New Ways of Looking at Language Learning Motivation

This month we published Contemporary Language Motivation Theory: 60 Years Since Gardner and Lambert (1959) edited by Ali H. Al-Hoorie and Peter D. MacIntyre. In this post the editors explain how the idea for the book came about.

The idea behind this book was born during the second Psychology of Language Learning conference (PLL2) in Jyväskylä, Finland. At the conference, which took place in August 2016, Ali and Peter realized that the 60th anniversary of the seminal paper by Gardner and Lambert (1959) entitled “Motivational variables in second language acquisition” (Canadian Journal of Psychology, 13, 266-272) was on the horizon. That 1959 paper was brief, only seven pages in length, but it is one of the most influential papers in applied linguistics because it helped establish motivation as a valuable subject for study, on par with aptitude.

At the PLL2 conference we were able to approach several potential authors to invite them to join this project. To our delight, we received a favorable response from everyone we spoke with, and they encouraged us to go ahead with the project. People appreciate the impact that Robert Gardner, the Father of second language motivation, has had on our field.

While still at the conference, we also approached Laura at the Multilingual Matters desk to pitch this idea. As always, she offered all necessary assistance and encouragement to speed up the process and complete the paperwork and other preparations. The project was born!

Now, as the physical copy of the book comes into our hands, the project has reached a milestone. We hope that it will inspire new ways of looking at language learning motivation in the Gardner tradition. There seems to be a resurgence of interest in all things motivational just now, so perhaps this is coming at the best possible time to inspire new research with a strong connection to well-established theory, methods, and findings. That Gardner’s contribution to all three areas has been sustained over some 60 years is a notable achievement – worth celebrating, and worth continuing.

We think it is worth carrying on the work of looking at the social psychology of motivation for language learning, and the new book suggests a number of exciting new directions for those studies to take. Maybe we will need a 70th anniversary edition as well.


For more information about this book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like Motivational Dynamics in Language Learning edited by Zoltán Dörnyei, Peter D. MacIntyre and Alastair Henry.

Language Learning Motivation in Japan

A couple of months ago, we published Language Learning Motivation in Japan edited by Matthew T. Apple, Dexter Da Silva and Terry Fellner. Here Matthew gives us a bit more detail about how the book came together.

Language Learning Motivation in JapanLanguage Learning Motivation in Japan began to coalesce as a feasible book project during preparations for a conference in Tokyo, in June 2011. We had already contacted and arranged for guest speakers from both inside and outside Japan, and all six graciously offered to contribute chapters to the book project.

Ultimately the conference attracted over 200 participants from around the world. Given the difficulties those of us based in Japan had recently experienced following the triple disaster of 3-11-11, it was extremely motivating to encounter so many dedicated language teachers and researchers. After the conference ended and the book project began in earnest, the response was overwhelming. We initially received well over 50 chapter abstracts but narrowed this down to eleven chapters to be included in the book.

We asked the authors to review each others’ chapters and encouraged them to refer to similar or contrasting concepts and findings in other studies in the book. By doing so, we believe the resulting book presents a clear, coherent snapshot of language motivation at various levels of education in Japan. Chapters touch upon salient issues related to motivation such as autonomy, cultural and personal identity, self-efficacy, intercultural competence, communities of practice, and the role of the teacher.

A key feature of the book is the inclusion of a roughly equal number of studies implementing quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods data analysis techniques. The main reason for this was our desire to encourage SLA researchers to look beyond the stereotypical quantitative-qualitative false dichotomy that often paralyzes and prevents communication among researchers and teachers. By including studies from statistical modeling to in-depth interview case study to diary study, we hoped to convince readers, whether established researchers and teachers or those in training both inside and outside Japan, to view such research approaches as complementary rather than conflicting.

Finally, as editors who consider ourselves teacher-researchers, we were keenly aware of the gap that exists between those in the field of SLA who see themselves as more or less pure researchers and those who regard themselves as down-to-earth practitioners at the chalkface. In our view, the teacher-researcher divide is just as much a false dichotomy as qual-quan. Both roles and both ways of approaching language education are essential: they are complementary rather than mutually exclusive. We therefore encouraged authors to consider how their research could inform practice in the language classroom, and we hope the results will prove useful from both a pedagogical and a theoretical point of view.

While the research is tightly focused on language learning in Japan, we believe that teachers and researchers around the world will find value in every chapter. This focus, rather than reducing the applicability of the findings, further illustrates the multifaceted, dynamic, nuanced, and incredibly complex world of language learner motivation, and also brings up intriguing questions regarding the influence of “culture” on learners’ attitudes. Additionally, much recent world news about Japan has been rather negative: we hope that the research and teaching theories, research, and practices discussed in Language Learning Motivation in Japan provide positive examples of an active, growing community of language learners and educators.

For more information on this title and for ordering information, please visit the book’s page on our website here.