Role Of Motivation In Learning A Second Language For Intercultural Competence Development


Motivation has undoubtedly been accepted by researchers and teachers as a powerful tool in the mastery of the learning of second languages (L2). A variety of psychological and sociological theories propose sources for motivational needs, including both internal factors (growth and personal development) and external factors (operant conditioning and rewards). For simplification, motivation is separated into four types: intrinsic, integrative, extrinsic, and instrumental. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation refer to the internal/external reasons and impetus for doing something. Intrinsic motivation, for example, gives no reward for doing an action except for the sole personal satisfaction of doing said action at all. Conversely, integrative and instrumental motivation types refer to practical reasons for doing something, for example, learning a language in order to get a promotion at work or in order to integrate into a new culture. The present research sought to examine motivation type in students from Kazan National Research Technological University in Kazan, Russia. Results found that most students were instrumentally-motivated, followed by intrinsic, integrative, and lastly extrinsic. Other results demonstrated that L2 proficient students operated under intrinsic and integrative motivation styles. The research inspired a number of activities with native speakers in the classroom, including the development of a seminar series program, aimed at providing real practical techniques and applying language skills to professional activities. Both the research and seminar series promote intercultural competence, through enlarging language abilities of the students as well as building skills in intercultural communication, self-examination, understanding cultural peculiarities and developing certain behavioral styles.

Keywords: Second language learningintrinsic and extrinsic motivationinstrumental and integrative motivationlanguage skillsinternational exchange/research programs


With increasing pressures of globalization, more and more people are choosing to learn a second language for personal or work-related purposes. The emergence of online sites such as Rosetta Stone, Duolinguo and Lingvaleo have helped to make language learning accessible to anyone with a computer or a smartphone. However, while many may sign up for such services, few realize the systematic work necessary in order to master languages. Studies have shown that a number of factors contribute to successful second language (L2) learning, including: mood, personality type, aptitude, motivation, anxiety, cognitive style, self-regulation, and communicative ability (Dörnyei, 1998, 2005). Undisputedly, the most regularly cited aspect for successful L2 learning is motivation, which is defined as a process that starts with a need and leads to a change in behavior. Research suggests that if a student has a strong motivation to learn something, he/she will improve at a faster rate than someone with a lower motivation. In this way, motivation is the single most important factor in the successful mastery of a second language, easily overshadowing talent and natural ability (Masgoret, and Gardner, 2003).

The study of motivation as an integral factor in L2 learning has been affected by diverse psychological theories, which propose specific sources of motivational need. For example, the behavioral view asserts the importance of extrinsic factors (operant conditioning, rewards, punishments); the cognitive view emphasizes intrinsic factors (self-perception and internal satisfaction); the humanistic view elates physiological needs (hunger, thirst, safety); and the self-determination view argues an intrinsic evolutionary human behavior that yearns for growth and development (generally and language-wise) (Anjomshoa & Sadighi, 2015). Additionally, the concept of motivation in L2 learning can be separated into four categories for further clarification: intrinsic, extrinsic, instrumental, and integrative. Intrinsic and integrative types of motivation describe individuals who learn a language for themselves. More precisely, an intrinsically-motivated learner desires to learn a language because they find internal fulfillment in the activity, and a learner with an integrative motivation desires to learn a language in order to integrate himself into a new culture and new society. Alternatively, extrinsic and instrumental types of motivation describe those who learn a language to satisfy the needs of others. An extrinsically-motivated learner will study a language because they expect an external reward, and an instrumentally-motivated learner will study a language for a specific purpose, often career-related (Deci, & Ryan, 1985).

Problem Statement

As mentioned in the introduction, there is the dependency of the language aptitude on motivation. Even individuals with remarkable language abilities cannot reach high achievements as long as they lack sufficient motivation. Since students are motivated either by internal or external factors in mastering a second language, the role of the language instructor is to discover the types of motivation in which students work best. Once a teacher understands why students want to learn a second language, they can tailor the class to meet the students’ needs. If students enjoy the class, believe they benefit from it, and see themselves closer to reaching their goals, then they will want to learn. When students are actively participating and collaborating together, they are motivated to learn because they enjoy learning. This is an integral part of creating an optimal learning environment. The principal basement of bringing in motivation-conscious teaching approach in the classroom letting the instructor implement the indicated above task are for intructors:

- to be a role model (show personal example),

- to develop linguistic abilities of the learners,

- to select the topics for the class depending on students’ interests,

- to broaden the students’ awareness on certain topics;

- to provide the tools necessary for further self-development;

- to make tasks goal-oriented,

- to create a comfortable atmosphere of communication and interaction,

- to familiarize the students with second language cultures.

That kind of intervention in the motivation cultivating process by the teacher results in the formation of theoretical and practical points of view on certain questions. This process becomes more efficient under the supervision of a native speaker, as students become fully integrated into the intercultural learning environment, and plunge into mastering the second language. Thus, special teaching methods in motivating learners depending on the types of motivation should be central for effective teaching.

Research Questions

The research is based on several theoretical constructs that define motivation as a process beginning with a need, and leading to a change in behavior. It has been recently stated by a number of theorists, that behavior can be determined by a number of factors: the stimuli, reinforcement, beliefs, thoughts, values, volition and even emotions. In present studies, researchers sought to determine the types of motivation that led students to the decision to learn English. The primary question asked were: the type of motivation involved as the behavioral determinator, and what determined the enhancement of students’ abilities and achievements in mastering the second language?

The present study was conducted on 41 male and female students (ages 18-22) from Kazan National Research Technological University, located in Kazan, Russia. All students had native languages of either Russian or Tatar. Research questions centered around internal and external motivations for learning to determine the type of motivation underlying students’ behavior. Sample questions included: “I try to succeed in English class because I want to impress my parents or friends”, “I study English because it helps me to understand the culture of English-speaking countries”, “My parents want me to learn English”, “Studying English is important to me because I think it will help me to get a good job”, “I plan to get my Masters’ degree abroad”. With each question, students were asked to rate whether they strongly agreed, agreed, disagreed, or strongly disagreed with the statements. Other research questions examined the level of proficiency of the student, for example, “I usually receive a 4 or 5 in English class”, “Teachers usually give me compliments about my English”. The researchers chose to ask about L2 level because they were interested to know if some types of motivation were more likely than others to produce proficiency. The researchers hypothesized that intrinsic and integrative motivation types are more likely to achieve significant progress in L2 proficiency.

Purpose of the Study

This research is aimed at studying the motivation of students in order to apply intercultural techniques to the classroom, implement practical approaches for successful second language (L2) learning, and build intercultural competence. In order to achieve this kind of personalized education experiences, the motivation style of students were evaluated to accurately serve student needs. For example, if students with intrinsic motivation are prompted to learn via external stimuli (e.g. promise of a job) they will not be inspired to learn, and this will in turn hinder the process of becoming fluent in a foreign language. In this way, the evaluation of motivation style was used in order to change the course of future lessons and to build a deeper knowledge of students on teachers’ behalf. We assume, appropriate methods that can be applied in the classroom depending on the motivation types, following the learners demands in selecting the topics and making the course goal-oriented for the students will lead not only to the development of linguistic skill, but also to the enhancement of intercultural competence and self-determination.

Research Methods

In order to define the tools for second language learning the researchers made a theoretical and practical analysis of different categories of students’ motivation suggested by American and European scholars. Attention was focused on the following motivation types: intrinsic, extrinsic (Ryan and Deci, 1985), instrumental, and integrative (Gardner & Lambert, 1972). The newly designed survey that students completed was loosely based on the Attitude/Motivation Test Battery (AMTB) and the Motivation in College Foreign Language Courses (MCFLC). Created in 1985, the AMTB test evaluates individual variables in motivation including integrativeness, attitude toward the learning situation, and language anxiety (Gardner, 2000). In the MCFLC, created in 2011 at the University of Kansas, USA, examines motivational eagerness, motivational socialization, and motivational practicality (Begenchev, 2011). These tests were used as inspiration in designing the new survey for Russian students of English.

The survey, entitled Motivation in L2 Learning (ML2L), consisted of 33 items: three demographic questions, 20 questions on motivation type, five questions on overall attitude, and five questions on self-evaluated language proficiency. In this way, two main measures of evaluation were used: the first measure sought to identify a student’s leading motivation style, and the second measure aimed to examine how motivation style relates to L2 proficiency. The research was conducted among second and third year students who had already adapted to the university environment and had certain background and experience in studying languages at school. As previously stated, the researchers hypothesized that students in Russia would identify as extrinsically- or instrumentally-motivated learners. However, the researchers also hypothesized that the most proficient English language learners would be intrinsically- or integratively-motivated. University teachers have often come across situations where they have to work with students of different levels, from various specialties, and with a number of personal demands and aims. This potentially presents problems with the construction of education by teachers for students on the broadest levels. The applied research method tends to solve the existing problem, and simplify the education process for the teacher and for the learners based on the findings.


The use of practical methods such as observation and survey, helped us assess the practical issues most teachers face in forming positive attitudes to learning. Research questions centered around internal and external motivations for learning to determine the type of motivation underlying students’ behavior. Sample questions included: “I try to succeed in English class because I want to impress my parents or friends,” and “I study English because it helps me to understand the culture of English-speaking countries.” The survey also attempted to evaluate L2 proficiency via self-evaluation. As previously stated, the research demonstrates that intrinsically-motivated learners desire to learn a language because they find internal fulfillment and enjoyment in the activity, whereas integratively-motivated learners desire to learn a language in order to integrate themselves into a new culture.

In the study, it was found that a large majority of the students who participated in the research wanted to learn how their language skills could be applied after university, and therefore operated under instrumental motivation (42.37%). The second most popular motivation type was intrinsic (28.81%); the third was integrative (16.94%); and the least popular type was extrinsic (11.86%). Additionally, it was found that 19 of the 41 participants (46%) tested operated under more than one type of motivation. In 63% of these cases, intrinsic motivation was involved in the pairing. The research supports our hypothesis that students would be motivated by instrumental factors, but debunks our hypothesis that students would be motivated by extrinsic factors. This dichotomy suggests that although instrumental and extrinsic motivation types are both related to motivation for external reasons, the details of the types differ in important ways. The results of the study demonstrate that the main motivation style of Russian students is instrumentally-oriented (42.37%), which means that students desire to know how language skills can be applied after university to their professional lives not only in Russia, but also in countries where English is the primary language. Additionally, the fact that intrinsic motivation was involved in 63% of the cases that had two types of motivation, might suggest that if someone has intrinsic motivation, they might be more likely to have additional types of motivation.

The second measure of the study sought to examine the relationship between motivation style and language proficiency. Of the 41 participants, ten students tested as proficient in L2 learning. Of the ten proficient L2 students, 35% were intrinsically-motivated, 35% were integratively-motivated, and 27% were instrumentally-motivated. None of the proficient L2 students were extrinsically-motivated. These percentages suggest that becoming proficient in a second language is correlated particularly with intrinsic and integrative motivation types. Additionally, 70% of students that tested high on language proficiency had a combination of two types of motivation. The results of the study suggest that majority of Russian students operate under instrumental motivation (42.37%), and that the most proficient L2 students operate under either intrinsic (35%) or integrative (35%) motivation styles, with instrumental styles following close behind (27%).

Since motivation style is an essential factor in the process of mastering a foreign language, it is in the teacher’s best interest to learn about the motivation styles of students and to frame future lessons to their styles. Since discovering that students at Kazan National Research Technological University use instrumental motivation styles, the researchers have since developed a seminar series aimed to help students learn to write internationally accepted resumes, cover letters, and grant applications for some well-known programs such as Fulbright and DAAD. The students under the supervision of the native speaking mentor participated in the interviews and learnt how to make presentations that require good language skills and performance abilities. Due to the language environment and business atmosphere, the students were fully involved in the designing of the plan for the further classes. The native speaking professor, seeing their progress, was able to make the course flexible and tailor it to their interests. The observation showed that the students were engaged in the activities and discussions, and provided their opinions on certain problems. The four week program resulted in not only enlarging students’ professional language skills, but also in increasing their motivations. 10 students out of 30 became volunteers for international affairs events after the completion of the course. 5 students are planning to take international exams in the nearest future, and about 7 are intending to apply to grant programs using the application information and prepared CV materials, according to the system requirements, together with the supervisor.

Sharing practical recommendations and experience is an instrumental approach in motivating students to reach their goals regarding language skills and intercultural competence. In this way, we have used the research findings to adapt out lesson plans by teaching students how to use their language skills in the professional world, which has inspired the students to work even harder at mastering the English language.

It must also be noted that there were some limitations to the study. The most glaring limitation was the participant pool, mostly comprised of English students who will ultimate receive a diploma or certificate in English language study/translation. It can be assumed that such serious English students already have a certain level of intrinsic motivation that led them to this particular program. This fact possibly contributed to the low statistic (11.86%) of extrinsically motivated students. In future studies, a wider variety of English language students are recommended in terms of level and program. Additionally, due to the small number of questions regarding the examination of the English level, it is possibly that proficiency results were tainted or incomplete. In the future, it is recommended that both self-evaluation and practical writing questions are asked, so that English level can be examined both by the participant and by the researchers themselves. Lastly, since the survey was in English, it is possible that students did not understand all of the questions as they were intended. A possible way to avoid this in the future would be to create a survey in the dominate native language of the participants.


The main conclusion emerging from the studied literature demonstrates that motivation is one of the highest predictors of the successful mastery of a foreign language. The concept of motivation stems from many psychological and sociological constructs regarding necessity and behavior. Ultimately, motivation can be separated into four categories: intrinsic, integrative, extrinsic, and instrumental. Intrinsic and integrative motivation types come from internal desires via personal satisfaction or curiosity about culture. Extrinsic and instrumental motivation types emerge from external desires via parents, friends, loved ones, or even the promise of a successful career. This implies the necessity of motivation, for the awareness of specific features of students, and the important requirements to follow in constructing such programs of studies.

The present study sought to examine the motivation style of students from Kazan National Research Technological University for the purpose of deepening the understanding of students, creating future lesson plans, encouraging self-examination, promoting intercultural competence, and researching the relationship between motivation style and language proficiency. Research showed that instrumental motivation was the dominated motivation type among participants (42.37%), which suggests that students desire to learn how their skills can be applied to the external world either in Russia or abroad. The most popular types of motivation in L2 proficient students were intrinsic and integrative, which supports previous literature in demonstrating that success in language comes from an internal desire to learn the language either for personal satisfaction or for the integration to a new culture and mindset. Ultimately, the results of the study helped to inspire the creation of a seminar series, which teaches specific techniques in applying learned skills to get grants and opportunities abroad. Both the seminar series and the self-evaluative nature of the survey promote intercultural competence as a motivation for further language study and mastery.


The work is performed according to the Russian Government Program of Competitive Growth of Kazan Federal University.


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31 August 2017

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Reeves, S., & Panteleeva, M. (2017). Role Of Motivation In Learning A Second Language For Intercultural Competence Development. In R. Valeeva (Ed.), Teacher Education - IFTE 2017, vol 29. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 698-704). Future Academy.