation is considered by many to be one of the determining factor in developing a second or foreign language. Motivation determines the extent of active, personal involvement in second language learning conversely, unmotivated students are insufficiently involved and therefore unable to develop their potential second language. Initially, two classes were proposed (a) the integrative orientation or desire tolerant the second language in order to interact and identity with the member from the second language, (b) the instrument orientation which refers to a desire to learn the second language to achieve some practical goal (Gardner and Lambert: 1972) cited in Belmechi and Hummel (1998:220).

The social physical perspective in Belmechi and Hummel (1998:220) has define motivation as a composite of intensity and orientation that correspond respective to the effort extent and to the learner’s goal. On the contrary, Gardner (1985) in Gardner and Tremblay (1994) explain that motivation differ than orientation because students might demonstrate a particular orientation but not be motivated to achieve the goal. Motivation, in this case, the positive power toward learning the language to attain the goal reflected in the orientation. This power, Gardner suggested, stems from the desire to attain the goal, positive attitude toward learning language. In relation with the previous statement, students need motivation in order to attain the goal of language learning and can come from themselves or from their environment.

Brown sited in Simanjuntak (1988:2) states that is commonly taught of as an inner drives, impulse, emotion or desire that moves one to particular action. Most specifically, human being universally have needs or desires that are more or less innate. Yet their intensity in environmentally conditioned. There are six desires or needs of human being organism commonly identified with undergird the construct of motivation:

The need for exploration, for seeing ‘the other side of mountain’ for probing the unknown

The need for manipulation, for operating on the environment and cashing change

The need for activity, for movement and exercise, both physically and metal

The need for stimulation, the need to be stimulated by the environment, by other people or by ideas, thought and feeling

The need for knowledge, the need of process to internalized the result of exploration, manipulation, activity and stimulation, to resolve contradictions, to quest for solution to problem and for self consistent system of knowledge

The need for ego enhancement, for the self to be known and to be accepted approved of by other

We can assume that from all statement above the motivation means positive attitude or impulse toward the language learning in order to attain the goal of second language or foreign language. So, it seem that motivation is plays an important part and role in order to make the students master in their English.

Classification of Motivation

Gardner and Lambert (1984) cited in Rahman (2003:11) distinguish motivation as follows:

A learner with integrative motivation has a genuine interest in second language community. He wants to learn their language to communicate with them more satisfactorily and gain closer contact with them and their culture

A learner with instrumental motivation is more interested in how second language can be useful instrument toward furthering other goals, such as gaining necessary qualification or improving employment prospects.

On his current version, of the social educational model, Gardner (1985, 1988) points out repeatedly that motivation for learning language include not only goals orientation but also : (1) the desire to learn language - whatever the reason, (2) attitude toward the language - learning situation and the activity of language learning and, (3) effort expended achieving such goals. In summary, the integrative motivation include measures of integrativeness, attitudes toward the learning situation and motivation.

On the other hand, instrumental motivation composed of instrumentality, attitude toward the learning situation and motivation. Instrumentality, in turn, is composed of instrumental orientation, attitude toward the target language group an interest in foreign language. Motivation, as a component of instrumentality is defined as the Integrative motive; i.e, it is determined by motivational intensity, desire to learn a language, and attitudes toward learning a language. To be more clearly we can see from the schematic concept by Belmechri and Hummel.

schematic of motivation

Schumman in Crookes and Schimdth (1991:4) says that instrumental/integrative motivation in seen as one of many social and psychological factors contributing to the construct of acculturation. It can be seen on his subject "Alberto", an adult Spanish caking leaner of English. Schumman argued that Alberto failed to learn English because of psychological and social distance from target language speakers, and that learners with limited functional reasons for language learning (instrumental motivation) are likely to develop the type pidginize language exhibited by Alberto. It seem that environment and social psychological have a big influence in learning a second or foreign language.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Even though, there are many experts that classified motivation into instrumental and integrative motivation as cited in Setiyadi (1999) (ef. Au, 1988; Chihara and Oller, 1978; Clement and Kruidenier, 1983; Gardner and Lambert, 1972; Lukmani, 1972; Noels and Clement, 1989), motivation also divided into intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic motivation stems from positive or negative reinforcement which are external to the behavior itself rather than inherent in it. For example, studying to get good scores not because of studying is enjoyable. Intrinsic motivation is a motivation as incentives which originates whiting the behavior itself rather than externally, as in playing musical instrument for enjoyment (Setiyadi, 1999).Some empirical evidence suggest the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic goal can be of a service in predicting second or foreign language learning outcomes. Ramage (1990) citied in Setiyadi (1999) indicates that student who continuing their study to be more motivated to learn language intrinsically than discontinuing their study to be more motivated to learn language learning as a motivation to other goals.

Further, Kamada (1958) cited in Setiyadi (1999) also report that intrinsic interest defines as extend to which one likes the second language, is related to the acquisition of second language skill )e.g. listening and speaking) beyond external requirements (e.g. reading and writing for examination requirements). According to Deci and Ryan's (1985) in Noels et al., (1999) self determination approach to motivation, intrinsic motivation to perform an activity simply for the pleasure and satisfaction that accompany the action. People with intrinsic motivation feel that they are doing an activity some reasons, first, they have chosen to do so voluntarily and because the activity represent a challenge to their existing competencies and enable them to use their capabilities to make some creations. This kind of motivation is considers to be highly self- determined in the sense that the reason for doing the activity is linked solely to the individual's positive feeling while performing the task. Intrinsic motivation depends on the people's perception as a result of their behaviors which are influenced by internal causes rather than external pressure. It means that the internal pressure have bigger influence for them to do the activity.

Extrinsically motivated behavior are those behaviors that are performed in only because of inherent in the activity, but in order to arrive at some instrumental end. They will do the activity because they have some goals at the end the activity, such as get better job, not because of voluntarily. Such as that source of regulation is external to the activity. Within the realm of education, three levels of extrinsic motivation have been distinguished empirically (Vallerand, et al. 1992, 1993) cited in Noels (1999). In terms of degree of self-determination, they are classified as:

(a) External regulation that refers to behavior that is determined trough means external to

the individual such as tangible reward or punishment. For example: students who work hard to learn second of foreign language to gaining a teacher' reward or praise.

(b) Interjected regulation represent reason for performing an activity that are internalized that in external regulation. These reason pertain to performing an activity in response to some kind or pressure that the individual has internalized. For example: students who do their second or foreign language homework because they feel guilty if it were not completed, or to impress other with their proficiency.

(c) Identified regulation, the individual decides to perform a behavior because he or she views the

activity as personal worthwhile. For example: students who feel that being culturally sensitive is important, may view language learning very positive since it helps to support this valued goals.

Ellis cited in Setiyadi (1999 :48) states that intrinsic motivation is trough to relate to long term success. He further explains that intrinsic motivation is usually defined as motivation that is guided by an interest in the task it self in which one is engaged, whereas extrinsic motivation is said to be guided by external stimuli, such as parental approval, offer a reward, thread of punishment or a good grade.

We can say that intrinsic motivation is a motivation influenced by internal factors or pressure, so that ones do the activity for the pleasure and voluntarily because the activities have a challenge for them. It also occurs an resistance for long time because it comes from the learners themselves. One the other hand, extrinsic motivation that influence by external pressure and ones do the activity because of some instrument end. Someone can be motivated to learn second for foreign language because of their themselves of influence by other, such as how to get a better job by learning second for foreign language. Extrinsic motivation to short success because it comes from and get more influence from outside.

Motivation and foreign Language Learning

Oxford and Shearin (1994:17) make the differentiation between second and foreign language environment. A second language is one that is learned in a location where that language is typically uses as the main vehicle of everyday communication for most people. It means that the language is uses a primary language or an ordinary language for having communication in that location. Besides has many motivation and get many advantages, the learner of the second language is surrounded by stimulation, both visual and auditory in the target language. On the other hand, a foreign language is one that is learned in a place where the language is not typically uses as the medium of ordinary communication. Foreign language learner are surrounded by their own native language and have to go out of their way to find stimulation and input in the target language. These students typically receive In relation with the motivation of the second and foreign language, Dornyei (1990) cited in Oxford and Shearin (1994) suggest that integrative motivation might be far less relevant for foreign language learner than for those learning a second language. Foreign language learner rarely have sufficient experience with the target language community to have clearly articulated attitudes toward that community, and they are, therefore, in committed to integrating with that group. He concludes that instrumental goals contribute significantly learners, less specific to a particular target and culture and are determined more by attitudes and beliefs about foreign languages and culture in general. He suggest that integrative motivation might be necessary to go beyond the intermediate level in foreign language learning, Integrative motivation is much more meaningful for second language learners, who must learn to live in the new culture and communication fluently in the target language than most foreign language learners, who are separated in space and attitude from the target and who are rarely surpass intermediate language proficiency.

So far, Maehr and Archer (1987) cited in Crookes and Schimdt (1991) point out some key behavioral aspect of motivation. First is direction, which refers to carrying out in some activity and not activity and not others. Second is persistence, which means concentrating attention or action on the same thing for an extended duration. Third is continuing motivation, which is returning to previously interrupted action without being obligated to do so by outside pressure. Fourth is actively level, which is more or less equivalent to effort, or intensity of application.

Based on the Maslow's hierarchy, second and foreign language learners might have some different motivation. In the foreign language setting, needs do not relate to physiology or physical safety, although they often relate to emotional or physiological security. Non physiological safety and security needs may show up in the foreign language classroom, where risk taking can not unless student feel psychologically secure. Needs (and thus motivation) for foreign language learners would center on the psychological aspect of the second level in the hierarchy and when those need a are satisfied, would relate to the third, fourth, and fifth levels in the hierarchy. In Indonesia, English is only as a foreign language which is rarely find outside the classroom. So, we can say that English in Indonesia is limited by students' native language and they have to go out if they want to find stimulation or input un the target language, in this case, English

Relation Between Motivation And Student's achievement

As mentioned earlier, motivation is an inner power to achieve the language learning objectives. It means that motivation affects language achievement. In learning foreign language, the learners need high motivation because they will find many troubles without being obliged to do so by outside pressure. Fourth is activity level, which is more or less equivalent to effort, or intensity of application.

Besides that, Kelley's education-oriented theory of motivation cited in Crookes and Schimdt (1991) identifies four major determinants of motivation; 1) Interest, in cognitive terms is a positive response to stimuli on the basis of existing cognitive structures such that learners' curiosity is aroused and sustained, 2) Relevance is a prerequisite for sustained motivation and requires the learner to perceive that important personal needs are being met by the learning situation, 3) Expectancy draw upon research based on the concepts of locus of control, expectation for success, and attributions concerning success or failure and 4) Outcomes, the determinant of motivation which is perhaps the most traditional rewards or punishment or outcomes. Activities for which the motivating forces are outcomes have been referred as extrinsically motivated as opposed to those which are intrinsically motivated.

This positive attitudes will build up the students' motivation. They will motivate themselves because of some reasons. Gardner and Macintyre also showed that individuals who are studying the vocabulary because of instrumental motivation learned faster than those without this motivation. Having rich vocabulary is one condition to be able to make a good composition in diction. It proves that motivation needed by the learner.

Gardner and Lambert (1972) states that the learners with a higher integrative orientation are likely to achieve greater proficiency because the integrative learner would wish for more social contact and also happier in adopting new speech patterns from the other group. Lukmani (1972) found the same when she studied learners of English in India. In both of these situations, English is learnt as an international rather than with reference to a community as the learner's instrument reasons for wanting the language. On contrast, Dornyei states that integrative motivation might be far less relevant for foreign language learners, because for most foreign language learner, who are separated in space and attitudes from the target language culture and who rarely surpass intermediate language proficiency.

Research found in Polinela motivation does not have significant correlation toward students writing ability (Rahman.2003: 54). Eventhough, motivation does not have correlation toward writing ability, it has significant correlation with the aspects of writing : grammar, vocabulary, mechanic, fluency and form. The sub components of motivation questionnaire given to Polinela studnets namely : motivational intensity and desire in learning English have a significant correlation to the aspects of writing. From the data which was computed, motivational intensity has a significant correlation to the aspects of writing which are being scored by the researcher: vocabulary, mechanic, fluency and form. Therefore the English lecturers should give more attention and time to the student to practice.

The findings above indicate that motivational intensity and desire in learning English have a cause - and - effect relationship. Desire seems to be the cause and motivational intensity in learning English to be the effect in the relationship. In the other words, intensity in learning language can be predicted from the desire in learning English. The bigger the desire they have, the more intense they will learn English. Dealing with type of motivation, the study shows that most of the subjects sample of this research have an extrinsic motivation (68,9%) and the rest (31,1%) have intrinsic motivation. These classification is assessed based on the questionnaire item which measure the reason why the students were learning English.

It could be concluded that extrinsic and intrinsic motivation are more reasonable an a big issue in English teaching and learning in Polinela since English in Indonesia is only as a foreign language, even though, the study of correlation between writing ability and those motivation are not significantly correlated.


Conclusion and suggestion

As mentioned in the review of theories, motivation plays an important role in language learning. Ellis cited in Hassan (1999:1) states that there some variables influencing the student's ability in learning language. One of them is motivation. This statement was supported by Olstain et al.(1990) (cited in Setiyadi, 1999:195) who conducted a study to determine factors predicting success in EFL among culturally different learners. Motivation, might have positive correlation toward learning English. Motivation does not always affect the students' ability in language skills especially writing skill.

In addition, Gardner and Lambert (1972) has stated that the learners with a higher integrative orientation are likely to achieve greater proficiency because the integrative learner would wish for more social contact and also happier in adopting new speech patterns from the other group. Lukmani (1972) found the same when she studied learners of English in India. In both of these situations, English is learnt as an international rather than with reference to a community as the learner's instrument reasons for wanting the language. On contrast, Dornyei states that integrative motivation might be far less relevant for foreign language learners, because for most foreign language learner, who are separated in space and attitudes from the target language culture and who rarely surpass intermediate language proficiency.


In order to make the language learning process a more motivating experience Polinela’s English lecturers need to put a great deal of thought into developing programs which maintain student interest and have obtainable short term goals. At university level this may include, as suggested by Berwick et al. (1989), any number of foreign exchange programs with other universities, overseas "homestay" programs, or any other activities which may help to motivate students to improve their target language proficiency. Lecturers need to create interesting lessons in which the students attention is gained. This can sometimes be accomplished by the use of teaching strategies which are not often called upon by other teachers in mainstream subject areas. Encouraging students to become more active participants in a lesson can sometimes assist them to see a purpose for improving their communication skills in the target language.


No matter what the underlying motivation to study English as a foreign language, what cannot be disputed is the fact that motivation is an important variable when examining successful foreign language learning. In addition Polinela’s English lecturers should encourage their students to have high motivation in learning English. Motivation could be build by creating a situation where students are motivated whether extrinsic or intrinsic motivation and has positive attitudes in learning language.



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Last Updated on Monday, 27 June 2011 07:35