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Highly Motivate Your ESL Learner in Three Easy Ways!

written by: Khaye Mydette Sy Cardenas Macalinao • edited by: Linda M. Rhinehart Neas • updated: 9/19/2012

It's no secret that motivating ESL learners is the most challenging aspect of language teaching. Do you want your students to develop "intrinsic motivation" to learn and massively enliven your class? Read these three easy ways!

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    Way 1. Promote Intrinsic Motivation

    Teachers are usually troubled on how to motivate foreign students to learn English as a second language. Often, students are not inspired to learn the new language or they find study boring. Do you know the easiest way to solve this common concern? Ignite their "intrinsic motivation" to learn!

    Motivation is an important factor in learning a second and foreign language (Gardner, 1985; Scarcella & Oxford, 1992). For you to become an effective teacher, you should be able to make students "intrinsically motivated" to learn. As Dornyei (2001:116) notes, "teacher skills in motivating learners should be seen as central to teaching effectiveness." Here's how to get them all hooked to learn English and build better performance in class which actually starts from them:

    1. Challenge. Students are highly motivated when they are working toward a meaningful goal. Have your students set their target in language learning and they will be eager to reach that goal! Increase your learners‘ goal-orientedness and make every lesson relevant for them.

    2. Curiosity. Get students' interest by giving activities that will hook their attention. Stimulating sensory and cognitive curiosity is a must in every class.

    3. Recognition. When students are recognized and appreciated, they feel satisfied. This builds their self-esteem, which motivates them to study more!

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    Way 2: Establish a Great Student-Teacher Relationship

    A good teacher-student relationship is very necessary. When students are comfortable with their teacher, their anxiety to learn a new language is removed. When this happens, the learning process is hastened.

    Teacher behavior is a powerful "motivational tool" (Dornyei, 2001: 120). When a teacher establishes rapport with the students, students are more attracted to engage in tasks. A casual conversation with each of the students after class is the easiest way to get your students' hearts.

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    Way 3: Plan Simplified Lessons and Have a "Bag of Tricks"

    When topics are too difficult, there is a big risk that students will not be motivated to learn. They may appear bored, or just quietly polite. The teacher must make lessons as simple and as comprehensible as she can. This is the biggest key to teaching English as a Second Language effectively.

    Have a "bag of tricks." These are activities in the teacher's head that can be pulled out whenever necessary. Also, when teaching, use a variety of learning styles: visual, auditory, oral, kinesthetic or tactile. Since students are all unique individuals and they do not process new information in the same way, you must implement different teaching styles and strategies and you will surely be able to connect with all types of learners.


    Dornyei, Z. and Otto, I. 1998. Motivation in action: A process model of L2 motivation. Working Papers in Applied Linguistics (London: Thames Valley University), 4: 43-69.

    Gardner, R. C., & Lambert, W. E. (1972). Attitudes and Motivation in Second Language Learning. Rowley: MA: Newbury House.