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Learning motivation for Chinese as a second language and the implications on teaching Chinese as a second language

Hausarbeit (Hauptseminar) 2015 12 Seiten


Table of Contents

1.1 Gardner's motivational theory: socio-educational model
1.2 Specifications of the socio-educational model: internal structure model
1.3 Findings according to the internal structure model
1.4 Specifications for heritage learners

2.1 Heritage learners
2.2 Non-heritage learners





1. Introduction: Why do students learn a second language?

There is a vast amount of studies that try to investigate why students learn a second language. In the following term paper, the author tries to give an overview about the different motivational theories, beginning with the socio-educational model by Gardner and its specification by Dörnyei and Csizer. In addition to that, the author also takes a look at motivational theories that include heritage learners.

Although until now there is no data available about the percentage of heritage learners among German students that learn Chinese as a second language, taking a look at the number of Chinese people living in Germany, points into the direction of a growing number of heritage learners at German schools. Over the last seven years, 2007 to 2014, the number of Chinese people living in Germany has grown from 78,000 to 110,000, which means an increase of approximately 30% ("Bevölkerung und Erwerbstätigkeit" 87), in some areas in Eastern Germany, Chinese even now make up the largest number of people from a foreign country among the population ("Bevölkerung und Erwerbstätigkeit" 23). Although the number of children under 18 only amounts to roughly 8,500, it can be be assumed, that in the future, there will be a significant number of heritage learners in German schools ("Bevölkerung und Erwerbstätigkeit" 87).

The author’s term paper also takes a look at current empirical findings regarding motivation of learners, who learn Chinese as a second language and tries to evaluate possible implications for Chinese language classes. The basis for this is the best-practice approach for Chinese language classes by Andrea Valenzuela, which can be found in her book „Praktisches Handbuch für den Chinesischunterricht" (2011).

1.1 Gardner's motivational theory: Socio-educational model

According to the socio-educational model by Gardner, there are two main motivational orientations that show why students are motivated in learning a second language: Integrative and instrumental orientation (Gardner, 13).

The integrative orientation is mainly focused on the learner’s interest in the culture and society of the language. He or she is eager to learn and thus is mainly driven by curiosity and emotional identification and affection (Gardner, 10). In contrast to this rather intrinsic motivation, the instrumental orientation is more extrensically and focuses on utility and the benefits, which might result from learning a specific second language. If the student is driven mainly by an instrumental orientation, he or she will most certainly choose a language that offers better job opportunities in the future or is generally more prestigious than other languages (Gardner, 13).

1.2 Specifiations of the socio-educational model: The internal structure model

Later on, Dörnyei specified the socio-educational by Gardner in a way that they defined three different levels of foreign language level motivation: The language level, the learner level and the learning situation level.

While the language level basically consists of integrative and instrumental motivation subsystems, the learner level focuses on the learner itself. It defines the learner’s need for achievement and his or her specific self-confidence, which for example may vary due to experiences with other foreign languages or self-efficacy in general. The third level, however, concentrates on how the actual learning situation influences the motivation for learning a foreign language. Different from the language and learner level, which put the personal interests and traits of character of the learner in the center of the motivation, the learning situation level emphazises factors such as learner’s interest for a specific topic, way of teaching, the group of learners and, more general, course-specific, teacher-specific and group-specific components (Dörnyei 279).

In 2005, Dörnyei and Csizer developed a theoretical model that allows them to establish a link between motivations and language choice as well as educational success or achievements in learning a second language. With the help of factor analysis, they identified seven main components, which mostly influence the motivation for learning a second language:

i. integrativeness
ii. instrumentality
iii. vitality of the second language (L2) community,
iv. attitudes towards the L2/speakers community V. cultural interest
vi. milieu
vii. linguistic self-confidence

For Dörnyei and his colleagues integrativeness and instrumentality are dealing with roughly the same motivational factors that where already described by Gardner in his socio-educational model. Or as they put it, integrativeness means that „learners scoring high on this factor may want to integrate themselves into the L2 culture and become more similar to the L2 speakers" (Dörnyei & Cziser 20), while instrumentality „concerned the pragmatic incenives (...) as well as the importance of the particular L2 in the world and the contribution its proficiency makes to becoming an educated person" (Dörnyei & Cziser 21).

The component "attitudes towards the L2/speakers community" is something that has also been analyzed by Gardner. However, Dörnyei and Cziser also included the factor of getting in direct contact with the L2-community, for example by travelling or other means of contact. While the two other factors "vitality of the L2 community" and "milieu" both deal with society, the component "cultural interest" is more influenced by media or as Dörnyei and Cziser put it „reflects the appreciation of cultural products associated with the particular L2 and conveyed by the media (e.g., films, videos, TV programs, pop music, magazines, and books)" (Dörnyei & Cziser 21). Although this is also linked to the definition of "vitality of the L2 community", which generally deals with the question of the „importance and perceived wealth of the L2 communities" (Dörnyei & Cziser 22), the concept originally deals with the question of relevant factors that make members of a minority group, who live in a multi-lingual environment, learn the language of the majority group. However, Dörnyei and his colleagues more use it in a sense of measuring the liveliness and presence of a community based on status demographics and institutional support. The concept of "milieu" in constrast, rather deals with the direct surroundings of the learner, his or her family, peer group and friends.

The last concept "linguistic self-confidence" encompasses the question in how far the learner is confident of being able to learn a second language. According to Dörnyei and Cziser (2005), linguistic self-confidence asseses in how far the individual is confident about his or her abilities to master tasks that are necessary to learn a second language. However, linguistic self-confidence is not only limited to the specific second language, but usually derives from the attitude towards tasks and challenges in general and the individual’s general confidence regarding ability to cope with these tasks (22).



ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
Institution / Hochschule
Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
2018 (November)
learning chinese



Titel: Learning motivation for Chinese as a second language and the implications on teaching Chinese as a second language