Language Learning: Internal And External Motivation

What is motivation?

Motivation can be described as a strong stimulus that comes from a learner’s perspective of his or her social milieu.

When it comes to learning a new language, the single most influential factor is “Motivation”. To reach a level of proficiency, both the learner’s inner desire to become integrated with the target language or the external pressure plays a huge role.

At times there are tasks that you do because you want to do them. This is considered internal motivation. At other times, there are tasks that you do because someone else wants you to do them or rewards you for doing them. This is external motivation.

By recognizing the difference between those two types of tasks, you will be able to understand your motivations.

Using external motivation to learn a language

External motivation means that your motivation to attain your goals comes from a source outside of yourself. This often comes in the form of working towards gaining a reward.

Externally motivated sample goal:

“I will pass the IELTS language test.”

It is ok to be externally motivated by such things as getting a high score on a test, receiving praises from family, or earning more money. However, performing tasks to look good for others or to please your family can be difficult to maintain.

It is always harder to stay motivated in areas where you only have ulterior reasons for learning.  Furthermore, constantly using external motivation when confronted with a difficult task requires a great deal of effort. So, while external motivations are helpful, they may eventually lead to burnout or loss of effectiveness over time.

Using internal motivation to learn a language

Internal motivation means that your motivation is to accomplish your goal within you. It is usually an effective method for achieving goals and completing tasks in a way that makes you feel fulfilled.

Sample goal that is internally motivated:

  1. Sometimes language learners show intrinsic motivation when they continue to study a language beyond any practical need.
  2. Even though learners may join a class because of external motivation, they may become motivated internally as learning becomes enjoyable and rewarding.

In a tailored teaching setting, the teacher can use a need analysis questionnaire to assist with the teaching and learning process. It is through this the teacher can bring aspects to the classroom and identify what the student finds most useful and enjoyable.

Improving your internal motivation.

  1. Highlight the importance of mastering a foreign language at the appropriate level for future benefits, for example, career options.
  2. Constantly encourage students with active work in foreign language classes.
  3. Activate a student’s speech activity by creating memorable lessons that will pique their interest.

Both external and internal motivation are important ways of driving performance. However, internal motivation is aimed at giving students satisfaction from the learning process itself. This includes doing certain work, learning certain material, and not for the sake of getting an award or a positive mark on the exam.

Overall, if students don’t get satisfaction from learning, they won’t acquire the appropriate knowledge. So naturally, one should ensure that internal motivation is present when learning a foreign language.

Here at learnwithscience, we do our best to have our students motivated. We use our personality test to help us know more about our student and their needs.

Is your motivation strong enough? Check our personality test and find out your best learning strategy!


Banias, N., & Banias, V. (2022). Educational Motivation In Teaching And Learning English: Ways And Problems Of Creating. InterConf, 176-183.