Monday, November 2, 2009

A Bit On Language Learning Motivation

OK, I know this is kind of off topic. But not that much.

I'm working on my thesis and I've just realized how funny this whole thing is. I mean my topic is Language Learning Motivation -- or really, one aspect of it. And suddenly it struck me that I can actually test theory in my own life.

Anyone interested in this type of motivation can soon find out that it all started with Gardner and his colleagues in Canada, who basically said that one's learning a language in order to become part of the group speaking it. And the more you like the group the more effort you put into it, so the more proficient you'll be. Well, I bet it worked in Canada, especially at that less globalized time.

But recently I've been hearing comments from learners such as the wish to learn a language (for instance English) in order to be able to communicate with others from all over the world. Now this isn't really about losing one's cultural and national identity and integrating into the group of native speakers!

I believe other factors can also be very powerful. The prospects of a promotion can easily motivate someone to learn a language to a certain extent, or pass an exam. Kids (and not only kids...) learn in order to please others. These factors are present in the lives of all. But I find it intriguing why the concept of the "world citizen" has been so underresearched.

So I've taken up this topic and have proposed to investigate the Hungarian prospects. I'm still in the data collection period but while questionnaires are flowing in (well... rather trickling...) I'm doing some reading.

I was actually when I realized how close this topic actually was. Amazing. I've been learning French since the age of 14. First at highschool -- for the obvious reasons -- then at various language schools motivated by various goals. Later I went to France for 4 moths and there I had other reasons and a very complex attitude to influence my learning (even if you're not taking classes you never really stop learning in one way or another if you're motivated). And well, now I'm here in Geneva and the situation reminds me a lot of my own readings.

So who's right? Why am I learning now?

I guess I'll go with Dornyei and his colleagues (not literally, that I can't however much I'd love to). They claim that motivation is part of your self image. What really drives you to do something is the image of the person you want to be or who others want you to be. And it's constantly changing. Those outside factors form some reflections in you and this is actually what motivates you.

I've had pretty different ideal selves in my life, which is reflected in the extent of my motivation and what I attributed it to. Also, this has had a huge impact on my achievements. I'm just really (REALLY) curious if Gardner and so many researchers ever since have been right. Does integrative motivation overrule everything?

The other really interesting question is where am I integrating into? In a city where half the population is of foreign origin (google for numbers but they'll be shockig), who do I want to be like? Switzerland is prone to dualisms. If you live in Lausanne you're definitely not like Genevans. French Swiss consider themselves way different from German Swiss (do not ever mix up the two! not even in jokes!). So where do I integrate?

At the moment I'd say I'd like to become a Genevan of vague Hungarian roots. I want to mix and match. I want to be one of the group, definitely. I don't want to be collared "a foreigner". On the other hand, how do you define Genevans? Where are they from? France? China? Libanon? Hungary?

I've always thought of Geneva as the heart of the Switzerland I've fallen in love with. The sophisticated multicultural country where people work hard, eat well, smile a lot and go skiing or hiking at weekends. And speak many languages and cherish traditions but don't shun new ideas.

I've always thought of this Switzerland as the feeling and pulsing heart of the world, where all cultures meet and being Swiss just cannot be defined as being born to one bart of the world.

So I guess Swiss are "world citizens". Which means I also want to be one...

So Gardner was right. In part. He just didn't know what a small world we all live in.

1 comment:

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