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Culture studies and student's motivation in foreign language learning

Artykuł związany z metodyką nauczania języka angielskiego.

The main idea of this article stems from the conviction that culture is one of the dominant element in language learning. Nowadays more and more people know a second language. But most of us is unaware of the fact that not only is a second language learner faced with the target language but first of all, he is confronted with the target culture. However, not only this aspect influences people's success in learning a target language. Another crucial aspect in learning a second language is motivation. This internal power contributes the most of human actions

A number of authors like Cummins (in Flewelling 1994;123), Dörney (2001), Hedon ( are of the opinion that integrating cultural elements of the target language in foreign classes has an immense importance in formation an attention and motivation toward learning the foreign language. This fact gives learners a sense of reality because they have an opportunity to be accustomed with the ways of life, behaviours, thoughts, or values and norms of real people. What is worth mentioning, teaching culture can meet school pupils' needs to learn a foreign language because they want to meet friends from different countries, or to satisfy their curiosity about foreign cultures. Feeling that the foreign language is appropriate to their expectations and desires, they are more likely to have motivation to learn the language. Motivation is indicated as a crucial element in second language learning and it is suggested that if students have a reason to view speakers of the language being studied positively, then they will be more highly motivated.

With the reference to students motivation, Dörney (2001:36) also suggests the following culture-related strategies to increase motivation in learning foreign languages:

- encourage students to contact and meet with native speakers of target language by arranging meeting, organising trips;

- expand learners' cross-cultural consciousness systematically by focusing on cross-cultural similarities and not just differences, using analogies to make the strange familiar and using 'culture teaching' ideas and activities:

- include a socioculotural components in the foreign language syllabus showing films or TV recordings, playing relevant music and inviting interesting native-speaking guests.

The target language culture seems to be a potential force which can be used to increase students' motivation to learn a foreign language. The assumption can be made that inclusion the cultural elements into the language learning process will positively influence learners motivation to study that language or to support adaptation to the culture of the people who communicate by means of that language.

The research which I carried out in May 2006 in Gimnazjum nr 5 in Płock showed that the examined students at he age of 15 cultural classes or elements of culture incorporated to the lessons are very stimulating and motivating for students. They are adherents of group working and such lessons gave that possibility. The students were intensely involved in the lessons. Their higher activity was easily noticeable during the lessons. Therefore, a study of the target-language culture is a potential force in students' motivation to learn a foreign language.

My study showed that the more dominant type of motivation among the examined group was instrumental one. Some researchers like Taylor, Meybard or Rheault treat integrative motivation as more valuable type which sustains long-term success in learning a second language. However, my research showed that teachers can take advantage of instrumental motivation as well. Instrumental motivation is proved to be successful in the situations when students are provided with no chance to use the target language and therefore to interact with members of the target group. That is why teachers should integrate cultural elements of the target language in the foreign language classes to create interest and reinforce students' motivation. Cultural elements give they learners the sense of realism and authenticity. This helps to satisfy pupils' needs to learn a foreign language because they want to travel, to know foreign friends, or to learn about foreign cultures. Cultural lessons make use of students' instrumental motivation which turned out to be the crucial element ion the process of learning English.

Iwona Warszawska
Gimnazjum nr 5 w Płocku

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