Motivating students and teachers' role in inducing them to learn English

In this article, I share my personal experience about motivating students in learning English and other related topics such as special attention to human basic needs as a basis of motivation.

After arguing with a student about his poor activities in English class, I got this answer "I have enough money and do not need learning English, in case of need, if I happened to be in a foreign country, I will hire a translator or interpreter." He also went further by saying that he could read translated books or he would by a good dictionary to be used for translating the texts he needed to know in Persian.

I tried to calm down and convince him to improve his English knowledge, stating the necessity of learning this language in today's world but it looked as if it was useless to make him eager to learn English. Then I remembered this common saying that "You may take a horse to the river but you can't make it drink". However I didn't give up and tried to find a solution to the problem. Whatever I tried to get near to him he rejected.

This continued till one day that I accidentally became aware of his interest in music while he was listening to his mobile set. I asked him gently if he enjoyed it and to my surprise he said," Yes but I do not care about what he is saying, I just enjoy the music and the way he is singing". I replied that he would enjoy much more if he had known the meaning of the song .Reluctantly he showed some eagerness to know the meaning of the song in Persian and I did my best to explain it in Persian. The singer was Elvis, singing about poor people and saving their lives.

It was the beginning of piercing into his mind to find out more about his interests in other fields like swimming and football. I had found the key to solving the matter and little by little he showed some willingness in learning.

Of course some teachers may not like to involve themselves about students' interests and leave the scene when they come across with this kind of students.

We, as teachers, should be able to do something beyond our teaching tasks and if we make good relationship with our students we can read their mind and interests to reach our goals. I am sure teachers can improve students' behavior too if they honestly do themselves what they want from others to do. Students need patience and attention but teachers before attending a class must know some knowledge and experience of psychology and management. How can we establish a sincere atmosphere? how to react in different circumstances and much more, how to recognize their abilities, interests and dislikes. It is necessary to mention that strengthening student's self respect and self actualization is of high priority and I think it will be achieved by mutual understanding .A teacher who is worried about his daily problems like missing a house or a flat to live and cannot balance his earnings with his family expenses is not blamed to be careless and indifferent to students' needs as mentioned above. On the other hand a student who has many monitory problems and has not been able to satisfy his basic needs cannot jump to the stage of self-actualization. Once again it is necessary to review Abraham Maslow theory of human needs: 1. Basic physiological needs 2. Safety from external danger 3. Love, affection and social activity 4. Esteem and self-respect 5. Self-realization and accomplishment Teachers should take the said theory into consideration in motivating their students to learn any subject of studing.
What has happened to us?

Time has changed the good courtesy of students towards teachers and what is important now for majority of students is passing an exam and getting a degree. In the past times teachers were more valued and students were more cautious about learning. We really need some research to find out what has caused these matters.


Students' interests and their basic needs are very important and they must not be ignored when teaching a foreign language. The more we care about this matter the more we improve their knowledge of that language. Sometimes students hate their teacher and it avoids them from progressing .Another point to be taken care of is the society and governments' roles to make life meaningful for students. In a society of low employment rate, there is no desire for learning and better education. I am sure you agree with me that here is a meaningful relation between students' life expectancy, satisfaction and learning.

This was an experience I like to share with you and I would be happy if I get your feedback on this or similar matter.

What's your opinion about having good relationship with your students? Have you ever done something to affect and change them?


Abraham Maslow Hierarchy of needs: Best wishes
A Mazinanian




Average: 5 (2 votes)

Submitted by Rania Jabr on Sun, 12/28/2008 - 06:07


After many years of teaching and after using varied ways, often sucessful and at times not very successful, I have come to realize that if we truly want to motivate our students, we need to begin by ourselves. We teachers need to be motivated. We need to reinvent ourselves, invigorate our lesson plans, and update ourselves. Our students can read us like an open book, and motivation is contagious. If they feel our need and desire for them to learn, believe me they will rise to the occasion and will want to learn. Rania

Dear Rania, Many thanks for your comments. You are quite right and I always try to bring new teaching materials and methods to the classroom. Furthermore I usually add some variety and humor to my teaching materials. As an example I have found the series of Dr Hills' book, Steps to understanding English to be very useful for reading comprehensions. Students enjoy reading them as the author has added humor in reading by telling funny interesting stories. I wanted to mention that innovator teachers should consider all aspects related to the matter of motivating students and find out the reasons that why they are not active so as to smooth the way of motivation.Obviously an inactive teacher can not activate students.

Submitted by mohkam on Mon, 12/29/2008 - 19:25


well as it is said that where there is a will there is a way and I would say that hard work done with sincerity never goes unpaid it bears fruit .so while teaching one should not stick with same out fashioned teaching methods .


Dear Mohkam

Thanks for sharing your ideas with me, but i did not want to ignore the sincerity of the teachers. In Iran there are many teachers who are sent to different, lonely villages to teach the students. Many of them are not paid well and have not enough facilities but according to their beliefs, inspired by our holy book Quran, their efforts will not be ignored but will be compensated by Allah. What I wrote was the management of innovation by mentioning the difficulties every teacher faces. A hard working, sincere teacher , who believes sincere hard working will never be unpaid, can motivate the students much better by considering the problems mentioned and many more ideas which i have not mentioned.

Best wishes and happy holidays.

a Mazinanian

Submitted by englishmaster on Mon, 12/13/2010 - 19:06


I have to question many students motivations for learning English. I have taught many students in both London and Japan and the general feeling is that the majority of them do not even know why they are studying English.

What they don't realise is that in order to succeed, what they need more than anything else is motivation.


Colin Luzio



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