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Instrumental And Integrative Motivation

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 1090 words Published: 9th May 2017

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Robert Gardner established a model of motivation in second language acquisition in 1985. The field of language teaching has been influenced for many years by the model which came from the studies of language immersion in Canada (Ehrman, 1996, p.139). The model describes two forms of motivation, instrumental and integrative. Instrumental motivation refers to learning to accomplish a task, such as passing a course, getting better pay, and so on (Ehrman, 1996, p.139). Integrative motivation refers to a favorable attitude toward the target language community, possibly a wish to integrate and adapt to a new target culture through use of the language (Gardner, 1985, p. 54). One of the Gardner’s main ideas is that the integrative motivation plays an important role in second language acquisition. It is directly and positively related to second language achievement. However, the Gardener’s model has received lots of criticisms since it was published. The criticisms will be discussed in the following.

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The model is criticized for overstating the importance of the integrative motive. Gardner simply used the candidates’ selection of integrative reasons over instrumental ones as evidence that integrative reasons have a higher level of motivational intensity (Gardner, 1985, p.53). Gardner found that the integrative motivation has an extremely high significance in his studies. Nevertheless, the instrumental orientation such as getting a job and passing an examination is also an important factor in second language learning. If learners with integrative motivation can achieve success since they are active in their learning, the same theory might be applicable to the learners with instrumental motivation. Instrumentally motivated learners may be successful since they are eager to learn to achieve their instrumental purposes.

Integrative motivation is the central concept in the Gardner’s model. However, the support of the importance of the integrative motivation is not consistent. Some early studies did agree that integrative motivation was significant in second language learning (Gardner and Lambert, 1959) but some recent researches has shown that the instrumental motivation has an equal or better impact than the integrative motivation. In some cases, the integrative motivation is even considered as having a negative correlation with proficiency which in turn affecting the success of second language learning (Belmechri and Hummel, 1998; Dörnyei, 1990).

Dörnyei (1990) suggested that instrumental motivation could be more important than integrative motivation for foreign language learners since foreign language learners are not likely to have sufficient knowledge and experience to take part in the culture of the people who speak the target language in their early stage of language learning. Integrative motivation may not play a significant role in the early stage of foreign language learners. The importance of different kinds of motivation can be different between second language learners and foreign language learners.

Gardner’s emphasis on integrative motivation for language learning may not fit in all language learning situations (Schmidt, Boraie, and Kassabgy, 1999). The Gardner’s model have limited applicability for the learners who do not have frequent contact with the target language speakers since they have few opportunities to integrate with the speakers. There are many other factors contributing to the motivation of the learners who are far away from the target language speakers, such as instrumental motivation and knowledge orientation. Gardner should not overstate the importance of integrative motivation in all language learning situations. The significance of different types of motivation may vary from one to another language learning situations.

Actually, integrative and instrumental motivations are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Brown (2000) stated that learners rarely select only one type of motivation when learning a second language. The motivation of learning a second language is usually a combination of different forms of orientations. He has cited an example of international students who are residents in the United States. The international students learn English for academic purposes while wishing to be integrated with the people and culture of the country at the same time. This example has clearly shown that integrative and instrumental motivations can mutually exist. In some cases, it is difficult to divide instrumental and integrative motivations.

To conclude, the importance of instrumental motivation is being concerned more in the later studies while the significance of integrative motivation has continued to be emphasized. However, it is important to note that the instrumental motivation has only been regarded as an important factor in second language learning while integrative motivation is continually linked to the success of second language learning. Motivation is a significant contribution to second language learning achievement. Therefore, identifying the types and combinations of motivations is one of the keys to successful second language learning. At the same time, learners should be reminded that there are always other variables which can be unique to each language learner affecting the success of second language learning.


Belmechri, F., & Hymmel, K. (1998). Orientations and motivation in the acquisition of English as a second language among high school students in Quebec City,

Language Learning

Brown, H.D. (2000). Principles of language learning and teaching (4th ed.). Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Dörnyei, Z. (1990). Conceptualizing motivation in foreign language learning. Language Learning

Ehrman, E. (1996) Understanding Second Language Learning Difficulties. London: Sage Publications

Gardner, R. C., & Lambert, W. E. (1959). Motivational variables in second language

acquisition. Canadian Journal of Psychology

Gardner, R.C. (1985). Social psychology and language learning: The role of attitudes

and motivation. London, Ontario: Edward Arnold.

Schmidt, R., Boraie, D., & Kassabgy, O. (1999). Foreign language motivation: Internal structure and external connections. In R. L. Oxford (Ed.), Language learning

motivation: Pathways to the new century. Honolulu, HI: University of

Hawai’i Press.


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