There’s two types of motivation Intrinsic motivation and Extrinsic motivation, you can almost think of them as head and heart motivations, or logical and illogical motivations.
Extrinsic, or head, or logical motivation is learning a language for reasons such as furthering your career, to add another skill to your resume, or to look impressive in front of your friends because who doesn’t want that! They are all rational reasons, they make sense, they’re obvious to people from the outside and quite often they’re measurable.
Intrinsic motivation comes from within, it comes from your heart and like falling in love it’s not necessarily logical or rational, and is driven by emotion not reason. It’s having a passion for the language and a desire to learn it for the language itself, or the culture and people attached to it.
I think Intrinsic motivation is real motivation because it comes from such a personal place. Yes it’s nice to have the extrinsic benefits of speaking another language, I’m not saying that extrinsic motivation is bad, but from my own experience intrinsic motivation is what’s going to carry you further, it’s what’s going to keep you going when things get difficult because it’s driven more by emotion and passion rather than reason, and from my own experience emotion and passion are a much more powerful motivator than reason.
So If you’re struggling to learn a language be honest about what your motivations are. I struggled to learn French for ten years at school and then for a further two years as an adult. In those two years as an adult I was also learning Afrikaans which I was doing really well with but French I was struggling with. I knew I could learn a language because of the Afrikaans so I looked at my motivation, it was all extrinsic. It made sense for me to learn French because of the UK being so close to France, and from a business point of view it makes sense for me to speak French. Living in the UK there’s no reason for me to learn Afrikaans but I just feel a pull to the language, I love it, I love the sound, the people attached to it, and so it’s much more of an intrinsic motivation and that’s what’s allowed me to get as far with it as I have with it. With the French it was all extrinsic motivations.
To show you how powerful intrinsic motivation is. Three weeks ago I switched from French to Spanish. I’ve always had a love for Spanish dance and music. I really enjoy Latino music. I’m interested in Latin America, and my fondest memories of childhood are our holidays to Spain. I feel a strong pull towards the language that I didn’t feel towards French. Also a good friend of mine is from mexico, her native language is Spanish and although she speaks fluent English I would love to be able to communicate with her in her native language as well. I’ve been learning Spanish for just three weeks and already I can say the same amount in Spanish as I can in French after 12 years. So it just shows how powerful intrinsic motivation is.
Also with Spanish there’s been an intrinsic and an extrinsic motivation. It would make far more sense for me to learn Castilian Spanish because of how close the UK is to Europe, but because of my friend and just because I’m more interested in Latin American than I am in Spain I’ve got more of an emotional pull to learn Latin American Spanish, so I’ve been concentrating on Spanish from Mexico.
If you’re struggling to learn a language then go back and just be honest with yourself about what your motivation is. There’s nothing wrong with Extrinsic motivations but Intrinsic motivation I feel is what really carries you through and gets you results.
Let my know if you’ve had a similar experience with motivation and also what languages you’re learning and your reasons for learning them as well.
See you soon, Bye for now.
I coach people on how to learn languages. Here is how you can get in touch with me.
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