I recently asked this question in a training for Spanish teachers. We talked about things that motivate us and our children. Learning new things, feeling good about ourselves, getting a special prize or reward at the end.
We then related this to our role as teachers. Teachers often question their role in helping students with their motivation. Is it our job to motivate our students? Consensus was that it is not our job to motivate learners. Motivation is internal. If something is going to be accomplished or completed, the individual needs to feels motivated to do the task. Similarly, learning a language is personal. It happens on the learners own time, at their own rate. Motivation is critical to learning anything, but it must come from the individual for the motivation to be long lasting.
So, if it’s not our job to motivate children to acquire, learn, and practice another language, what is our job, especially if we recognize that motivation is an important piece to learning?
Our job as language teachers is to provide fun and engaging actives and a low-anxiety environment so the learners will want to learn and want to practice new words. Our own enthusiasm for the language, the songs, and games that we practice and rehearse with the children helps the children to associate positive feelings towards language learning. This in turn helps children to feel motivated to learn.