How many times have we encountered as teachers, parents, friends – and even ourselves – the saying “it won’t work, I won’t succeed; why bother?”
Most of teachers and other personnel who work as instructors meet with students who are not interested to learn a certain topic, as a second language (English in my case) for example. This is so, in spite of the fact that they are well aware of its importance for their future. It will be more correct to say that they usually want to master the knowledge but not to invest in acquiring it and go through the process of learning it.
In this article I will address the different reasons that cause lack of motivation and a few ways to deal with them, in the hope they will help those in need and their surroundings. Often, learners can not explicitly describe the difficulty and its origins. In addition they rarely admit that they understand the importance of the knowledge they need to acquire but lack the motivation or the know-how to learn it.
I believe there are various reasons for the lack of motivation to learn English. Some lie in the past of the students, some derives from their personalities, the learning environment; the tutor’s personality and his or her ability to “reach” the pupil and reasons that are connected to a certain momentary/temporary state of mind or personal issue/s.
In order to determine what are the causes I would advise to check if there have been failures in the past and what caused them; If there were any problems with English teachers or difficulties involving the learning environment either at home or at school, that might have hindered proper studying. In addition, there is a possibility that the pupil did not get proper foundations for this subject matter and feels that this lack of knowledge brings him to a dead end. Finally, parents and teacher must address the possibility that the child/student might have some learning disability or a certain distinctive learning style that makes it hard for him/her to learn the way others do.
Personality or personal issues are, of course, more complex as is the course of action they require. Sometimes the student is in need to be in total control (and therefore finds it difficult to learn something new); is a “perfectionist” that cannot cope with the thought of making a mistake; is prone to procrastination or is dealing with personal difficulties (especially when addressing teenagers).
An open “talk” with the student might lead to insights about the causes and the possible solution or way of action. This talk, in itself, can be a first step towards getting the student to cooperate and boost his, or her, motivation.
In addition it is advisable to talk to a close friend. Sometimes those around us have a better perspective and can enlighten us about things we (or the learner) are oblivious of.
Another aspect we should be aware of is the student’s surroundings and peer friends. Sometimes there is a counterproductive atmosphere in class that should be reported to school authorities. In other cases the learner’s age group develops a sub-culture which praise those who do not learn for different reasons. Either way, we should explore the course of action with the school councilor, the home-room teacher and in cooperation with the pupil’s different social circles.
Boosting a learner’s motivation is a long process. The student and his entourage should constantly check for ways to stimulate learning and find solutions as the learning process progress. It is more so for students with learning disabilities. One should take into account that it is almost impossible to cope alone and be prepared to get help for oneself or for the child, putting our “egos” aside.