A comparative study on the L2 motivations and desired L2 identities of university students of English, Italian and German studies
AffiliationSchool of Languages and Linguistics
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2022-05-12.
© 2019 Riccardo Amorati
Despite the remarkable level of research activity in the field of L2 motivation in the past decades, most studies have focussed on learners of global English, who generally pursue the language as part of an educational or professional requirement, to gain membership into a global community and to obtain utilitarian advantages. This literature has not only disregarded more “traditional” learners of English, such as learners of English studies, who study the language as a key area of their degree alongside cultural and literary aspects of specific English-speaking countries, but also LOTE learners, thus leading to the establishment of a “global English bias” in theoretical and empirical advances in the field. In an attempt to challenge this bias, this study presents the first comparative analysis of the L2 motivations and desired L2 identities of students of English studies in Italy and in Germany and of learners of Italian and German studies in Australia. The findings of a questionnaire that elicited both quantitative and qualitative data were triangulated and complemented by a longitudinal component conducted over one academic semester, which consisted of three rounds of interviews and two rounds of diary entries on a fixed sample of learners. Drawing upon mainstream perspectives on L2 motivation as related to processes of identity creation and development, traditional motivational variables and poststructuralist scholarship on L2 learning and identity as related to investment, imagined communities and capital, motivation is conceptualised in this study as a multifaceted and dynamic construct that emerges and develops through the dynamic interaction between learners, their developing identities and the contexts which they inhabit. The findings show that learners’ motivations reflect both their L2-study-related profiles (e.g. their past learning experiences, the degrees in which they were enrolled, their level of L2 proficiency), their existing linguistic capital and the status that each L2 holds on a global scale and in the local L2 learning context: the communicative range and the perceived utilitarian value of each target language, the power associated with the native or advanced knowledge of English, heritage reasons, socio-economic factors, and varying degrees of societal support are some of the key factors which can explain differences in students’ motivations and identity aspirations across sample groups. Despite these differences, however, most L2 learners were engaged in a process of identity construction to claim personally relevant L2 selves as travel-oriented, globally positioned, open-minded and cultivated individuals, regardless of their chosen L2. While their L2 visions tended to be generally stable over time, students reflected on them over time, particularly in terms of their elaborateness, plausibility and harmony with external expectations, with fearing selves also being at play when students worried about not meeting goals. The findings of this research contribute to reducing the gap in the scholarship on EFL and LOTE learners and further our understanding on the link between L2 motivation and processes of identity development.
KeywordsL2 motivation; L2 selves; global English bias; English vs LOTEs; Italian in Australia; German in Australia; LOTEs in Australia; Anglophone language learners; community language learning in Australia; EFL in Italy; EFL in Germany; English in Europe; L2MSS; language, identity and capital; motivational dynamics
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