|dc.description.abstract||It has been said that, if sufficiently motivated, anyone can learn a second language (Corder, 1967). But it is also true that no one succeeds in learning a second language (L2) if they stop. This study investigated motivation and learner attrition/retention among L2 learners in a New Zealand context.
L2 learners’ motivation is subject to various factors, the diversity of which has only been made more apparent by recent research. Previous research has also linked various factors to learners’ continuation or cessation of their L2 studies. One of the most significant developments in recent L2 motivation research is Dörnyei’s (2005) L2 motivational self system (L2MSS), which holds that L2 motivation is determined by a learner’s ideal L2 self, ought-to L2 self, and L2 learning experience.
Using the L2MSS as a theoretical framework, the study investigated the extent to which Dörnyei’s system could account for motivation and for learner attrition/retention among university-level learners of foreign languages (FLs) and te reo Māori—the indigenous language of New Zealand.
The study also contributed to existing scholarship by exploring the relevance of two further factors to both motivation and learner attrition/retention. The first was a novel construct representing goals unrelated to a learner’s L2 (non-L2 goals); the second was participants’ heritage language (HL) learner status—i.e., whether participants were HL learners of their L2.
The study followed a mixed-methods design. Quantitative data were collected through a survey of L2 learners (N = 700) and a follow-up question (N = 416), and data were analyzed using t-tests, confirmatory factor analysis, and structural equation modelling. Interview data from 21 participants underwent a three-level coding process that allowed data to be meaningfully related to the L2MSS. Integration of qualitative and quantitative processes took place throughout the investigation—during sampling, data analysis, and discussion.
Findings confirmed that L2 motivation and learner attrition/retention are complex issues affected both by factors clearly linked to L2 learning and by other aspects of learners’ lives—in particular, by learners’ non-L2 goals and ethnolinguistic identities. The study also found, however, that, while several factors played roles with regard to both motivation and learner attrition/retention, L2 learning experience was the most influential factor overall.
The findings point to a need for pragmatism regarding the real-world implications of L2 motivation research. They indicate a need for researchers, scholars, and L2 teachers to focus on those factors that have the greatest effect on motivation and learner attrition/retention, and on those that L2 teachers and institutions have the greatest ability to influence. Specifically, this study shows that the best hope for boosting L2 motivation and L2 learner retention lies in making learners’ experiences of L2 learning positive and enjoyable.||