There’s an interesting article in the Guardian I came across today about motivation in language learning.

The article discusses different types of motivation, and concludes that three things that are particularly important in language learning are working memory; associative memory – how well you content new and known information; and your ability to learn implicitly – that is the ability to spot patterns. If you have a good level in these skills, plus a high level of motivation, you are more likely to succeed.

What motivates you to learn languages?

For me it’s a combination of interest in the languages themselves, and in aspects of the cultures associated with them, especially music and literature.

This entry was posted in Language, Language learning.

2 Responses to Motivation

  1. Rabotaju says:

    I’m typically motivated to learn languages through interest in the history, politics, and music of the nation/group that speaks that language. A few examples include Russian because of its 20th century politics and history, and Swedish and Spanish because of music. I too learn languages due to my pure interest in them, such as Afrikaans and, to an extent, Esperanto.

    I also like the feeling of accomplishment I get when I’m able to have a good conversation with another speaker of the language I learned. That, and being able to mess with the telemarketers by switching between languages every other sentence.

  2. Jessica Kim says:

    I first started learning Japanese with the lofty goal of re-translating the Legend of Zelda video game series (some fans were frustrated that the translators “localized” the American version). After that, I discovered music, then anime and manga, then more music. Those became my motivations for learning the language, as well as my practice for the language. It’s very rare for me to meet a native Japanese speaker, so I don’t get much practice speaking. I’m maybe intermediate at this point, but definitely not fluent. I’ve been on-and-off studying the language for maybe 6 years.

    Spanish, for most of my life, has been something I’ve passively learned. I picked up a few things from Spanish class in school, I stumbled across bits of grammatical information, and I caught various words that people used when they sprinkled Spanish into their English. It all depended on what I happened across. I learned the first-person-past-tense -í, as in “comí”, from Mark Rosenfelder’s book “The Language Construction Kit”, because he used it as an example. I learned “gracias”, “adios”, “hola”, and “por favor”… uh… I’m actually not sure where I learned those. I think just immersion from being in southern California and New Mexico, plus you sometimes hear them in movies. I learned “lápiz” (“pencil”) from my 6th-grade Spanish class. That sort of thing.

    But when I started volunteering with the Central American refugees, I quickly started actively picking it up. For example, when I didn’t know how to say something, I’d ask a bilingual volunteer, and thus I would learn it. For me, it was necessary in order to effectively communicate with both the refugees and some of the volunteers (some people had come from Mexico to help out). I was only there for 3 days, so I’m still definitely not fluent, but I learned a lot in those 3 days, both consciously and subconsciously. I consider myself an intermediate beginner. I’ve never picked up Japanese nearly so fast. I guess my biggest motivation is necessity.

    Even though I love languages and have good amounts of the 3 types of memory listed in the article, those things aren’t enough for me to learn a language (or at least become fluent in it). Practice with native speakers is very big, but I think it’s especially important for it to be necessary. If knowing their language is the only way for me to understand (say) if someone is hungry, or how their clothing fits, or how they got to the US, then I have a lot of motivation!

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