Getting a foreign language certificate


Today, in Spain, it´s common to hear students say they “have to” study English to get a specific language certificate. They express it in a way as if it was a distressing and oppressing formality they would like to get rid of.

There are two interesting points related to this fact. First, our motivation or motivations when we learn. What for and why do we learn a foreign language? Second and last, the smothering standarization process we are subjected to by international organizations. Everything has been reduced to whether a student is A1, A2, B1, etc. And, hence, the pressure to get a certificate is every time more tormenting.

The point I would like to develop on this occasion is the first one, in which we are dealing with different types of motivation: instrumental (study for an exam or in order to be admitted at university), extrinsic (reward or punishment), integrative (I want to belong to that speech community)and intrinsic (I like the language and I enjoy learning it). There isn´t one better or worse than the other and sometimes students have more than one or they vary between one or the other in different moments and learning stages.

Some researchers say motivation is a continuum that goes from demotivation, extrinsic motivations and, finally, intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation means doing something to achieve a specific result, a reward. Intrinsic motivation, however, implies doing something because doing it produces a special satisfaction. It´s more autonomous than the first one.

I think it is worth reflecting upon this subject since studying a language just to “get” a certificate does not seem enough to ensure a successful learning. It is necessary, on this point, that both students and teachers search for needs, topics, activities, etc. that involve them in their learning, and that allow them to start a more participatory, committed and, therefore, effective learning.

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