Motivation During Language School
language learner, motivation is an important topic for the vital reason
that the motivated learner will always surpass the unmotivated learner
in performance and outcome. People have an innate need to be competent
and effective in their work and motivation is a key factor in helping
them reach their goals. Furthermore, learners who leave full-time language
study motivated about their Chinese communicative ability are more likely
to continue acquiring the language, hence becoming lifelong learners.
There are two sources of motivation -- internal and external.
Internal motivation -- "I want to get good Chinese" -- is the
motivation that the newcomer brings with them, and strongly affects how
they go about learning Chinese. External motivators include your organization
which encourages you to 'aim high', language teachers who teach Chinese
in a way that you find interesting, textbooks that give you what you need
for communicating, and Chinese friends who encourage you.
It is important to realize that motivation doesn't guarantee
success. Other factors, such as opportunity, ability, and quality of instruction
are also important. But motivation will enhance high ability and good
instruction, for people work longer, harder, and with more vigor and intensity
when they are motivated. Concentration increases comprehension -- for
greater alertness produces better learning.
Some Motivating Questions
- Do I come with a positive attitude to learning Chinese?
It is worth asking yourself questions such as, "What are some of
my fears and apprehensions about learning Chinese?" Write them
down and then check them out with other learners to see whether or not
they are justified. While learning Chinese, spend time interacting with
positive language learners -- those who are enthusiastic about learning
Chinese! Hopefully it's catching! Also spend time with Chinese friends
who by nature are encouragers -- those who continually make you feel
good about your Chinese. Think through what are your personal strengths
and abilities as related to language learning -- both personal character
traits as well as natural learning strategies.
- Do I believe that the content of the course will meet my needs for
life and work in China?
Few learners ask themselves this extremely basic question. And if the
answer is negative, then it is imperative for you to get hold of a copy
of 'Mandarin Step-by Step' (or something similar) in order to supply
you with the everyday words that you will be needing for handling daily
living needs in Chinese.
To find out about the textbooks used at your Chinese
language center, ask other students for their comments and opinions.
If you discover that the grammar explanations aren't clear enough,
borrow a copy of H.S. Cheung's 'A Practical Chinese Grammar' (published
by Chinese University Press in Hong Kong).
Be clear on your goals and objectives. Some issues
worth thinking through are: "I want the course to help me ........"
(complete the sentence). "An important goal for me is ...".
"When I've completed my Chinese studies, I want to be able to:
a) ..., b) ..., c) ..." .
- As I live here in China, am I stimulated to learn Chinese?
Are my teachers stimulating to be with -- or is a particular teacher's
teaching method frustrating me? Then think about having a private tutor
instead for that class hour. Am I finding it stimulating being with
my Chinese friends each day -- or am I spending too much time with my
English-speaking friends and colleagues? Then re-schedule your time.
Am I finding the course stimulating -- or does it seem to drag on interminably?
Then get hold of some helpful textbooks and study them instead (see
the article 'Some Good Textbooks'). Am I stimulated to press on because
I sense regular progress -- or does my goal seem far off and unreachable?
Then break down your goal into smaller bites. Am I stimulated to go
out each day into the local neighborhood and talk with friends and storekeepers
-- or am I finding that my shyness or nervousness hinders me from going
out and talking with people? Then ask friends or colleagues to introduce
you to a friendly 'talker', and set up a safe and secure place for practicing
Chinese where you won't feel threatened or embarrassed.
- Am I enjoying learning Chinese?
It's important to continue to enjoy learning Chinese and not to let
it drag or become boring and tiresome. So keep a diary in which you
jot down occasions when you sensed real progress, whether in handling
daily living needs or making new friends and deepening relationships
with those whom you've already got to know. Then read through it when
feeling in need of a boost! Don't keep on with the same old boring routine
-- ring the changes by getting fresh ideas for how to learn from other
language learners, e.g. new places to go for practicing Chinese (friendly
storekeepers), neighborhoods where people are more friendly to outsiders,
people who are more empathetic to struggling newcomers. If you're dragging
yourself through each language learning day, maybe it's time for a vacation!
Emotions that need immediate attention: apathy, boredom
and anxiety. Emotions to be encouraged are: alertness, excitement,
optimism, curiosity, and confidence. Can you think of any others?
- Do I sense real progress?
Am I feeling more confident and competent in Chinese? People have an
innate need to be competent and effective in what they do. We can't
take being ineffective for too long. So ask your teacher for a pronunciation
'check up' once a month. Also ask the director of the Chinese language
center for an assessment as to how you are progressing compared with
the average student. Also use the Self-rating Checklist of Speaking
Proficiency in the article 'Where am I Going? How am I Doing?'. Finding
out exactly where you are along the road to your goal isn't easy, but
if you can know objectively that you are progressing well, that will
If you are experiencing obstacles to progress, try
to find practical ways to remove them, e.g. if your living situation
affords little regular contact with Chinese people, consider ways
of improving this.
Kong Language Training Center
Tel: 852 2834 2168
Fax: 852 2834 2183