How to Motivate Students to Learn English

Why do teachers often struggle when it comes to engaging students and promoting interest in the English language classroom? What can they do to motivate their students and maintain a healthy, positive classroom environment? While there is not one perfect answer for all teachers and all classroom situations, I believe it is essential that teachers first look at their own motivation and perceptions of learning before attempting to encourage important learning values in their students. If teachers themselves can justify the purpose of the lesson and the value of the content, then this could provide students with a stronger reason to come to class.

Motivating students to learn English as a foreign language (EFL) is a complex and multifaceted challenge that educators worldwide encounter. Understanding the factors that influence motivation and implementing effective strategies are essential for creating a positive and engaging learning environment. This educational study explores the key components of student motivation in EFL classrooms and presents evidence-based strategies for fostering enthusiasm and dedication towards language learning.

Understanding Motivation in EFL

Motivation is a dynamic force that drives students to engage in learning activities, persist in the face of challenges, and strive for mastery of the subject matter. Many teachers may be asking: What makes a lesson motivating? The answer is that it depends on your students! If students have certain interests, it is important to cater to them. For example, if the students are mostly adolescent boys from Poland, a teacher might not achieve an interested class of students by using the topic of traditional bridal customs in India! In the context of learning English as a foreign language, motivation can be influenced by various factors, including personal goals, cultural background, perceived relevance, and teacher-student dynamics.

Setting Clear Goals – Short-Term and Long-Term Objectives:
Establishing both short-term and long-term goals provides students with a sense of purpose and direction. Short-term goals, such as mastering a specific grammar rule or learning a set of vocabulary words, offer immediate rewards, while long-term goals, like achieving fluency, contribute to sustained motivation.

Cultural Relevance – Linking English to Real-World Contexts:
Connecting language learning to students’ cultural backgrounds and demonstrating the real-world applicability of English fosters a sense of relevance. Integrating culturally relevant materials and examples into lessons helps students see the practical value of acquiring English language skills.

Creating a Supportive Learning Environment – Positive Teacher-Student Relationships:
A positive and supportive relationship between teachers and students is fundamental for fostering motivation. Teachers who show genuine interest in their students’ progress, provide constructive feedback, and create a nurturing atmosphere contribute significantly to a positive learning environment.

Incorporating Varied and Engaging Activities – Diverse Learning Activities:
Utilizing a variety of interactive and engaging activities caters to different learning styles and preferences. From games and role-playing to multimedia resources, incorporating diverse activities ensures that students remain interested and motivated throughout the learning process.

Promoting Autonomy – Encouraging Self-Directed Learning:
Empowering students to take charge of their learning by setting personal goals, choosing topics of interest, and exploring self-directed learning resources enhances motivation. Providing autonomy fosters a sense of ownership, making the learning process more meaningful for students.

Evidence-Based Strategies for Motivating EFL Students

Gamification in Language Learning – Use of Educational Games:
Gamification is a powerful tool for engaging students and promoting motivation. Educational games, whether online platforms or traditional board games, make language learning enjoyable while providing a structured environment for practice and reinforcement.

Technology Integration – Interactive Language Learning Apps:
Leveraging technology through interactive language learning apps and online platforms caters to the digital-native generation. Apps that incorporate multimedia content, interactive exercises, and gamified elements can enhance motivation and provide additional avenues for language practice.

Project-Based Learning – Real-World Application:
Implementing project-based learning allows students to apply language skills in real-world contexts. Projects that involve research, presentations, or collaborative activities not only enhance language proficiency but also instill a sense of accomplishment and purpose.

Culturally Relevant Materials – Incorporating Diverse Texts:
Including literature, films, and other media from different cultures broadens students’ perspectives and makes language learning more culturally relevant. Exposure to diverse materials not only enhances linguistic skills but also fosters an appreciation for the global nature of English.

Peer Collaboration – Collaborative Learning Activities:
Peer collaboration promotes a sense of community and shared responsibility for learning. Group activities, language exchange programs, and collaborative projects provide opportunities for students to support each other, fostering a positive and motivating learning environment.

Regular Celebrations and Recognition – Acknowledging Achievements:
Celebrating students’ accomplishments, whether big or small, reinforces positive behavior and boosts motivation. Certificates, awards, or simple verbal recognition for achievements, progress, or effort contribute to a positive learning atmosphere.

Useful motivation strategies in the language classroom:
1. Determine the purpose of the lesson and communicate it (‘sell it’) to your students.
2. Encourage creativity, communication and curiosity.
3. Set the tone in the classroom and be aware of your teaching style.
4. Encourage autonomy; this will create a more positive classroom environment than if you are a controlling teacher.
5. Encourage communication from all your students. Try different types of activities in pairs and groups as well as whole-class discussions. Only allow students to use the target language, if possible.
6. Encourage the students to learn the language through physical movement; this can be fun and encourages even the shy students to participate in the activity


Motivating students to learn English as a foreign language requires a holistic and student-centered approach. By understanding the diverse factors that influence motivation and implementing evidence-based strategies, educators can create a dynamic and engaging learning environment. From setting clear goals and incorporating culturally relevant materials to leveraging technology and promoting peer collaboration, fostering motivation in EFL classrooms is essential for empowering students on their language-learning journey.

1. Asher, J J ‘The strategy of the total physical response: An application to learning Russian’ International Review of Applied Linguistics 111 (4) 1965
2. Asher, J J Learning Another Language Through Actions Sky Oaks Productions 2003
3. Hardré, P L and Sullivan, D W ‘Motivating adolescents: high school teachers’ perceptions and classroom practices’ Teacher Development 13 (1) 2009Vintilă Ovidiu-Leonard


prof. Ovidiu Leonard Vintilă

Colegiul Tehnic Costin D. Nenițescu, Pitești (Argeş) , România
Profil iTeach:

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