Motivators That Do Not Motivate: The Case of Chinese EFL Learners and the Influence of Culture on Motivation

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TESOL QUARTERLY Vol. 39, No. 4, December 2005 609
Motivators That Do Not Motivate:
The Case of Chinese EFL Learners and the Influence of Culture on Motivation
The Overseas Chinese Institute of Technology
Taichung, Taiwan, Republic of China
National Chung Hsing University
Taichung, Taiwan, Republic of China
National Changhua University of Education
Chunghua, Taiwan, Republic of China
It is a capital mistake to theorize in advance of the facts.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Second Stain
(1930, p. 657)
Language learning motivation plays an important role in both research and teaching, yet language learners are still largely understood in terms of North American and
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Outside of school, young people may participate in global culture without English.
Language teachers in Asia often face large numbers of students. In
2001, the average university freshman classes in Taiwan included 53 students with 3 hours of English class required per week (Republic of
China Ministry of Education, 2002). Such a context is quite different from that typically found in language learning motivation research
(Chen, 2002). Teachers in Asia may attempt to apply motivation research
MOTIVATORS THAT DO NOT MOTIVATE 611 results from the West, but they risk frustration if underlying assumptions do not align with local reality. A more productive approach is to understand specific motivations of students in their local environments
(Tremblay & Gardner, 1995). This study begins that understanding within the context of required English in the Chinese cultural setting by encouraging a localized exploration that can benefit millions of EFL students—the very population that government language requirements are designed to help.
This article reviews observations of integrative and instrumental EFL language learning motivation orientations and contextualizes the recently documented required motivation in the Chinese EFL setting, then it presents the research questions. It next presents the results of an exploratory study, using a wide area survey and structural equation
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