- Motivation, Vision, and Future-Self L2 Images among Students of Nordic and Baltic Languages
Motivation is considered a pivotal factor in learning a second language (L2). Zoltán Dörnyei goes so far as to say that "it provides the primary impetus to initiate L2 learning and later the driving force to sustain the long and often tedious learning process" (2005, 65). The field of second language acquisition (SLA) has treated motivation differently over the years, from a focus on the social psychological foundations of motivation to sociodynamic perspectives within the last 10 years (Dörnyei and Ryan 2015, 74–80, 84–8). The former refers especially to the notion that L2 learning is influenced by social factors, such as cultural stereotypes and attitudes and learners' willingness to integrate to the respective language community as well as the perceived usefulness of the language (e.g., Gardner and Lambert 1959; 1972). The latter is especially concerned with the concept of the self: that imagining oneself as a successful language learner is a powerful tool that influences an individual's effort and engagement in learning a new language (Dörnyei 2005). Much of this line of research is concerned with L2 motivational self systems, and focuses on learners' self-perception in general—their perceptions of their desired future selves in particular—and the ways in which learners see and react to discrepancies between the two. The growing body of research in L2 motivational self systems has demonstrated a correlation between the strength of images learners have on themselves as future language users and their levels of effort and success [End Page 115] in learning a second language (Busse and Williams 2010; Csizér and Lukács 2010; Dörnyei and Ushioda 2009). Furthermore, it has been shown that a learner's ability to generate mental imagery—specifically imagery of possible uses of the language skills—is associated with the intensity of the learner's motivation and his or her success in language learning (Kim and Kim 2011; Dörnyei and Chan 2013).
Research on L2 motivational self systems has risen from the concept of world languages and international language communities, and in particular, English as a world language. Zoltán Dörnyei and Ema Ushioda describe the situation as follows: "what this changing global reality might mean for how we theorise the motivation to learn another language, and how we theorise the motivation to learn Global English as [the] target language for people aspiring to acquire global identity in particular" (2009, 1). Consequently, the motivation for learning languages other than English has been of marginal scholarly interest (see, however, Busse and Williams 2010, and Busse 2013, for German; Oakes 2013, for French and Spanish) and, as Vera Busse explains, "little is therefore known about the extent to which the ideal self can play a part in learning a foreign language other than English" (2013, 380).
Educating successful language learners is important for Nordic and Baltic language programs in universities around North America. These programs need motivated students and ways to use this motivation. Many of these programs have historical connections to immigrant or heritage communities. Better understanding of the background as well as the future visions of the student body could contribute positively to the relevance of these programs. To my knowledge, there are no studies that focus on correlations between the original motivation for language learning, future plans related to the language in question on the one hand, and demonstrated motivated behavior and success in language learning, on the other.
In the present paper, I aim to narrow this gap: I focus on the L2 Motivational Self Systems of Nordic and Baltic language students at a North American university and analyze the correlations between the students' ideal future and ought-to future L2 selves, the behavioral motivation they show, and their success in foreign language learning. I then evaluate these features with respect to students' imagery capacity and preferred learning styles. In many ways, this study replicates Dörnyei and Chan (2013), however, with different learning contexts and languages. I am further interested in the relationship of these factors to students' original reasons for studying a Nordic...