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Review of  International Perspectives on Motivation

Reviewer: Andrea Eniko Lypka
Book Title: International Perspectives on Motivation
Book Author: Ema Ushioda
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 26.2651

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Review's Editors: Malgorzata Cavar and Sara Couture


Contemporary Second Language Acquisition (SLA) research has highlighted the importance of language learner’s motivation and identity (Dörnyei, 2009; Lam, 2000; Lamb, 2007; 2012; 2013). However, few studies have explored the complex and dynamic interaction between these concepts in various local and global contexts. Due to globalization, English has become an international language tied to socio-cultural, academic, economic, educational, technological, and/or political interests. The volume “International Perspectives on Motivation” edited by Ushioda presents research, literature reviews, and reflective analyses by researcher-practitioners on motivational factors for English language learning and teaching in diverse learning settings and geographic regions. The topics covered include the issues of second language (L2) motivation, cultural identity, intercultural learning, self-esteem, self-authenticity, academic motivation, adaptation, learner autonomy, and digital technologies. Each chapter was inspired by Dörnyei’s L2 Motivational Self System, complexity theory (Dörnyei and Ushioda, 2009), person-in-context relational view (Ushioda, 2009), self-determination (Deci and Ryan, 1985), goal-orientation (Ames, 1992), identity theories (Norton, 2000), and the concept of affinity spaces (Gee, 2005).

While the synergy between socio-psychological factors, motivation and learner development in L2 has been studied and theorized since the 1950’s (for example, Gardner and Lambert, 1972), the capstone of contemporary research inquiry on motivation and SLA is Dörnyei’s L2 Motivational Self System (2009). In the context of self, Dörnyei’s L2 Motivational Self System captures the dynamic interactions between individual learner differences and learning environments. The three components of this theory are the ideal L2 self, ought-to L2 self, and L2 learning experience (Dörnyei, 2009). Among the three components, the ideal L2 self can be a powerful motivator in SLA because when English language learners (ELLs) internalize learning ideals, they try to reduce the dissonance between their ideal selves and their current states. The ought-to self encapsulates societal norms and expectations for a particular position or behavior, and it is connected prevalently to instrumental goals (Dörnyei, 2009). The L2 learning experience is related to language learners’ attitudes toward formal and informal learning environment and curriculum.

Even though the concept of an L2 self-system is “still in its theoretical infancy” (Ryan, 2009, p. 121), the scholars in this volume attempt to expand on motivation theories by discussing pedagogical and theoretical implications of motivation, identity, and English as a Foreign Language (EFL) and English as a Second Language (ESL) teaching in various sociolinguistic contexts. Findings of these studies suggest that language learning policies and global English play a key role in learning English as an ESL/EFL.

The 13 chapters included in this book conceptualize the relationship between motivation and identity as fluid and dynamic. In the book, different learning settings are explored, such as ESL or EFL, bilingual immersion education, content-based language learning, academic learning in English, K-12, community college, and university. Findings of these studies align with these theoretical frameworks, calling for the examination of motivation, identity, and language acquisition as both contextualized in English-speaking global community as well as in the local education, language policies, and curricula.

In the opening chapter, Ushioda provides an overview of major trends in theory and research on motivation and SLA. Ushioda calls for research that expands on simplistic EFL/ESL and integrative/instrumental motivation binaries and examines language learning motivation as embedded in the local sociocultural and global English settings. The collection includes six sections: pedagogical practices (Lamb and Budiyanto in chapter two and Taylor in chapter three), preference for English-medium education (Kuchah in chapter four and Banegas in chapter five), motivation toward integrated content and language (Malcolm in chapter six and Woodrow in chapter seven), English-mediated popular culture and technology (Henry in chapter eight and Stockwell in chapter nine), adult learners’ ideal L2 self (Gao in chapter ten and Igoudin in chapter eleven), and in-service teacher views on English language teaching research (Aboshiba in chapter twelve). In chapter 13, Ushioda calls for the integration of research in classroom practices to further examination of teacher skills with well-defined methodology.

In various chapters, researcher-practitioners, including Lamb and Budiyanto reflect on their research and teaching experiences in various language learning environments, such as a state EFL school in rural Indonesia. With regard to motivational patterns, in chapter two, the authors suggest that teaching practices, such as providing opportunities for reflective writing, motivating learners to communicate with a guest speaker, engaging learners in conversations about controversial topics, translating learners’ prayers or songs into English, encouraging students to bring their culture into the classroom, stimulate them emotionally and cognitively, and enhance their target language skills. According to Lamb and Budiyanto, learners may become more invested in learning the language while they are also becoming aware of their own culture.

In a similar vein, Taylor’s study conceptualizes L2 motivation and classroom practices in an Eastern European EFL setting. In the third chapter, she reports on qualitative findings of two mixed-methods studies she conducted on teenagers’ English learning motivations in post-communist era Romania. The first one in particular focuses on student-teacher motivation differences, while the second one on student understanding of English teaching methodology and assessment. Taylor found that student motivation was influenced by the teacher’s engagement with the content and students, teaching style, and assessment type. While students voiced their need for constructivist and student-centered learning and resisted traditional teaching practices, they reported intrinsic motivations toward interacting with the target language outside the class through social media and entertainment.

Similarly, studies included in the second section also explore learner perceptions of motivational factors and challenges they may have in studying English, but in bilingual education. In chapter four, Kuchah comments on Francophone young learner's motivational factors for opting for English-medium education at an immersion bilingual school in Cameroon. Findings of this study suggest learners’ socio-affective relationship with their English teachers might have encouraged these learners and their parents to choose English-medium education over French education. Motivational factors for opting for English-medium education included teacher’s investment in relationship building with learner’s home and school, pedagogic practices, and learner’s attitudes.

Chapter five by Banegas provides an overview of the challenges of English Language Teaching (ELT) in Argentina. The author pointed out the widening knowledge gap of learners in secondary schools and learners who attend both mainstream and private language schools. Findings of the collaborative action-research study grounded in his classroom experiences using content and language integrated learning approach (CLIL) suggest that through CLIL teachers can narrow the gap between emergent language learners and learners familiar with the target language and create positive attitudes to EFL learning and teaching. Furthermore, using student-teacher collaboration and the CLIL-based approach, teachers can enrich their students’ language skills by designing student-driven content that is emotionally and cognitively challenging to their students and incorporating the local culture in multimedia stories.

The synergy between student motivation toward integrated language and content and adaptation to academia are explored in the third section. In chapter six, Malcolm reports on Arabic-speaking medical students’ challenges in their self-esteem and motivation during their first or second year studies in English for academic purposes. Students identified the acquiring of science and technology-related content in the target language, high family expectations, and difficulties with adaptation to college were detrimental to their learning experiences. Students with a more robust ideal L2 self, which included a vivid image of themselves as successful doctors, influenced by family expectations, previous successful learning experiences, and teacher encouragement, were able to negotiate their identities and cope with challenges in the new learning context.

In chapter seven, Woodrow also finds that a variety of factors, including values, self-regulation, parental support, perceived difficulty, impersonal nature of courses, education differences in the host country, and other factors shape the motivational profiles of a cohort of Chinese international students in a university-affiliated foundation college in Australia. Within the goal-orientation theoretical framework (Ames, 1992), Woodrow documents international undergraduates’ transition from a foundation college to university by examining changes in these learners’ L2 motivation and motivation to study English for Academic purposes. Findings from interviews conducted with participants suggest a continual decrease in these students’ motivation and a shift from perceived extrinsic to intrinsic motivation and then to performance approach goal orientations during their first year of studies. Factors detrimental to students’ learning included perceived inadequate English proficiency and a difficult transition period to college. In order to ease international students’ transition to college, universities should align pre-sessional course grading with the university grading and provide scaffolding and ongoing support, such as peer mentoring.

Studies included in the fourth section provide an overview of technologies, including digital games and mobile applications in various language learning environments. Since learners interact on these platforms, it is important to explore the educational potential of technologies in language learning. Chapter eight and nine focus on motivation and technology, suggesting that games and mobile-based environments provide a dynamic and fluid space for scaffolding, problem solving, and skill specializations in the target language. In chapter eight, Henry examines self-authenticity and motivation discrepancies in informal and formal learning contexts in Sweden. Drawing from the concepts of authenticity (Vannini and Burgess, 2009), affinity spaces (Gee, 2005), and culturally responsive pedagogy (Gay, 2000; Moje and Hinchman, 2004), Henry suggests that the aesthetically pleasing, creative online digital gaming environments – where text, still images, video, and audio coexist – offer users a space for creativity, discovery, knowledge co-construction, and self-expression in the target language, in contrast to the restricted school environments. However, digital games can be integrated to other culturally relevant authentic materials to empower students by cultivating their voice, cultural integrity, individual abilities, in addition to enhancing their motivation for EFL learning in school.

Stockwell synthesizes research from studies on language learning motivation and emerging technologies, including communication, social, and mobile learning from both learner and teacher perspectives. Major drawbacks of using technology (such as mobile applications, tablet computers, laptops, blogs, Wikis, Facebook, and virtual worlds, such as Second Life) for language learning was that technology was predominantly used in unsupervised conditions, learners lacked training, technology assistance, and/or sufficient language proficiency, and some of the language learning tasks did not consider constraints of the mobile devices (such as small keypads). This literature review reveals the following: learner attitudes are influenced by existing technology support, motivation, and other contextual factors; learners might not transfer learned skills to actual learning contexts; and, when teachers implement technologies in classrooms, they should consider affordances, usability, as well as individual and collective preferences.

The fifth section includes studies by Gao and Igoudin on influences of contextual factors, specifically supportive communities, on adult learner autonomy and ideal self in ESL and EFL contexts. In chapter ten, Gao reports findings of two studies he conducted on autonomous language learners in China. His findings are in line with research that suggests learners with stronger ideal L2 self-images are more strongly motivated and learners with higher expectations and more vivid ideal L2 images are more likely to be autonomous (Lamb, 2007). In the first study, a physically disabled adult language learner acquired linguistic competence by creating and engaging in her community of English learners and by investing in her vision of herself as a competent English speaker and regarding translation as her meaningful contribution to the society. In a similar vein, language learners in Gao’s second study were able to acquire English and develop a positive image of themselves as English speakers by legitimizing themselves as language learners in an English club.

In chapter ten, Igoudin explores the relationship between social identity and language learning motivation of adult immigrant language learners in advanced level ESL courses in community college contextualized in the ELT policies and programs in California and current research on language learning motivation in adult education. Using a mixed methods approach, his study found that students were foremost driven by integrative motivation to learn English because of their desire for inclusion in the target culture and community. Igoudin provides pedagogical interventions for engaging adult immigrant language learners in ESL courses in community college, such as promoting core values based on respect, fairness, and responsibility, building a relationship with students, and encouraging learner autonomy through self-assessment.

The final section by Aboshiba reports on experienced native-speaker EFL teacher perceptions on literature on English language teaching. Findings of this study suggests that in-service teacher participants did not question the notion of “native speaker teacher” in scholarly works, and they resisted reading academic works about profession, reporting that this literature was often too abstract, theoretical and detached from their practice. Aboshiba calls for bridging the gap between researchers and practitioners by incorporating teacher reflection on research literature and initiating collaborative research projects between teachers and research to investigate teacher perceptions and practices and support empowerment.


This volume is unique in that it is a collection of multicultural, interdisciplinary studies using qualitative (Malcolm, Aboshiba) and mixed methods (Woodrow, Taylor, Gao). The mixed methods approach and the longitudinal research design applied in some of these studies offer a deeper examination and understanding of L2 motivation changes as related to English language learning worldwide, as studies on motivation and language acquisition are predominantly survey based. Another strength of this edited volume is the extensive data collection period employed in some of the studies; the authors present and analyze data from interviews and class observation collected between one to two years.

These chapters provide detailed historical background on cultural, educational and linguistic contexts in each country, suggesting a link between English language and educational practices, policies, and ideologies in the host country. These studies contextualize English language education by providing historical background on education and linguistic context. For example, after providing a historical overview on Cameroon’s colonial past and the linguistic and political controversy on French and English-medium education, Kuchah explores the influence of English/Anglophone teachers on Francophone children to pursue English-medium studies.

In line with socio-constructivist framework, these studies challenge the linear views on learning, contest monolingual ideologies, traditional, assessment-based, linear views on language learning and teaching, suggesting that language learning and teaching are dynamic, and as such they need to be studied within both the global and local educational, sociocultural, economic, political, and linguistic contexts.

Even though some studies are loosely connected to SLA theories and based on thoughtful, although not necessarily methodologically rigorous analyses, this volume adds to our understanding of motivational factors in English language learning by offering insightful ideas about the integration of these factors in EFL/ESL contexts. The authors in this volume have successfully combined practical pedagogical suggestions with literature on SLA and motivation to create a volume that effectively takes a step forward in bridging the gap between research and pedagogy on motivation and language learning in EFL and ESL environments.

The chapters link research on motivation and SLA to the language classroom, suggesting that local and contextualized teaching practices have international resonance. Each study furthers the inquiry on language learning and motivation in the engagement priorities and further readings sections. These sections provide a rich set of resources on motivation and language acquisition applicable in various language learning contexts for graduate students, practitioners, researchers, and policy makers. Even though these chapters center on ESL and EFL and motivation in global context, practitioners working with other languages could benefit from the findings and pedagogical implications too.


Ames, C. (1992). Classrooms: Goals, structures, and student motivation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 84(3), 261-271. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.84.3.261.

Deci, E. L., and Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.

Dörnyei, Z. (2005). The Psychology of the Language Learner. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Dörnyei, Z. (2009). The L2 Motivational Self System. In Z. Dörnyei, and E. Ushioda (Eds.), Motivation, Language Identity and the L2 Self (pp. 9-42). Bristol, Buffalo, Toronto: Multilingual Matters.

Dörnyei, Z. (2009). Individual differences: Interplay of learner characteristics and learning
environment. Language Learning, 59(1), 230-248. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9922.2009.00542.x

Gardner, R.C. and Lambert,W.E. (1972). Attitudes and Motivation in Second-language Learning. Rowley, MA: Newbury House.

Gay, G. (2000). Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Gee, J. (2005). Affinity spaces: from ‘Age of Mythology’ to today’s schools. In D. Barton and K. Tusting (eds), Beyond Communities of Practice: Language, Power and Social Context (pp. 214-232). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Lamb, M. (2007). The impact of school on EFL learning motivation: An Indonesian case study.
TESOL Quarterly, 41(4), 757-780. doi: 10.1002/j.1545-7249.2007.tb00102.x

Lamb, M. (2012). A self system perspective on young adolescents' motivation to learn English in
urban and rural settings. Language Learning, 62(4), 997-1023. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9922.2012.00719.x

Lamb, M. (2013). ‘Your mum and dad can't teach you!’: constraints on agency among rural learners of English in the developing world. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, (ahead-of-print), 1-16. doi:10.1080/01434632.2012.697467

Moje, E., and Hinchman, K. (2004). Culturally responsive practices for youth literacy learning. In T. L. Jetton and J. A. Dole (eds), Adolescent Literacy Research and Practice (pp. 321-350). New York, NY: Guilford.

Ryan, S. (2009). Self and Identity in L2 Motivation in Japan: The Ideal L2 Self and Japanese Learners of English. In Z. Dörnyei, and. E. Ushioda (Eds.), Motivation, Language Identity and the L2 Self (pp.120-143). Bristol, Buffalo, Toronto: Multilingual Matters.

Ushioda, E. (2013). Motivation matters in mobile language learning: A brief commentary. Language Learning andTechnology, 17(3), 1–5. Retrieved from

Ushioda, E. (2009). A person-in-context relational view of emergent motivation, self and identity. In Z. Dörnyei and E. Ushioda (eds), Motivation, Language Identity and the L2 Self (pp. 215-228). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Ushioda, E. (2011). Language learning motivation, self and identity: current theoretical perspectives. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 24(3), 199-210.doi:10.1080/09588221.2010.538701

Norton, B. (2000). Identity and language learning: Gender, ethnicity and educational change. Harlow, UK: Pearson Education/Longman.

Vannini, P., and Burgess, S. (2009). Authenticity as motivation and aesthetic experience. In P. Vannini and J.P. Williams (eds), Authenticity in Culture, Self, and Society (pp. 103-120). Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
Andrea Lypka is a third year PhD student in the SLA/IT program at the University of South Florida and an ESOL instructor. Her research interests include teacher identity, multimodality and individual learning differences.

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