English Studying Motivation and Difficulties Among EFL Learners

English Learning motivation

For the learners of English as a Foreign Language (EFL), motivation is a fundamental element of the process, if at all they are to have outstanding achievement in English learning. Motivation is also a vital component of the process when EFL learners are taking part in the language learning activity. Moreover, the learning motivation of EFL learners will also be affected by their attitude towards English culture, nationality, and language use preferences (Lin, 1999; Clément & Dörnyei, 1994).

Types of Language Learning Motivations

Motivation is the term used for the reason behind an individual’s behavior. There are two different kinds of motivation: intrinsic motivation, and extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation refers to that motivation due to forces outside an individual. Examples include money or punishment (Sue, 2004). On the other hand, intrinsic motivation is defined as that motivation that is driven by an individual’s interest to achieve a certain goal. An intrinsically motivated individual may end up focusing on a particular thing because of a personal desire. Extrinsic motivation only happens when the individual wants to gain that extra money or to avoid punishment (Deci & Ryan, 1985).

Many research studies have endeavored to investigate the relationship between learners’ intrinsic motivations and high educational achievements or enjoyments (Garderner and Lambert, 1972; Susan, 1981). Furthermore, many researchers have investigated a number of language learning motivation models (Gardner, 1981; Clément, Dörnyei, 1994). According to Zhang (1996), learning motivation is intrinsic psychological progress that affects students during language learning activities. This kind of motivation could help language learners to achieve teachers’ teaching targets (Kuo,2001). Concerning second language learning, motivation is similar to any other form of learning. Gardner and Symthe (1981) define English learning motivation as a learner’s preference to deal with a particular target to achieve the desired goal.

In a study conducted by Gardner and Lambert (1972), the researchers reveal two kinds of language learning motivation: integrative motivation, and instrumental motivation. Integrative motivation is mainly due to a personal desire to learn more things about the second language and communicate with different English-speaking people. On the other hand, integrative motivation involves an individual trying to earn some benefits during language learning; for example, passing an examination, receiving higher scores, or getting a proper job. According to Yang (2003), a language learner who concentrates on integrative motivation would end up achieving a better learning outcome in comparison with one who has embraced instrumental motivation.

The causes of English-speaking difficulties among EFL learners

EFL learners always encounter difficulties in communicating in English because they are afraid or shy to speak to people. For example, a learner with speaking difficulty may try to avoid oral communication when in the company of others. When an individual is listening to the oral messages of others, it becomes easier for them to face the listening and speaking difficulties and as a result, they find it hard to express their ideas or thoughts coherently. Many of the difficulties of EFL learners are attributed to their inability to interpret the messages of others, as well as the inability to understand and express their opinions.

English speaking learning anxiety and difficulties

In his research, Chen (2004), contends that the main cause of a learner’s language learning anxiety could be learning difficulty. Many researchers have found out that the main reason a learner may have language learning difficulty is due to language learning anxiety (Ganschow & Sparky, 1991; Sparks & Ganschow, 1996). Wen and Clement (2003) have investigated why many Chinese students are afraid to speak in English, and the research shows that these Chinese students tend to have a conservative personality. In addition, the students also try to avoid some sensitive issues, such as politics and values. Learners tend to care more about what people think of them; thus, they are afraid to make language errors. In addition, the learning environment always contains a large group of classmates. Due to these reasons, they lose the confidence to practice their English speaking from time to time (Wen and Clement, 2003:29).

The relationship of Personality, English learning motivation, and English-speaking learning difficulty

Many researchers contend that learning motivation is one of the most important factors for successful language learning (Dörnyei, 1994; Dörnyei, 2003; Oxford & Shearin, 1994). According to a study by Dörnyei (1997), many students are not interested in learning English. To them, English is just one of the many courses that they have to take to pass the examination. Some investigations have shown that motivation could affect the frequency of a student’s learning strategy usage, in addition to affecting their learning achievement directly (Oxford & Shearin, 1994). The higher the learner’s motivation, the lower the language learning difficulty faced (Sue, 2004). This is one of the factors to students’ low motivation to learn. Teaching materials and textbooks also exert influence on the achievement of foreign language learning.

Approaches teachers used in English speaking classes

Some of the approaches used by EFL teachers include error correction techniques (cutting, re-phrasing the question, questioning, explaining a keyword, questioning, providing your answer, rephrasing the question when the student responds incorrectly, and involving other students). Another approach that teachers employ is cooperation to organize language-speaking activities.

Factors influencing ESL learners’ achievement in English speaking

There is evidence that individual differences such as age, personality, and assessment will influence the achievement of EFL learners (Richardson, 1995; Ramsden, 1997; Sierra 2007). Owing to cultural differences, when Asian EFL learners gather in the classroom, they would usually communicate with each other in Chinese or their languages (Cheng, 1999; Young 1990). Furthermore, Sue (2004) states that Asian EFL learners do not have much chance to speak English since they are often afraid to make mistakes or errors in the presence of their classmates. Even when they have already achieved a standard level of speaking English, many would still not speak in the classroom (Wen & Clement, 2003). Asian EFL learners, find it quite difficult to speak in English. Many of them will even give up trying because of such negative learning attitudes as “Forget about it” (Kuo, 2001). Noels (2001) has found that in addition to language difficulties and shyness, EFL learners may also find it hard to speak in English when they are surrounded by an audience of EFL learners. They fear that this would affect their ability to speak in English.