Attitude and Language Learning

April 15, 2017


Motivation is regarded as one of the most common non-linguistic factors that affect Second Language Acquisition (SLA). Richards (1992:238) views motivation as the ‘factors that determine a person’s desire t


o do something’; whereas Ellis (1994:715) considers motivation as the ‘effort which learners put into learning a second language as a result of their need or desire to learn it.’ Motivation constitutes many components, one of which is the learner’s attitude. Researchers like Gardner & Lambert (1972); Dörnyei (2005); Bartram (2010) and Dörnyei & Ushioda (2011) assert that attitude is considered a key motivational component and a major constituent of the motivational process, which affects and actively contributes to learning another language. 


The concept of attitude is complex to describe, therefore, researchers have proposed different definitions. Allport (1954 as cited in Bordens & Horowitz, 2008:157) describes attitude as ‘a mental and neural state of readiness, organised through experience, exerting a directive or dynamic influence upon the individual’s response to all objects and situations with which it is related’. Gardner (1985) proposes that attitude is ‘the sum total of human’s incitements and feelings, bias or prejudice, threats, fear, preliminary feelings and condemnations regarding any indicated topic’. Brown (2007) describes attitude as a set of beliefs that a learner holds toward the target language whether it is important, interesting, boring, and so forth.


Research on attitude toward second language has focused on a variety of specific attitudes, According to Ellis (1994),  learners show different attitudes toward (a) the target language, (b) target language speakers, (c) target language culture, (d) the social value of learning the second language, (e) particular uses of the target language, such as a skill, (f) themselves as members of their own culture, (g) language preference, and (h) attitude of parents toward language learning.

The most in-depth research into the role of attitude and motivation in SLA has been conducted by Gardner and Lambert (1972) who published a bulk of articles to explore the influence of attitudes and motivation on second language achievement. They eventually concluded that learners with a positive attitude and high level of motivation will be successful in developing proficiency in the language and vice versa. In light of this, learners’ repeated success leads to the creation of positive attitude to the second language whereas their bad experiences and frustrations, which they encounter while learning, create negative attitudes toward it. Changing negative attitude toward second language into positive or helping learners to have positive attitude toward second language may be one of the most essential steps in second language teaching. Thus, a student’s attitude should be taken into consideration during the process of teaching. 

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