What motivates students to study foreign languages?

I came across a page on the CASLS website called “Ten Burning Questions” and one of them was, “What motivates students to study foreign languages?”  Their research found that successful language learners were eleven times more likely to want to continue their language study beyond the minimum requirements.  So, the question is, how do we make our students feel successful in their language learning?  What combination of methods can we use to make language learning a positive experience where students feel they are actually able to use the language to communicate?

It appears to me that part of the problem may lie in the fact that students generally take a world language in order to fulfill a college entrance requirement.  Since teachers view these students as college bound, I believe they feel the class should be rigorous in order to prepare the students for college.  But what does rigor really mean?  Lots of homework, studying, memorizing?  Covering large amounts of material?  Does language learning have to be difficult to provide rigor?

I’ve had students with very good grades in my class say they don’t think they’re “good” at Spanish and therefore they do not plan to continue their language studies.  I’m usually quite surprised by it because I view them to be good language learners.  Why the lack of confidence in their language abilities?  What could I do differently to help them to feel successful as language learners?

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One Response to What motivates students to study foreign languages?

  1. johnstmm says:

    I’m a teacher too and I feel that our students need a realistic understanding of how much they will learn. We use proficiency levels and specific rubrics to let our students know whether they are on track or ahead of the curve. I feel that students are learning probably the same as other kids around the country but FEEL more satisfied because they are meeting goals. When they feel like they are making progress they are much more likely to continue studying the language. We have to show students how helpful knowing another will be in the work world!

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