Disclaimer: This is an example of a student written essay.
Click here for sample essays written by our professional writers.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKEssays.com.

Motivation For Language Learning Among Libyan Students English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 4865 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

Reference this

The motivation to learn a foreign or second language is a subject of some considerable interest nowadays. This has not always been the case. In 1956, Wally and Lambert believed that learning another language involved verbal ability and intelligence but notions like motivation, attitudes and anxiety were not considered to be of significance. Opinions have since changed and one might occasionally think that affective variables are the only influences worthy of consideration. Learning a foreign language can be a difficult and lengthy process and I would not be at all surprised to learn that several variables, so far not considered significant, were found to be of importance in second-language acquisition. Hitherto, research has concentrated on individual difference features of the student such as, language anxiety, attitudes and motivation, self-confidence, personality variables (e.g. risk-taking, desire to succeed, empathy and so on), intelligence, field independence, language learning strategies, and language aptitude. However, there are other variables and other classes of variables that could be considered. This essay will focus on motivation, as I believe that many of these other variables are reliant on motivation for their effects to be realized. For example, language-learning strategies are unlikely to be used if the learner is not motivated to learn the second language and a learner will be disinclined to take risks using the second language if he / she has little intention of learning it. Therefore, motivation is crucial, in the same way that language aptitude is, in determining the success or otherwise of learning a foreign language in a classroom setting. Ellis (1985) states that motivated individuals who integrate both linguistic and non-linguistic outcomes of the learning experience will accomplish desirable attitudes and a higher degree of second-language proficiency.

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Essay Writing Service

Recent years have seen an increase in the number of Libyan students coming to the UK to study for postgraduate degrees. A major issue for most of these students is their poor command of English, both verbal and written. This naturally has a negative impact on their ability to integrate into life in England, both on and off campus. An examination of their motivation to learn English may highlight the linguistic challenges they face in England and the process of their adaptation to both their degree study and the new society and culture. Therefore, this essay will first undertake a literature review to look at research carried out into motivation for second-language acquisition. It will then describe and examine adult Libyan students’ instrumental and integrative motivation in learning English as a second language. Secondly, it will introduce a short semi-structured interview with postgraduate Libyan students who have not long been in the UK. The purpose of the interview is to establish whether their goal orientation is mainly instrumental or integrative. Some conclusions will be made before some implications for classroom teaching are drawn.

Literature Review

According to Dornyei (2009), it is necessary to know what motivation is so as to enhance the motivational intensity of students. He defines motivation as “a cluster of factors that energize the behaviour and give it direction.” Alkinson (2000: 123) defines motivation as “the effort that learners put into learning a second language as a result of their needs or desire to learn it.”

According to Gardner and Lambert (1972), there are two types of motivation: integrative motivation and instrumental motivation. Gardner and Lambert (1972) state that integrative motivation occurs when learners are interested in learning about the second language’s culture and want to communicate with speakers of that language and become integrated into that culture: a more interpersonal quality of learning. On the other hand, Gardner (1996) states that instrumental motivation refers to those students who learn a second language in order to gain some kind of advantage be it economic (better paid job) or social (better status). They are thus more practical and self-oriented. Lamp (2004) finds that most Libyan students who study English as a second language are instrumentally rather than integratively orientated.

Dornyei & Ushioda (2009: 53) believe that integrative orientation is an essential source of motivation because it is based firmly in learners’ personalities. “As such it is likely to exert its influence over an extended period and to sustain learning efforts over the time which is necessary to achieve language learning success.” Also, Skehan (1989) suggests that being integratively oriented leads to greater motivation, which in turn helps to sustain the learner throughout the long process of mastering a second language, particularly when that learner only starts learning the new language in high school. Instrumental motivation on the other hand is less effective because it is not rooted in the learners’ personality. It is therefore more susceptible to negative external influences and the learner is less likely to put in the effort required to attain cumulative progress.

According to Lamb (2004), over the last few years, motivation has nevertheless been reconceptualised. He argues that ‘integrative motivation’ is becoming increasingly unimportant in a globalizing world in which English is the medium of communication between speakers of many languages, from many cultures, for many purposes. The desire to ‘integrate’ with the first language community hardly makes sense anymore. Therefore, the debate about the integrative concept has intensified and has taken a new turn. Dornyei & Ushioda (2009), ask whether we can apply the concept of integrative orientation when there is no specific target reference group of speaker. In other words, does it makes sense to talk about integrative attitudes when ownership of English does not necessarily rest with a specific community of speaker, whether American English or British English? Moreover, does the notion of integrative motivation of learning English have any real meaning, given the increasing curricular reframing of English as a universal basic skill to be taught from primary level alongside literacy and numeracy, and given the predicted decline in numbers of English as a foreign language learners by the end of this decade? These questions have led some second-language motivation researchers to rethink the concept of integrative motivation. Yashima (2002: 57), for example, expands the notion of integrativeness to refer to a generalised international outlook or ‘international posture’, which she defines with reference to Japanese learners of English who have an ” interest in foreign or international affairs, willingness to go overseas to stay or work, readiness to interact with intercultural patterns, and openness or a non-ethnocentric attitude toward different culture”.

Dornyei & Ushioda (2009) expand this concept of international posture such that the external reference group moves from being a specific geographic and enthnolinguistic community to being a non-specific global community of English language users. Ushioda (2006) questions whether it is meaningful to conceptualise these points, i.e. is it meaningful to conceptualise the global community as an external reference group or as part of one’s internal representation of oneself as a defacto member of that global community?

This theoretical shift of focus to the internal domain of self and identity by researchers such as those mentioned above makes this a radical rethink of the original integrative concept.

Dornyei and Csizer (2002) speculate that the process of identification theorised to underpin integrativeness might be better explained as an internal process of identification within the persons’ self-concept, rather than identification with an external reference group. Dornyei (2005: 175) developed this idea further by drawing on the psychological theory of ‘possible selves’. According to this theory, possible selves represent individuals’ ideas of what “what they might become, what they would like to become, and what they afraid of becoming”, and so “provide a conceptual link between the self concept and motivation”. Dornyei (2005) also builds on this theory of possible selves to develop a new conceptualisation of second- language motivation, the ‘second language motivational self-system’. Its central concept is the idea of ‘self’, which refers to the representation of the attributes that someone would ideally like to possess (i.e. a representation of personal hopes, aspirations or desires).

In relation to second-language motivation, Breen (2001) argues that second-language aquisition theorists have not developed a comprehensive theory of identity that integrates the language learners and the language-learning context. Breen (2001) uses the term identity to describe how a person understands his/her relationship to the world, how that relationship is constructed across time and space, and how the person understands possibilities for the future. Breen (2001: 45) developed the “motivational concept of ‘investment’ to capture the ‘socially’ and ‘historically’ constructed relationship of the learner to the target language, and their often ambivalent desire to learn and practise it”. When learners are interested in a language, they do so with the understanding that they will acquire a wider range of symbolic and material resources, which will enhance their culture capital, their identity and their desires for the future. Therefore, an investment in the target language is an investment in the learner’s own identity.

Arnold (2002) proposed that in addition to the current research and theories, there is a need to draw on a wider variety of theoretical viewpoints in order to further our understanding of motivation in second-language learning. Of these, the more important ones that are relevant to this essay include the cognitive perspective of learner goal orientation, the theory of goal-setting and attributional theory, all of which will now be briefly discussed.

Firstly, according to Pintrich (1989), the cognitive perspective differentiates two major learner goal orientations: intrinsic and extrinsic. Students demonstrate an extrinsic orientation if their reasons for engaging in a task are to acquire grades, rewards, or approval from others.

Conversely, Arnold (2000) maintains that if the rationale for students engaging in a task is curiosity, challenge, mastery, or learning, then they are considered to be intrinsically oriented. Arnold (2000) also adds that there is much evidence in second-language acquisition literature to support the claim that intrinsic motivation is strongly connected to the outcomes of second-language learning. Harmer (2007) suggests, “even where the original reason for taking up a language course, for example, is extrinsic, the chance of success will be greatly enhanced if the students come to love the learning process”.

According to Philips (2005) most Libyan students are extrinsically oriented. For example, all Libyan schools place a strong emphasis on tests, grades and competitiveness, all of which only serve to promote Libyan students’ extrinsic motivation. The students are only learning the second language to impress their parents and teachers rather than learning it because they love to do so.

As a result, adult students who come to study in the UK have been extrinsically motivated to simply do enough to pass exams and get a well-paid job after graduating.

Secondly, according to Locke & Latham (1994: 55) the theory of goal setting is based on the principle that “much human action is purposeful, because it is directed by conscious goals.” This theory explains why some people carry out tasks better than others: those who are goal oriented perform better and achieve more. Garden (1985) states that there are two important aspects of goals: goal mechanisms and goal attributes. Content and intensity are the most widely studied goal attributes. However, goal specificity and goal difficulty are aspects of content which are most researched. Dornyei (2005) states that commitment is the most commonly studied feature of intensity and this is the degree to which a person is attracted to the goal, considers it significant, is determined to achieve it, and sticks with it in the face of difficulties.

Locke and Latham (1996: 40) propose three direct mechanisms by which goals regulate performance: “Firstly, goals direct activity toward actions which are goal appropriate at the expense of actions that are inappropriate. Secondly, goals adjust expenditure in that individuals regulate their effort according to the complexity level of the goal or task. Thirdly, goals influence the perseverance of action in situations where there are no time limits.”

Finally, Dornyei & Ushioda (2009) define the attributional theory of motivation. This portrays human beings as scientists who are motivated to achieve a causal understanding of the world. These strivings for a causal explanation are supposed to have behavioural implications. In an achievement-related context, the chief sets of causes considered responsible for failure and success are: effort, ability, luck and task characteristics. Weiner (1992) states that these are analysed along two dimensions: stability and lack of control. The stability dimension contrasts ability and task difficulty, both of which are thought to be unchangeable, with effort and luck possibly changing on subsequent attempts to carry out a task. The lack of control aspect contrasts ability and effort (both internal factors) with task difficulty and luck (both external factors). In principle, individuals might attribute causes to any one of these four factors. Don’t know if this is what you mean – also not sure if it’s very clear, especially the bit about dimensions and the following couple of sentences

Motivation for Language Learning among Adult Libyan students in the UK: Instrumental or Integrative?

It has been established that individuals learn a second language in two main ways: they are either instrumentally or integratively motivated. Among Libyan students, it would appear that instrumental motivation is more evident than integrative motivation and that teaching and learning for exams have dominated foreign language teaching in Libya. According to Philips (2005), in Libyan education, English is compulsory. The majority of Libyan language learners do not choose to learn English; consequently, many lack the internal drive for learning English and they have to depend on external driving forces. Philips (2005) adds that because English is compulsory, students see it as a means of improving their social standing. Moreover, the Libyan people think that almost everything can be attained through hard work, even if they take no personal interest in it. So, it is not unusual that Libyan EFL students learn English to qualify for graduate and postgraduate education, to prepare themselves for the best future employment possible and to pass exams; all of which are external factors and which align with several collective social expectations.

Johnson & Krug (1980) believe integrative motivation to be more prevalent than instrumental motivation in the learning process, since without external influencing factors, the student becomes unmotivated to learn. This however is not the case in cross-cultural situations. Johnson & Krug (1980) find that external driving forces, particularly those nurtured and supported by the exam system and curriculum in formal education, continue to motivate the Libyan EFL student.

Many studies have looked at motivation in a Libyan context, and found that instrumental orientation is very common among Libyan EFL students. Kara (1992) maintains that 99% of Libyan students of English are only learning English for reasons of “certificate motivation”. Philips (2005) argues that most Libyan individuals learn English for utilitarian and patriotic reasons, for personal advancement as well as for national modernization and material gains. Libyan students are motivated to learn English because they believe that they will be financially better off in the future.


The aim of this short and semi-structured interview is to prove what has been shown through the research discussed above: namely that adult Libyan students who come to study in the UK exhibit signs of instrumental orientation rather than integrative orientation when it comes to their English learning experiences. This researcher will examine the motivation behind second-language acquisition in an informal setting and will interview postgraduate Libyan students who are undertaking MA and PhD studies in the UK.

Research Questions

Several questions were considered important for the purposes of this research. These were as follows:

What has motivated Libyan students in the UK to learn English?

Do you think it is important to learn English, and why?

What was your reason for learning English in the UK?

What are your attitudes towards British people?

And finally what work you’ll be doing in your country after graduating in the UK?

Participants and Data Collection Procedures

Two postgraduate Libyan students who are studying for degrees in the UK participated in this study. For both students, this was their first time in the UK and their first time in an English speaking country. Both respondents were found through my own social network and were ‘friends of a friend’. See further details in Table (1) below.




Current subject

Duration of study in the UK




MA Medicines

Three years





Four years

Table 1

Data were collected from both students separately and at different times. Both students had already been in the UK for 18 months. Each interview took approximately 30 minutes. Both students gave permission for their answers to be taped during the interviews.


Both respondents believe that English is of great importance to their academic education in the UK. Both had come to study at a postgraduate level in the UK in order to improve their career prospects and benefit financially upon graduating. As discussed before, these reasons show a distinct instrumental orientation in their motivation for learning English.

Both respondents felt a current and urgent need to further improve their four skills – reading, listening, speaking and writing – of English despite their achievements in learning English in Libya before they came to the UK. Their experience of learning English in Libya involved particular training programs and / or formal instruction. This meant that they excelled at passing English exams rather than being able to converse in a practical way with English-speaking people. Having recognised that they might have some problems when they got to the UK, both respondents spent a year improving their knowledge of English before applying for their postgraduate courses. They also did this to assist them in their actual postgraduate work as both felt that they needed additional language skills in order to cope with their studies. Mohammed said “oral skills are important to me because they help me to communicate with people from different parts of the world and also help me in my academic degree. With good oral skills I can cope more easily with academic activities such as communication or discussions with my supervisor, understanding seminars and talking to other students about their studies”. Laila however, said “(English) reading and writing skills are particularly significant when it comes to writing my thesis.”

Find Out How UKEssays.com Can Help You!

Our academic experts are ready and waiting to assist with any writing project you may have. From simple essay plans, through to full dissertations, you can guarantee we have a service perfectly matched to your needs.

View our services

It was obvious that both respondents tended to be more preoccupied with an instrumental orientation. Kara (1992) found that “Libya’s motivation for learning English is very job-oriented and certainly very pragmatic”. Libyans learn English because learning English provides them with a sense of achievement and helps them secure better-paid jobs. For Mohammed, the practical aspects of the English language seemed to far outweigh the integrative dimension. He said “I’ll need English for my future career because I desire to work in the UK after graduating. My area of study is popular with the medical field in many countries, particularly in the UK. Working in the UK will be more lucrative for me than working in Libya”. However, he added that ” if I were to find a job as a doctor and live in the UK, maybe I will have intrinsic goal orientations when it comes to learning English then because then I will want to be able to communicate with English people and have a deeper understanding of their community and culture so that I can integrate and adjust to the society.”

The second interviewee, Laila said “Studying English is essential to me since without it, an individual cannot be successful in any respected field”, and also “for me, studying English can be significant because if I am skilled in English, others will respect me more”. In addition, she said, “In my country Libya, people who get a good degree in an English speaking country find it easier to find a well-paid job because my country lacks qualified English teachers in higher education.” She also added “I am interested in using the Internet as a communication tool to help me learn about people from different countries. It is also useful for finding information and learning materials in English.”

Both respondents had negative attitudes towards British people that they had met. They felt that British people were arrogant, impatient and prejudiced. This could be considered further evidence of instrumental orientation. According to Dornyei & Ushioda (2009), “negative attitudes towards the target language community, may lead to a lack of interest in interacting with the people of the target language”. Mohammed had experience of being treated rudely and impatiently by an English person when he had asked for directions. Having had this experience, he was less willing to interact with English people in case it happened again.

Laila said “my English landlord treated me less favourably in the allocation of rooms than English tenants who shared the same house.” This is a sad example of a negative experience as a result of Laila’s aspiration towards integrative motivation. Laila felt that her landlord was prejudiced against individuals from developing countries. She too has had negative experiences when trying to interact with ordinary British people in the street. Laila asked a woman for some directions to the coach station and this woman not only ignored the question but also walked quickly away. As a result, Laila has felt frustrated by some British people who she found to be very arrogant and would have preferred to avoid.

Both respondents, despite their negative attitudes toward English people, felt that they were more successful in learning English in the UK than at home. Johnson & Krug (1980) suggest that people who rated foreign people negatively were more successful than those who rated them positively and that the expression of negative feeling towards them only spurred them on to overcome and manipulate the people of the target language.

Finally, both respondents were able to agree that their motivational goals with regard to learning English were instrumental. Both said that they hoped to get better-paid jobs after graduating and English skills were part of this overall plan.

In summary, the interview process has shown that both Libyans were highly motivated to learn English and that they had a higher degree of instrumental motivation than integrative motivation.

According to Pintrich (1989) and from his cognitive perspective, the data would indicate that both respondents exhibited extrinsic goal orientations. Both believed that learning English would assist them in their postgraduate studies, enhance their career prospects, improve their English interactions and communications and assist them in integrating into British communities. In other words, learning English was seen to improve their quality of life in the UK.


Motivation is one of the most significant factors influencing learners’ second-language proficiency and achievement. Libyan students show signs of being instrumentally motivated rather than integratively motivated. In order to illustrate this, an interview was set up to investigate motivation to learn English among Libyan postgraduate students. Data gathered during the interviews supported the theory that they had been motivated to learn out of the belief in the instrumental or extrinsic value of English, primarily for their studies and future career prospects. Some research showed that current English teaching methods in Libya are targeted towards achieving good grades rather than promoting proficiency. Whilst many Libyan students do well in the English exams in Libya, their ability to use English in an English-speaking environment on a day-to-day basis remains limited. It has been shown that instrumentally motivated EFL students in Libya learn English to increase their employment prospects, increase their salary expectations and for social advancement. Instrumental motivation is maintained through the exam system and its attendant teaching environment.

Classroom implications

According to Dornyei and Csizer (2001), teachers play an important role in maximizing students’ motivation to learn a second language in the classroom. To this end, there are some teaching and learning strategies, which could be employed in the English-learning classroom.

Firstly, Dornyei and Csizer (2001) suggest that teachers should dispense with the traditional teacher-centered teaching methods and instead encourage students to use their initiative. English could be introduced using multi-media examples such as music, film, TV and literature. Once their interest is induced, students will be motivated to take part in classroom activities and so attain the goal of language learning. Teachers need to take on many roles: cooperator, organizer, informant, initiator, guide, participant and advisor. A learner-centered class is a successful class with learners playing the dominant role. Learner-centered dynamic classrooms can help learners to make progress and encourage them to practise the second language.

Secondly, Dornyei (2001) states that teachers should create a relaxed atmosphere in the classroom because a tense atmosphere can cause anxiety amongst learners and this hinders their motivation and effectiveness in a foreign language. Additionally, teachers should choose teaching materials that are appropriate for the learners and that create a desire for learning. Authentic and interesting teaching materials enable learners to improve their verbal and oral communication skills in real-life situations.

Thirdly, Dornyei (2001) adds that teachers should increase self-confidence among students of English through encouragement rather than scolding or criticising.

Finally, Dornyei and Csizer (1998) assert that a teacher can increase students’ natural curiosity towards the English community and its culture by discussing things like geography, history, lifestyle, political matters, day-to-day living and using written, audio and visual information. Drawing upon the experience of students who have visited English-speaking countries is also a clever way to introduce interesting information. Teachers should help students to realize that they are not just learning English to pass exams. Students should look upon the exercise as a means of learning about other cultures, people and societies. Teachers of English should cultivate positive attitudes among their students towards English speaking people and cultures, thereby promoting integrative motivation for learning English.

Check the spellings of the researchers’ names you quote – there were several inconsistencies which I’ve corrected (after checking in google) but you might like to check that they are indeed spelled correctly.


Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on UKEssays.com then please: