L2 Motivation and the Type of English Course: A Mixed-Methods Investigation of the Dynamic Features of Future L2 Selves among EFL Students at Saudi Universities

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2020

Authors

Altalib, Aser

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Abstract

Recent research has shown that learners' future second-language (L2) selves (i.e., visual mental imagery of desirable future self-images as competent L2 users) can influence the learning process and, more importantly, act as a driving force of language learning motivation. Despite considerable research on language learning motivation, it is unclear what the effect of English for specific purposes (ESP) courses have on language learning motivation and particularly learners' future L2 selves. The existing literature suggests that ESP courses are more likely to engender higher levels of motivation than other types of English courses, i.e., English for general purposes (EGP). Some scholars assert that ESP courses are more relevant to learners' needs (e.g., academic, professional, etc.) and interests, profoundly increasing their motivation to learn the language. However, such claims have not been based on empirical research, and an increasing number of ESP courses are offered despite a lack of information about their effect on motivation. In addition, although numerous studies have used the concept of future L2 self, research has not targeted the motivation of ESP learners from an L2 self perspective. The present study used Dornyei's (2005, 2009a) L2 motivational self system as the main theoretical framework. Drawing on relevant psychological theories and previous research in the L2 field, the model has been conceptualised to explain L2 motivation through three components: ideal L2 self, ought-to L2 self, and L2 learning experience. The study explored L2 motivation's relationship to the type of English course (i.e., ESP and EGP) and English course achievement. To comprehensively examine motivation in these courses, the study assessed other motivational and attitudinal variables as well. A mixed-methods design was employed with a primary quantitative phase (a questionnaire) accompanied by a concurrent supplementary qualitative phase (semi-structured interviews) to assess the relationship between L2 motivation (focusing on L2 motivational selves) and the type of English course attended. This design allowed for an in-depth understanding of learners' motivation and how the types of English courses varied in their effect on motivation. A total of 4,043 students enrolled in ESP and EGP courses at four Saudi universities completed an online questionnaire, and 21 students were interviewed. The data analysis revealed a significant relationship between learners' motivation and the type of English course. ESP students not only had a higher ideal L2 self and intended learning efforts but also more positive attitudes toward learning English than EGP students. The ought-to L2 self was stable, as it did not yield significant group differences and appeared marginal across different groups of learners. In addition, the findings showed a relationship between students' L2 motivation and gender as well as English course achievement. These findings offer an opportunity to advance the current understanding of how different English courses with different characteristics and orientations, affect learners' ideal and ought-to L2 selves in particular.

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DOI

10.25911/5f4e2379db426

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