English learning motivation
Students’ success in acquiring a foreign language can depend upon various factors, including those of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.
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The intrinsic motivating factors can be defined as the inner driving forces making students to make efforts in acquiring a foreign language and their understanding of the main reasons for which they need to learn a second language.
According to Belmechri and Hummel (1998), the main students’ orientations toward learning English as a second language included the opportunities of travelling, future career prospects, friendship with children from other countries and prestige (p. 220). These orientations can be recognized as the main predictors of students’ intrinsic motivation.
Though Belmechri and Hummel (1998) who investigated motivations of Quebec students did not find much evidence of integrative orientations composed of several factors, the scholars admitted that this issue requires further consideration and integrative intrinsic motivation can appear in other contexts.
The intrinsic motivating factors are interrelated with extrinsic motivation based upon social psychological constructs, classroom atmosphere and teaching strategies.
Attempting to define the motivational basis for second language acquisition, Clėment, Dornyuei, and Noels (1994) concluded that extrinsic motivational factors, including those of classroom atmosphere and subprocesses can play an important role in the second language acquisition (p. 445).
The classroom atmosphere is especially important for oral activities of foreign language learners, which require interpersonal contact between speakers and favorable climate, which would allow reducing the speakers’ anxiety about making mistakes and expressing their opinions.
Additionally, the teaching techniques implemented by instructors and the quality of the course books can contribute to the overall classroom atmosphere and corresponding learners’ motivation (Clėment, Dornyuei, and Noels, 1994, p. 243).
Wharton (2000) examined about 80 strategies used by instructors and concluded that these approaches to language learning contributed to the extrinsic motivation of students and played a significant role in the language acquisition processes.
Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors are significant for successful foreign language acquisition and especially creating favorable conditions for doing oral activities and developing proper speaking skills.
The causes of English speaking difficulties among EFL students
English speaking learning anxiety and difficulties
As a complex process, language acquisition requires development of appropriate skills at different levels, including those of reading comprehension, writing and speaking activities.
Students may have various difficulties in the process of foreign language production in each of these activities, but the speaking assignments require consideration of students’ personal characteristics, including the levels of their anxiety and self-confidence as well as their perception of motivation and encouragement strategies used by teachers which can be dependent upon students’ cultural background.
Taking into account the fact that oral production requires immediate interaction and establishment of interpersonal contact with others, it can be stated that the speaking activities require creating favorable conditions for motivating students to express their opinions and overcome their fear of making mistakes and being laughed at.
The problem of learners’ anxiety, which can have a negative impact upon learners’ achievements is discussed by present-day scholars working in the sphere (Crookall & Oxford, 1991; Horwitz & Young 1991).
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According to Crookall & Oxford (1991), the first step towards solving the problem is recognizing the importance of language-learning anxiety and imposing measures for reorganizing the learning environment and aiding students in overcoming it (p. 142).
The methods of reducing the learners’ anxiety and enhancing their self-confidence discussed in the study by Crookall & Oxford (1991) include changes in the classroom roles and accustomed procedures.
The games, role-playing activities and different types of simulations are among the strategies which can be used for the purpose of reducing the learners’ anxiety and creating appropriate conditions for developing their speaking skills (p. 150).
As to the Asian learners, the peculiarities of their cultural background and mentality need to be taken into account when addressing the problem of learners’ anxiety in a purposeful way. According to the observations of Stein (2004), the Asian learners get accustomed to passive roles in the classroom due to the enhanced respect towards instructors and the prevalence of listening activities (p. 156).
These factors need to be taken into account when rearranging the classroom environment for Asian students because the cultural background can affect their perception of teachers’ motivation and encouragement.
Defined as students’ uneasiness and discomfort in speaking out aloud in the classroom, the problem of foreign language speaking anxiety needs to be addressed by teachers and school administrators (Horwitz, 1991, p. 21).
Researches of the relationship between English learning and speaking learning difficulty
The oral interaction skills are important for both beginning-level and experienced language learners because they contribute to the basis of language literacy development and foster further improvement of language skills.
According to McKay et al. (2008), learners’ interaction with instructors and their peers can provide them with comprehensible input, which can aid them in future language learning (p. 1). Therefore, creating the situations for learners’ natural interactions with others can contribute to their language skills.
Communicating clearly and willing to be understood, learners can polish their language skills. Creating role-playing situations and collaborative environment in the classroom, teachers need to take into account the preferred communication styles, which are characteristic of specific nationalities (McKay et al., 2008, p. 3).
For instance, the preference of group assignments in Asian students needs to be taken into account by educators working with these groups of students.
Dörnyei (1994) admitted that the existing social psychological constructs cannot be applied to certain educational contexts (p. 515).
Pointing out at the importance of further improvement of methodologies for creating favorable classroom environments, Dörnyei (1994) emphasized the importance of comfortable microclimate for developing the learners’ speaking skills and oral production abilities for developing their language skills in general (p. 521).
There is evidence that providing students with opportunities for oral interaction and implementing a task-based approach to academic activities, instructors can receive certain gains in terms of learners’ achievements and increase the pace of students’ language acquisition (McKay et al., 2008, p. 2).
There is a bilateral relationship between English learning processes and English speaking difficulties. On the one hand, speaking activities require proper level of language competence, favorable psycho-social climate and opportunities for oral interaction. On the other hand, the development of speaking skills can become a valuable contribution to the basis for further language acquisition.
The relationship between personality, English learning motivation and English speaking learning difficulty
Discussing the issue of English speaking difficulty, the scholars need to shed light upon the interplay between learners’ personal traits, views, cultural background and their intrinsic and extrinsic motivations for learning a foreign language.
Naughton (2006) conducted a socio-cultural research for identifying the role of learners’ individual perceptions of learning strategies and classroom communication styles in developing their language skills. According to the findings of this study, the current interaction patterns do not reflect the peculiarities of the learners’ perceptions, which are however important for the second language acquisition (Naughton, 2006, p. 170).
Thus, creating conversational opportunities for small groups, instructors need to take into account the socio-cultural characteristics of learners and their correspondence with the implemented teaching strategies. The participation in the training program and socio-cultural research allowed teachers to significantly improve the classroom environment and improve the learners’ outcomes (Naughton, 2006, p. 172).
Thus, a psychological perspective is important for selecting the most appropriate classroom communication styles and teaching strategies, interaction and motivation patterns complying with the students’ socio-cultural and personal needs so that they could use their potential and develop the necessary language skills.
The motivation of learners for learning the English language in general can differ from the rationale for paying special attention to spoken language skills in particular. Moriam (2008) discussed the motivation of university students to learn spoken English in Bangladesh and their corresponding learning strategies.
The research findings have revealed the direct relationship between motivation and strategy use in Bangladeshi students (Moriam, 2008, p. 66). Hence, there is a direct relationship between learners’ personal traits and cultural background and a link between learners’ motivation and corresponding learning strategies implemented by students.
Therefore, the main reasons of the English speaking difficulties faced by students can be explained with peculiarities of students’ perceptions and certain inconsistencies in their preferred interaction styles and the strategies used in the classroom.
Consequently, teachers looking for the solution of the problems of students’ speaking anxiety need to take into account the learners personal characteristics, socio-cultural background, their learning motivation and strategies.
English speaking learning difficulty and English learning motivation
Most of educational theorists acknowledge that learners’ motivation can play an Important role in enhancing the effectiveness of the classroom activities, improving the learners’ academic achievements and encouraging them to overcome their learning difficulties and anxiety (Gardner, Tennant, & Mihic, 2004; Tsiplakides & Keramida, 2010 ).
Acknowledging the fact that learners’ attitudes towards the process of the English language learning can be regarded as an important predictor of the students’ success and achievements, it can be stated that motivation strategies and rewarding activities organized by educators are important for improving the levels of learners’ motivation and developing positive attitudes towards English reading, writing and especially speaking activities.
According to Tsiplakides & Keramida (2010), educators can contribute to learners’ motivation by establishing positive interpersonal relationships with students, fostering positive psychological atmosphere in the classroom and creating attractive environment (Promoting positive attitudes in ESL/EFL classes).
Therefore, the appropriate teaching strategies applied for organizing the classrooms and planning the classroom activities can be helpful for improving the levels of students’ motivation and aiding them in overcoming their difficulties and anxiety.
In that regard, even seating arrangement and bright boards can be helpful for capturing learners’ attention and creating positive attitudes to English learning activities in them (Tsiplakides & Keramida, 2010).
Concerning the oral production discussed in this paper, it can be stated that positive relationships between students and instructors, as well as between students and their peers are important for creating favorable conditions in which students could freely express their thoughts in a foreign language and develop their speaking skills.
Gardner, Tennant, Mihic (2004) emphasized the importance of an integrative approach towards affective variables which have impact upon the students’ motivation and English language learning process.
Thus, neither of these variables, including those of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, personal characteristics and perceptions, difficulties and anxiety can be underestimated in developing the appropriate teaching strategies and achieving the necessary levels of learners’ motivation.
Approaches teachers used in English speaking classes
Using cooperation to organize speaking activities
Taking into account the predominantly passive role of Asian learners in the classroom, which is preconditioned with the peculiarities of their ethnic background and educational experience teachers need to create specific opportunities for oral interaction and include them into the class activities in order to provide learners with opportunities of oral production.
As it was stated in Tremblay & Gardner (1995), the positive relationships and the mode of cooperation are important for expanding the learners’ motivation and constructing favorable language learning environment (p. 507).
Therefore, creating the conditions for interaction and imitating the close-to-reality situations as well as organizing group projects, educators can place an emphasis upon cooperative mode of relationships within the classroom and encourage the learners to overcome their fears and foreign language speaking anxiety for the purpose of reaching the project goals, expressing their thoughts clearly in order to be heard and understood.
Additionally, implementing proper strategies for correcting students’ errors in the form of rephrasing the questions, explaining a keyword and involving other students, instructors can shift the emphasis from the students’ fear of making mistakes towards cooperation for the purpose of achieving the final goals.
On the one hand, there is evidence that learner’s autonomy is necessary for developing students’ language skills (Usioda, 2003, p. 18). On the other hand, it is important to define the most appropriate level of this autonomy. Regarding Asian learners who may feel enhanced anxiety when doing speaking activities, the cooperative mode of relationships in the classroom is preferable for expanding student’ motivation and overcoming their anxiety.
Therefore, taking into account the prior educational experience of Asian learners and peculiarities of their perceptions of the speaking activities and attitudes towards the teacher’s role in the classroom, it can be stated that cooperation is the best suitable mode for organizing the classroom activities which would allow students to overcome their fears and realize their potential and develop their language skills.
Following the generally accepted rules of the teaching-learning process, it can be stated that the learning environment, including the learning materials, equipment and classroom conditions which can be referred to extrinsic motivation factors, can play an important role in expanding students’ motivation and creating positive attitudes towards the English language learning process in them.
As it was outlined by Young (1991), the low-anxiety classroom requires fostering students’ motivation and creating appropriate classroom environment (p. 430). Thus, educators need to take into consideration the materials used and the organization of the working space, which would ensure comfort of every learner.
According to the findings of the language-anxiety research, learners’ motivation can be helpful for overcoming their fear and foreign language speaking anxiety. Additionally, the attractive materials, pleasant-looking course books and comfortable seating arrangements can become a contribution to positive psychological climate inside of the classroom.
Attractive visual aids can concentrate learners’ attention when they get bored and enhance their motivation to attend classes. Students will more gladly attend a comfortably-arranged classroom.
Taking into account the fact that students may create the links between certain surroundings and activities, it can be stated that pleasant-looking environment can play an important role in creating positive attitudes towards language learning activities in students which would allow reducing their anxiety (McCroskey & Richmond, 1991, p. 21).
Thus, along with using other methods of extrinsic motivation, students should consider reorganization of the classroom environment, including the comfortable seating of students and integration of visual aids into the working space, which would allow creating favorable atmosphere and overcoming students’ difficulties and reducing their speaking anxiety.
Planning the reorganization of the working space and classroom environment for complying with the needs of particular groups, educators need to take into account the students’ peculiar perceptions and prior educational experiences.
Factors influencing ESL learners’ achievement in English speaking
The academic achievements of English learners can depend upon a wide range of factors, including those of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, the level of their self-confidence and anxiety and the strategies used for overcoming this anxiety and creating favorable conditions for effective language acquisition.
According to the findings of scholarly research the integrative motivations of students play an important role in developing their language skills and overcoming their anxiety of speaking out aloud in the classroom (Wharton, 2000; Belmechri and Hummel, 1998; MacIntyre et al., 1998).
Therefore a complex approach needs to be adopted for viewing the variety of motivational factors and defining the main influential aspects having impact upon them so that the educators could select the most effective strategies for overcoming students’ difficulties and providing them with the necessary support in overcoming their anxiety and fears.
Thus, the methods of self-control and educational interventions can be applied for improving the levels of students’ motivation and improving their language skills and achievements.
Developing educational interventions and selecting the most appropriate teaching strategies, educators need to consider students’ personal perceptions of motivation and encouragement strategies which can be regarded as important factors influencing students’ achievements in English speaking (Moriam, 2008, p. 66; Noels, Cleemnt & Peletier, 2001, p. 428).
The peculiarities of personal perceptions and attitudes can be predetermined with the psycho-social characteristic of specific groups and even their ethnical background and prior educational experience. For instance, there is evidence that Asian learners get accustomed to being silent during classes and can feel extremely uncomfortable when doing certain speaking activities (Stein, 2004, p. 156).
The enhanced foreign language speaking anxiety of Asian learners should be taken into account for creating favorable conditions which would allow them to overcome their psychological barriers and use the classroom opportunities for oral interaction and development of language skills. Even having developed language skills, most Asian learners try to avoid speaking activities.
Considering these peculiarities, educators can develop favorable environment and comfortable classroom atmosphere for reducing students’ anxiety and improving their language skills. Paying proper attention to the interpersonal relationships between the participants of teaching-learning process, classroom environment and organization of teaching activities, teachers can foster the development of students’ language skills.
Thus, the main influential factors affecting students’ language skills include their personal perceptions of the learning processes, integrative intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and the appropriateness of the teachers’ strategies for reducing their anxiety and creating comfortable conditions for organizing their speaking activities and developing language skills.
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