Although English is not ranked as the most spoken language based on the number of native speakers, several nations have embraced it as part of their culture. For instance, 400 million people in the world are well-conversant with English, and a total of 53 countries are using it as their official language (Huang, 2018, p. 45). Additionally, there are several global organizations that have incorporated English into their formal languages. However, it is necessary to note that English is a discipline, and language is difficult for learners as a second language.
Consequently, the learner has to be inspired enough to increase their chances of not only understanding English but also speaking it fluently. There is an excellent correlation between and students’ resolution in learning a new language (Oxford and Gkonou, 2018, p. 405). The greatest issue in establishing and developing English as a second language is the existence of other local dialects that have been used for a longer time. Therefore, motivation is the solution to ensuring individuals who are interested in learning a language are successful in that endeavor (Huang, 2018, p. 45).The study will focus on public international primary schools in China since that is the right age bracket to start teaching a new language (Habók and Magyar, 2018, p.48). It will also be essential to understand the challenges teachers and students go through and the existing challenges before giving recommendations for the necessary improvements.
The contents of the research report are subdivided into four distinct sections. The first part is the review of literature, which gives an analysis of previously conducted research that relate to various components of this study. The segment will also discuss relevant definitions related to the research and multiple classifications of motivations. The following section will contextualize the students in China, giving a clear description of their characteristics. The third part of the paper will focus on applying information discussed in the literature review to the situation of learners in the country. The study will summarize the main ideas and personal recommendations based on the discussion.
Most studies on second language acquisition (SLA) indicate that focusing on students is the appropriate approach and this is supported by scholars in the linguistic and psychology disciplines. However, “the earlier, the better” concept has been a subject of contention in second language acquisition, and this has forced researchers to be involved in unending debates on the best approaches to the issue (Zein, 2017, p. 68). Nonetheless, second language learning continues to develop extensively in pre-primary and primary levels of education across the world. According to Zein (2017, p. 73) in a study on the impacts of motivation and attitude on second language learning suggested that intelligence and aptitude as one group and motivation and attitude as another should be addressed as independent variables. They both demonstrate cognitive and affective factors that even though they have individualistic characteristics, they have to work together in accomplishing the reception process.
Learning motivation evolves in the differentiation process of the student’s learning development curve, right from the start of the educational process. According to Yang and Chen (2018, p.72), motivation, like any other behavior, depends on external stimuli and reinforcement, which implies that an instructor’s conduct is of great importance. Teachers need to be the source of motivation and, as such, use rewards in ensuring young second language learners are inspired enough to meet the set learning objectives (Bower, 2017, p.573). Moreover, there needs to be an internal connection between the learner’s attitude and perception towards the foreign language and the satisfaction of acquiring it. The literature review section gives in-depth analysis of previous studies that have addressed the role of motivation in the success of second language acquisition in primary schools.
Motivational Self-System Theory and Second Language Acquisition
The second language motivational self-system theory has been applied and proven to be successful in numerous educational systems across the world. The model categorizes selves into three different categories, including ideal, expected, and feared selves that impact a learner’s attitude toward a new language in various ways (Magid, 2013, p. 122). The ideal-self element entails all the language attributes that an individual is convinced they ought to possess. Expected-self on the other hand describes all the skills the student aspires to have at the end of the learning experience. Finally, the feared-self, comprises all beliefs relating to the qualities one would not wish to have during after a second language acquisition. All the three components of motivational self-system theory should be understood by the teacher to ensure the student is inspired to learn a second language.
Critical Period Hypothesis in Second Language Acquisition
The correlation between a second language learner’s age and their ability to successfully acquire a new language can be illustrated by the critical period hypothesis theory. According to the ideology, the early years of a child are extremely important in learning a new language, provided the individual is provided with the right stimuli. Moreover, the theory also indicates that language acquisition is highly dependent on neuroplasticity, which is the ability of different brain components develop and reorganize (Ardasheva, 2016, p. 200). Consequently, if a student does not interact with the language in the critical period, it becomes impossible to fully communicate using the language. Even though there is a debate on the exact timing, the critical period for second language acquisition is approximated to be between 2 and 13 years old.
The Implication of English Teaching Challenges on Learning Motivation
Teachers are the most vital component in providing motivation throughout the learning process because they not only share knowledge but also give guidance on the best practice towards education success. In teaching a second language, a tutor acts as a framework of intercultural and language awareness and has to understand the characteristics of a learner and a reader while modeling the language being learned. According to Han and Yin (2016, p. 121), the teacher is more important in a second language learning classroom which opposes ideas of the approaches that focus on learners. The young students know little or nothing about the new language and therefore highly depends on the competency of the teachers to successfully learn foreign languages. As a result, a majority of issues hindering the effective acquisition of the English language in primary schools are linked to tutors.
The primary challenge in second language learning environments is classroom management. Misconducts relating to disrespect, rudeness, and attention-seeking behavior need to be explored to establish strategies that mitigate indiscipline cases (Waller and Papi, 2017, p. 55). Unlike other study subjects, second languages require extra attention because components such as phonemes, syntax, and grammar are different from the native dialects. Therefore, the teacher has to be in complete control of the students for the second language learning to take place successfully. Consequently, classroom management is crucial in developing relevant tasks, sharing of materials, and giving necessary feedback. This step avails opportunities for the appropriate target-language application on the young learners.
The other probable challenge in teaching a foreign language to young learners relates to using approaches that do not consider the students’ cognitive, social, emotional, and psychological needs. Juriševič (2013, p. 89) suggests that upholding the mentioned characteristics is crucial in developing enduring attitudes and collateral learning which are often part of foreign language curricula. It is imperative that second language learning in young students is embraced as an essential component of the child’s entire educational development. For instance, in most Asian countries such as China, fun, and play have been integrated into English learning lessons (Thohir, 2017, p. 20). However, they must be also taught how to apply the language in solving various issues, which in turn improves their creative and critical thinking abilities.
The Role of Motivation in Learning English Language
Educational professionals and researchers are in agreement that a second language student has to be motivated to be successful in the related course. Li (2016, p. 112) indicates that teachers’ competencies should be seen as an instrumental aspect in motivating young foreign language learners. Inspired students are passionate, hardworking, attentive on the assigned tasks, persistent in managing through learning challenges, and are also in a position of motivating their peers. Seriadi (2019, p. 214), a social psychologist, is among the first scholars to try and understand the role of motivation in improving the English language learning process. His research findings indicate that the idea of motivation should be viewed from a multifaceted angle.
Consequently, there are several elements, which act as variables in determining the impact of motivation in English language acquisition. First, attitude is an important aspect in developing the correct sentiments on the new language. It is imperative that the student has a positive perception of the new challenge to be in the proper learning mental state. Secondly, the beliefs about oneself are interlinked with attitudes. Having the right level of confidence that one is capable of accomplishing their expectations enhances self-efficiency while eradicating any anxiety (Seriadi, 2019, p. 214). Third, goals essential in giving the student an elaborate plan to work with and integrate related objectives into the English course learning process. Fourth, an involvement which is the degree to which the student actively engages in related activities, determines the effectiveness of the learning strategies. Finally, the learner will require the proper environmental support from teachers and peers to develop the right mindset to accomplish the English learning goals. All these attributes need to be achieved for motivation to have a decisive impact on the process of studying a new language.
However, foreign language teachers also need to be motivated to deliver their services effectively. The instructors’ interpretations, perceptions, and attitudes toward the pedagogical methods applied to relevant learning tasks should be modified to achieve better results (Rachmawati and Putri, 2018, p. 117). Enhancing these components generally improves the class environment, which in the long run leads to success in foreign language learning. Nonetheless, according to the theory of attribution, individuals always measure their efforts to visible results (Rachmawati and Putri, 2018, p.120). Consequently, instructors in second language learning will need motivation from students who demonstrate growth and commitment to the education plans.
Second Language Learning Motivational Strategies
Regardless of the classroom environment and the disciplines involved, teachers will use strategies at one point or another to motivate their students. Consequently, previously published articles have analyzed the various approaches and their implications in practical situations. According to Martin (2020, p. 233), motivational strategies are meant to induce and improve student motivation, prolong the existing motivated behavior, and manage it to prevent distracting tendencies. This idea originates from debates in The Modern Language Journal in the 1990s challenging the notion that teachers can positively influence their students’ motivational levels (Martin, 2020, p. 235). As a result, scholars have conducted numerous studies and developed evidence-based strategies with reference to case studies in their countries to support the concept of teacher motivation.
Consequently, tested and approved macro-strategies are used dominantly across the world in schools teaching the English language. For instance, Faretta and Morgan (2017) indicate that by demonstrating the correct teacher behavior, students get inspired to participate more in learning activities. To most learners, instructors are role models, and therefore teachers who display consistency in positive conducts are in a better position to motivate students. Moreover, Fei (2019, p. 1570) also suggests that cultivating healthy student-teacher relations plays a crucial role in encouraging self-confidence among learners. Personal interactions between the two parties enhance trust from the student’s end and induce positive behavior and improved learning involvements, both crucial in academic excellence.
Nonetheless, it is worth noting that the approach taken in implementing the identified strategies influences their success. İnözü (2018, p. 179) indicates that pupils can use their motivational levels to compare themselves to their peers. This revelation contradicts the instructors’ intentions which are always to use cooperation as a learning principle and not competition. İnözü (2018, p. 179) suggests a solution to this dilemma which is integrating competition within cooperation to motivate students. Therefore, the instructors should have the decisive capability to understand when, where, and how to employ the different techniques to motivate their pupils.
The Role of Differences among Second Language Students in Motivation
The differences that are often identified among second language students in the same classroom environment include aptitudes, motivations, and age of onset, which define how individual students succeeding in learning new languages. The first component, age, determines how fast an individual can grasp the various components of the new language. According to Zhao (2016, p. 186), there is a correlation between the starting age of studying a second language and a student’s acquisition level. Most scholars believe that the earlier an individual begins learning a foreign language, the better they get in understanding and speaking the language compared to the native speakers.
However, other researchers believe that there is no connection between the age of onset and the success of acquiring a second language. There are cases where adult students have also managed to effectively learn the new language to the extent of original speakers. However, Forbes (2018, p. 450) indicates that younger students stand a better chance of being fluent in a new language than their older counterparts because the neural elements responsible for grasping aspects of a language are still flexible. The scholar suggests that the best age for successfully acquiring a second language is within the range of 10 years. The period is perfect for the mastery of language quickly in a natural environment with minimal help from tutors. Consequently, some students will grasp the components of a foreign language faster than their counterparts because of their ages.
Similarly, motivation is considered a significant influencing factor in acquiring a second language. It is categorized as an individual difference element because it affects the student’s perception of the second language, their learning persistence and ultimately impacts the successful acquisition of the new language. Consequently, according to Hidayat (2018, p. 96), there are two approaches to understanding the role of motivation in learning a foreign language. The first category focuses on the components of motivation and its theoretical aspects. On the other hand, the second classification analyzes the internal structure of second language motivation using empirical procedures. Combining the two approaches is crucial in studying strategies that can enhance foreign language learning motivation and improve related teaching experiences. Wright et al. (2020, p. 101) define motivation in second language acquisition as the desire to attain the set goals, commitment, and positive attitudes towards learning. The student needs to be self-driven in pursuing all second language activities.
Aptitude is the final element that causes personal differences among students learning any second language. According to Vedder et al. (2019, p. 145), this aspect is considered as the perfect tool in predicting the effectiveness of learning a particular language. The author further refers to aptitude as a “raw learning power”, which implies that second language learners already have certain talents. Vedder et al. (2019, p. 146) on “Linguistic Energy Complex” theory states that linguistics can be associated with the external environment, including the language learning atmosphere. Since aptitude is the already existing ability crucial in acquiring a second language, it simply implies that the more natural linguistic talent a student has, the better.
Early Childhood Education and Learning Motivation
Most countries introduce English to students at the lowest level of education, and this is because doing so increases the chances of successfully learning the language. According to Hill (2020, p. 141), early childhood is the period between the ages of zero to ten years old and is a time when the brain is still growing. Consequently, this is the right time to introduce concepts to young ones because fundamental foundations can be laid for future learning and development. Early childhood education is usually conducted in pre-schools, daycares, and homes before young ones begin their formal education (Hill, 2020, p. 154). At this period, a child develops psychological, cognitive, motor, learning, and language abilities and is regarded crucial to their growth.
Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) makes a significant difference in a child’s education if conducted successfully. As a result, integrate the English language in childhood education activities plays a significant role in preparing the children for complex language lessons in primary education. Kane (2020, p. 26) suggests that incorporating English songs with demonstrations of the meanings of the words used can help children connect the language with the surrounding environment. Moreover, maintaining this culture ensures that the young student appreciates the language early enough and, as a result, increases their aptitudes. Children who have undergone effective ECCEs demonstrate higher intellectual and learning abilities in formal education.
Context of the Learners
Current Situation of English Learning in China
English has become a crucial element of the education system in China and is taught across all learning levels. However, before 2001, the language was not a compulsory discipline in a majority of primary schools other than few institutions in urban areas. Moreover, since the country had few skilled English teachers and suitable teaching materials, it was impossible to standardize the language as a course. Nonetheless, numerous developments have been made since 2001, with the Chinese Ministry of Education (MoE) focusing on improving English learning to all its citizens (Ardasheva, 2016, p. 199). Consequently, in the same year, English was made a mandatory subject in primary schools, starting with institutions in towns and cities followed by those in rural areas. The emphasis of English learning in these schools is on grammar and pronunciation conducted in the form of situational dialogues.
Nonetheless, even though English is officially a compulsory course in Chinese primary schools, the progress is relatively slow. For instance, the number of English lessons in schools is fewer than those of other subjects such as mathematics and Chinese. Such issues demonstrate that English in Primary school learning is not taken seriously as it is perceived. If students are to understand English perfectly and speak it fluently by the time they are in secondary and tertiary levels of education, the language has to be given the same attention as other courses (Ardasheva, 2016, p. 201). Previous studies conducted to investigate English learning in Chinese primary schools reveal that pupils have positive attitudes toward learning the language and have fully embraced its early introduction in school curricula. However, some young students in the country believe that English is not as crucial in their academics as mathematics and Chinese subjects.
Characteristics of Primary Schools in China
Primary school education is mandatory for all children in China, and it takes six years to complete. Although the study is about English acquisition, an important point worth noting is that the primary language used for instruction is Mandarin Chinese. The only exception is primary learning institutions that enroll pupils from minority ethnic communities (Yu, 2018, p. 70). Additionally, young ones begin primary school education at either six or seven years, depending on the institution, and are expected to complete their learning experiences within the stipulated period. An academic year in China comprises two semesters, which begin in September and end in July the following year.
Children within the primary school age bracket rarely have siblings because of the country’s policies and have few peers to play with while at home. Those who study in the cities dwell in small apartments with both parents. Those who live in the country interact with more people as they stay with extended relatives such as aunties, uncles, and grandparents (Yu, 2018, p. 74). However, they are generally poorer than their city counterparts, and most homes lack cars or money to buy good clothing.
Moreover, primary school pupils are expected to report for classes five days a week. Mandatory courses in the institutions include Mathematics, Chinese, Physical Education, Nature, Morality, Music Ideology, Labor Studies, and Fine Art. Nonetheless, even though English was declared a compulsory subject in primary schools by the nation’s Ministry of Education, it is essential to note that it is treated as an elective course in certain institutions (Kim, 2021, p. 1040). For primary school students to graduate, they must excel in Chinese and Mathematics course examinations, and this demonstrates that the two are of a higher priority. The graduation tests are designed and developed by school administrators and guided by local educational agencies. After successfully completing and graduating from primary schools, the young ones proceed to junior secondary school education.
The English curriculum is divided into three segments. The first component aims at developing the students’ interest in studying the English course. The second one is to cultivate their sense of language by enhancing their pronunciation and intonation. The final aspect is to develop the children’s ability to use English in daily activities. Moreover, the English syllabus is subdivided into two units, Level 1 meant for children in grades 3 and 4, and Level 2 for students in grades 5 and 6 (Kim, 2021, 1040). The learning process incorporates an activity-based method that supports teaching and learning through singing, speaking, listening, playing and acting, writing, and reading to enhance their experiences of the English language. Unfortunately, the MoE in China does not give explicit learning or teaching materials to be used, and English teachers are forced to look for related books on their own. However, most textbooks that are used in teaching the language are guided by the British curriculum.
Sociocultural Theory and English Language Acquisition in Chinese Primary Schools
China has seen numerous developments in teaching English as a second language in primary schools. The country’s ministry of education has established strategies to improve English learning in the region. It is important to note that the standards that have been applied over time need to be theoretically found on the sociocultural model, which attempts to integrate the language into the students’ values. The majority of English teachers in the region have raised concerns on the effectiveness of approaches used, seeking a change in the curriculum. Instructing primary school students in learning a new language requires elaborate frameworks that consider factors that might hinder the effectiveness of the learning process (Saito, 2018, p. 155). Consequently, the sociocultural theory is instrumental in revealing issues in the new curriculum that pose challenges to English teachers. If the acquisition of English as a second language is to be achieved in the primary schools, instructors concerns need to be addressed.
The sociocultural theory takes a multidisciplinary approach in analyzing various learning components. The model suggests the concepts involved in second language acquisition should not be addressed in isolation but instead taught in their complex nature (Poehner and Swain, 2017, p. 226). Consequently, the zone of proximal development is one aspect of the theory that evaluates two main concepts in second language learning among young students, and these are analysis of instructional practices and the children’s intellectual abilities. For instance, the current curriculum used to teach English in Chinese primary schools is only focused on assessing the actual development of the students.
The young learners are involved in activities such as reading, writing, playing, and singing to teach them pronunciation, intonation, and grammar.
Additionally, at the end of each semester, examinations are set to test the children’s understanding of English fundamentals. However, this approach neglects other aspects crucial in learning foreign languages. Personal abilities, for instance, are instrumental in determining the techniques to be used in teaching different students (Kim, 2021, p. 1040). Some children are good listeners and speakers, while others are good at memorizing and acting out their interpretations. Using one English teaching approach might prove ineffective because the students have different learning abilities and capacities. Instead of focusing on a single learning element, all of them should be integrated when creating an effective English curriculum for young students in China. Since passing examinations is the criterion for measuring a student’s understanding of the language, less productive methods such as cramming are widely used in primary schools.
Moreover, the theory also suggests using mediation as a concept that incorporates the practical use of tools to facilitate language learning. Unlike the Chinese course offered in the learning institutions, English is a new language, and therefore using similar teaching approaches might not be successful. Instead, education authorities should use physical objects to help students master language concepts (Kim, 2021, p. 1040). For instance, labeling regularly used tools in and outside the school with both Chinese and English languages will help the children use the words in their regular activities. The aim is not to make the students pass English examinations but to prepare them for a world that uses the language on all platforms.
Challenges that Hinder Motivation while Teaching English in Chinese Primary Schools
Motivation is the key to excellence in teaching and learning a second language in a classroom environment. However, various challenging factors make it impossible for teachers and students to be motivated enough to effectively participate in the English acquisition process. First, the existing English curriculum focuses more on the primary school children and neglects the place of teachers. Instructors are an essential component of the learning process because they act as intermediaries between the students’ need to acquire a new language and the successful understanding of the same.
However, teachers are not given the attention they deserve, which directly affects their moral to deliver the services. Moreover, Akbari (2019, p. 31) indicates that there are few English teachers in the country and that most of the existing ones are learning as they teach. The majority of competent teachers are working in secondary schools and institutions of higher learning. The MoE should ensure that the English instructors are well trained and motivated to effectively teach the language.
Secondly, poor classroom management is another hindrance to effectively teaching young students a secondary language. According to Alhamami (2019, p. 69), there is a connection between motivation in a class environment and learners’ behavior. When students are in good behavior, the morale from the entire classroom is high, and the same applies to when both parties are well-motivated, the learners demonstrate positive behavior. Yu (2018, p. 80), in his research, noticed that even though pupils have embraced English as one of the courses, others disregard the importance of the language in their academic achievements. This group views English as a break from other disciplines and therefore does not concentrate enough in related classes. It is important to note that the language is not accorded the attention it deserves because there are less than four English lessons in a week in primary schools, which limits motivation efforts from the teachers.
Finally, although the Chinese Ministry of Education made a significant step in making English a compulsory course in primary schools, there is still more to do. Students start getting tested for English proficiency while in grade three, which means they are approximately 10 or 11 years. According to (Ströbel et al., 2020, p. 760), the ages between zero and eight years are the best recommended in teaching children essential life skills. During this period, the brain begins to acquire learning, cognitive, emotional, psychological, and behavioral abilities. This means that children who begin to learn English later than eight years will find it difficult to understand language fundamentals such as intonation and pronunciation. English-speaking countries introduce students to the language as a course during early education to ensure it is part of their general life development. Students become less motivated when they struggle to master language concepts because of their age.
Differences among Students in Chinese Primary Schools Impacting their Motivation
Critical Period Hypothesis and the Age of Onset
The age of onset is one factor capable of making certain students stand out from others. According to Ardasheva (2016, p. 200), there is a correlation between the age at which students begin their second language class and the level of acquisition. Moreover, the critical period hypothesis suggests that neuroplasticity is at its peak between the ages of 2 and 13 years. Therefore, children in Chinese primary schools who start going to school earlier stand a higher chance of grasping English concepts than their older peers in the same class. Furthermore, research indicates that the brains of younger students, particularly those below ten years, are in the developing phase and therefore can learn languages a bit faster than the rest (Foppoli, n.d., par 4). However, this does not mean that older learners stand no chance of gaining proficiency in the course. Other scholars oppose the idea of “the earlier, the better”, claiming that even among same-age students, there are still other children who will struggle to learn the language (Foppoli, n.d., par. 4). Therefore, teachers should be considerate when teaching to understand the impact of the age difference on second language acquisition.
Aptitude is the other feature in students that makes a difference regarding second language acquisition in Chinese primary schools. Children are born with different internal talents and underlying abilities that play a significant role in understanding second languages. Consequently, students who are gifted in interpretation skills may start speaking the English language fluently compared to other classmates (Pawlak and Kiermasz, 2018, p. 431). Moreover, besides the English course, there are still other children who will perform better in other disciplines such as Chinese than their colleagues. Some students learn better through listening to the teacher and others through reading. As a result, depending on the approaches used by the instructor, various learners will perform differently. It is the duty of China’s MoE and local education authorities to develop English Curricula that considers the different talents.
The third and final aspect that can make a significant difference in a child’s second language learning process is motivation. Generally, students who are self-inspired tend to perform better because they have a positive mentality. The same applies to primary school children trying to acquire a second language. In their research on the impacts of motivation on learning English in China, Oxford and Gkonou (2018, p. 410) realized that there are students who never saw the need to learn the language. The researcher further indicated that these learners performed worse than their classmates. Motivation is categorized into internal and external structures which impact a student’s attitude towards learning English.
The internal components include individual perception, interest, and willingness to acquire the language. On the other hand, external factors of motivation are mainly the influences teachers and fellow students have on an individual’s perception of the learning process. However, it is also important to note that teachers also need to be motivated to deliver their services effectively (Habók and Magyar, 2018, 48). As a result, instructors who are well-appreciated by students and the primary school management will influence better results in English acquisition.
Successful Second Language Learners and Motivational Self-System Theory
There is a great need to understand the key to successful second language learning to improve English teaching in Chinese primary schools. English as a course was introduced and made compulsory in primary school education in the country in 2001. However, there is little to show regarding developments in the same since only less than 1%, representing 10 million Chinese citizens, can comfortably speak English (Li and Jeong, 2020, p. 123). This is a worrying trend since the government has invested in purchasing resources, hiring teachers, and developing English curricula for the primary students. Consequently, analyzing techniques that have been researched and those that have previously worked will help modify the English teaching methods and materials used in Chinese primary schools.
The main reason why second language learners succeed in their classes is motivation. Learning the fundamentals of a new language is challenging because, in most cases, components such as phonetics, grammar, intonation, and pronunciation are completely different from those in the student’s first language. Consequently, motivation is crucial because it gives the learner courage to persist with the lessons even when it takes a long time to grasp related concepts. Even though external factors such as reward play a great role in motivation, the “self” component is also vital as illustrated in motivational self-system theory (Magid, 2013, p. 122). Therefore, the learner and the teacher should understand the three selves, which are ideal-self, expected-self, and feared-self to identify the motivational goals they need to set to successfully acquire a new language.
Moreover, there are motivational strategies that have been proven to be effective in successfully acquiring the English language. One of the techniques identified by Huang and Bond (2016, p. 86) as crucial in enhancing a second language student’s attitude towards the course is appropriate teacher behavior. Students want to be good as their teachers, and therefore, the latter need to prove to the former that they understand the fundamentals of the foreign language quite well and are passionate in teaching it. Consequently, primary schools in China need to ensure that they only employ skilled English teachers who can inspire the young students through their behavior and proficiency. Similarly, the nature of a teacher-student relationship also plays a significant role in motivating second language learners. According to Huang (2018, p. 47), learners will always assume that their instructors understand everything pertaining to a particular course. This, therefore, means that teachers hold the key to success in English learning in Chinese primary schools.
The Role of Attitudes and Perceptions in English Learning Motivation
Two primary components of the internal structure of motivation in learning a new language are attitude and perception. The main purpose of education, regardless of the discipline, is to teach factual information relating to the subjects and enhance the learners’ interests in them (Oxford and Gkonou, 2018, p. 420). Consequently, concentrating on the use of examination to improve the mastery of English in Chinese primary schools may alter the students’ attitudes towards the course. There needs to be a balance between conveying the language components of English and encouraging the learners to understand the importance of related classes. Similarly, the students’ belief systems influence their learning patterns and outcomes. The primary school students will improve their mentality towards English if they have the conviction that their internal abilities and talents are crucial in the learning process.
The ability to speak different languages has become a necessity in a world that operates as a village due to developing technologies. English specifically is used all over the globe, and even though it is not widely spoken in all regions, it is a powerful unifying communication tool. Individuals coming from different countries will always use the language to communicate. Consequently, governments have embraced teaching English as a second language in their learning institutions to prepare their citizens to survive in the global platform. China has been at the forefront in teaching English in its schools and made it a compulsory course in its primary schools in 2001.
However, there is a need for the educational authorities to amend the teaching plans to mediate the children’s learning abilities with instructional activities as demonstrated by the sociocultural theory. The goal is to improve the students’ general experience with the English language. Motivation has been a significant part of the learning process if the Chinese primary school students are to acquire English successfully as a second language. However, there are challenges in the classroom environment that might hinder its applicability. For instance, the curriculum focuses more on the students than on their instructors. Teachers are the key to effective second language acquisition and therefore need to feel appreciated and taken through the proper training to motivate the learners. Additionally, attitudes and student beliefs are essential components of motivation that need to be addressed if the children are to have the right mentality during English classes. Students with negative perceptions are likely to influence others and pose a threat to classroom management.
Furthermore, there are personal differences among the primary school students learning the English language that teachers and the educational authorities need to understand to teach the course effectively. First is the age at which a child first interacts with English, and it is wise that the students start learning the language as early as possible. Second, it is necessary to understand the different personal talents that might contribute to the successful acquisition of the language. Finally, students who are highly motivated will grasp components of the language faster than the rest. It is necessary that all the discussed concepts are integrated into the teaching strategies if the acquisition of the English language is to be successful in Chinese primary schools.
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