Learning a language is all about motivation

Last month I asked some of my students to prepare a speech about the topic: what do you do to fight global warming. Well, I’ve heard some interesting answers: Giada told me that she uses the bike for going to work. Fabiana, on the other hand, decided to be a vegetarian. I said that I would only buy a car when I could afford to have an electric one. In any case, this is about getting aware that we can live better if we decide to live with less. If we decide to concentrated on the things we really need, such as love, food and security. Above all, we need more time to live our lives and enjoy our free time as we want. The question is: what do we want? What do you want?

Well, I’m telling this story because I’ve come to one conclusion after 6 years of teaching experience: it is really important to bring inspiring topics to the classroom. Not only inspiring, but topics that are connected to our reality and that can make we reflect about our lives. Usually, language books already bring topics related to daily activities and connect them to the target language. This is a very efficient method to teach a language, since the student will connect things that happen in their real life to the language they are learning. However, I understood that this is not enough to keep your students motivated to learn a language. The key is to find out the motivation of your students and transform it into something fun, interesting and that will make them expect for the next class anxiously.

First of all, one of the most important things is to do a needs analysis. This will help you to understand why they decided to learn a language. There is an example that I like to use about motivation. I have this great student who decided to learn English for a very noble reason: she will become a doctor and when she graduates, she will travel to Kenya and help people there. So, in this case, my student has a dream which took her to a clear goal: become a doctor, learn English and go to Kenya. When she told me this, I decided to bring to the class topics related to this goal. More than that: I decided to bring topics which would fit into her personality.

In this process, I also understood that help students to achieve their language goals is a working in progress. This is what I like to call the WIP process. Why is that? Simple: to help students to get what they want requires a constant motivation. To do so, it is very important to get to know them better. What do they like? What are their main difficulties? What are their strengths? As a teacher, you must listen to them carefully and find ways that will help each of your students to overcome problems and deal with their possible frustrations. It’s a WIP process. It never ends. That’s why I think that the human connection in the learning process is so indispensable. Once you are connected, you establish a relation of confidence. They will be more open to you and you will be more open to them. You might even become good friends. The result of this connection is that you will be committed to their goals because they trust in you. That’s where your responsibility lies on: by keeping them motivated, you will also be motivated. It is an endless looping.

So far, this approach has been working pretty well. It requires time, dedication and passion for teaching. I know that as teachers we take for granted that we love what we do. However, I keep reminding myself that this is not just a job. We didn’t decide to become a teacher because of money. This is a vocation. In my opinion, it’s about helping people to achieve their goals. Therefore, if you believe in that you will never have problems to motivate your students.