Why I’m learning English – a motivation activty

An activity to help us talk about our reasons for learning English.

Step 1

Read what other learners say about their motivation. Tick any that have similar reasons to you. How are your reasons different?

1 “I’m learning English because it will be useful for my job.”

2 “It’s the language of science and research. I need to pass English to succeed in my studies”

3 “We’re going on holiday to New York in October.”

4 “I always wanted to learn English again but until now I haven’t tried. English will help me develop personally and professionally. I’d really like to be able to express myself in English.”

5 “I wasn’t very good at English at school, we had a terrible teacher and it was just another subject, another obligation. But now it’s my hobby and I’m learning it because I want to, not because I have to.”

6 “I tried English classes three times before but they never lasted more than a few months. Then, two years ago a good friend said that she wanted to do the same, and now I never miss a class. Knowing that she’ll be there means I don’t want to stop.”

7 “The world is such a small place these days: travelling, on the internet, films and TV and so on, and it’s all English, English, English. I want to be part of the global community.”

8 “I remember the first time I went to Dublin, I couldn’t say anything. I felt like Tarzan! I just pointed to things that I wanted and smiled. But the last time I went to Ireland was much better. I could order food in a restaurant and ask questions politely. My boyfriend was so impressed. A good feeling!

9 “I don’t know, I’ve always enjoyed it, ever since I was at school. I was good at it so I carried on. It’s a part of my life that I’m really happy with.”

Did you tick more than one of these reasons? That’s good because it means your motivation is strong enough to help you keep learning even if things change.

Step 2

Now read the text below about the different types of motivation that these 9 learners illustrate

Learners 1,2 and 3 have clear, practical reasons for learning English. English is necessary in their lives, jobs, hobbies and interests. We can call these ‘extrinsic‘ motivations or goals and they can be very important because they help us decide our long-term objectives.

Learners 4 and 5 are motivated because they can make their own decisions about how, when, who with and for how long they do it. If they are in control, they take responsibility for learning. Their motivation comes from ‘autonomy‘.

Learners 6 and 7 enjoy sharing the learning experience with other people. It is important to be part of a community and to speak to people with similar interests… to have friends! We can call this motivation ‘relatedness‘.

Learners 8 and 9 want to keep learning because they are good at it. They enjoy making progress and it makes them feel good about themselves. We can call this motivation ‘competence‘.

Step 3

Think about your motivation. How much of it comes from competence, relatedness, autonomy or some extrinsic reason?

Write about your motivations. You may sometimes want to look at them so write them in an important place in your notebook or on a piece of paper in your wallet.  You can write them like this:

“I’m learning English because…

“I’m learning English so I can…

“I think the most important reason why I’m learning English is…

“But I also…

“Maybe in the future I will…

19 Responses to Why I’m learning English – a motivation activty

  1. thanks for sharing… very usefull

  2. bacho says:

    thanks for sharing us

  3. Stephani Thalia Susanty says:

    For me, learning English is a hobby! learning English is like playing a game! It so likeable when we can speak English well…every English word that we said…it will always remind us of our success…learning English give us a lot of satisfaction!

    • Thanks for your comment Stephani. I love the idea that English is a game. I wish all learners could feel like ‘winners’ in this game, but I know that many people do not. What do you think the secret is to approaching English in this way?

  4. Korya Chiathong says:

    Hi, I’m Korya, I come from Laos and I’m 21 years old. Now I’m studying Information and controlling Engineer in Japan. I’m learning English because I want to catch my master degree in Japan, and I will go to visit my friend in USA in next summer vacation. Now, I can’t speak English well, but I want to be a good English speaker when I go there, and I want to understand my friends well and can communicate with them better than now.
    The other reason that I learn English is, I like to watch American movie and listen to English songs,so if I know English, I will understand it well.
    Thank you.

    • Hi Korya,
      Thanks for your comment. I believe you’re the first Laotian that’s posted here (and certainly the first Laotian I’ve spoken to!) ;o)
      Great to hear your reasons for learning English. It sounds as if you have a healthy mix of motivations. Once you get your masters, what do you plan to do? Work in Laos or abroad?
      All the best,

      One question: are there many Laotians studying in Japan?

  5. Abdulaziz says:

    Hi I am abdulaziz,I come from Saudi Arabia and I am 19 years old.
    In my opinion learning English it’s very important in life to me in person, for many reason such as studying abroad, communicate with all the world and some people learn it to complete master degree. Me as a person I want to improve my English to catch up the next semester in the USA and to communicate even better than I am now.
    At the end,in my opinion as much as you read,write and speak your english will improve and be better .
    Thank you.

    • Hi Abdulaziz,
      Thanks for commenting :o) It sounds as if you are interested in English for different reasons. This is good because it means that if reasons becomes less important in the future, you will always have other clear motivations to continue.
      Good luck in the US! All the best,

  6. Faisal says:

    Hi I’m faisal, i come from saudi arabia, riyadh the capital. I want to learn english because it’s an international language. I work for a government faculty, i’m an inspector pharmacist. I do travel around the world in business wise, and i want to be able to communicate even better than i do now days. I also want to learn english not just to be usefull in my job, i do spend my vacation outside my country and i’m a proactive person that love to meet with others and talk about interests, experiences or things in common.

    • Hi Faisal,
      Thanks for your comment :o) I’m interested to know whether you think you would still enjoy learning English if you didn’t have these clear reasons to study English (your job, travel). Is learning English rewarding even if you don’t then use the English, and if so, why.

  7. Muhammad Al Haj says:

    I am learning English because it’s the language number one in the world , It’s a universal language . My first aim to study English is to get the IELTS and complete my study abroad ( especially I wish in the UK) . In addition to that , the english is very important in my job , especially in the formal letters and emails .
    I travel a lot and I like to feel free to contact with the others where I am.

    • Hi Muhammad,
      We wish you all the best in your English studies! You’re very clear on your goals in English, and it’s good that they are so many and varied. What about your intrinsic motivations? How do you feel about learning English? Do any of the ideas of autonomy, relatedness or competence feel important to you?

  8. orya says:

    It was a good idea. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Yinka Olukoya says:

    This is very good idea, l got a lot after reading lt. it makes me feel good about myself

  10. Shailendra Saxena says:

    This is a very good idea.
    I got a lot after reading it.
    I will try to motivate to all my students .
    Shailendra saxena. 09827249964
    Ganj Basoda. M.P.

  11. Louise says:

    This is a lovely idea. Sometimes my long term students lose sight of their goals and their motivation or sometimes they’re homesick or just switch off as soon as they leave the classroom. Doing this activity could reignite their motivation and excitment for learning English. Sometimes they just need to remind themselves. I have a few learners in my class at the moment who could benefit from this. I actually do something similar to this myself, I have my list beside my bed and read them every night before I go to sleep! I have a friend who keeps hers in her wallet. Thank you for this!

    • Thanks for your comment, Louise, it’s great to see there are people still benefitting from actiities that we wrote some time ago. I have a similar list in my wallet, but not for learning a language, it’s actually about not smoking! But it does the same job – keeps me in touch with my reasons to quit. And just like giving up smoking, the decision to learn English doesn’t occupy a moment in a learner’s past; rather, the decision to learn English is a process. It may have begun when they were just 3 or 4 years old and will continue throughout their language learning lives.

  12. gabby says:

    I love this idea Duncan! The first day of class I always ask my students a few questions about their English learning. I get similar replies to the ones above, but I had never thought about asking them directly about motivation. I think it would make a difference for them to put this into perspective, to REALLY think about what they want from their learning experience. I’m going to start teaching a conversation class soon so I’ll try out this activity and see how it works. I’ll let you know!! Thanks.

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