The impact of investment and L2 Motivational Self-system in second language acquisition. 

  • Although sociocultural and identity theories like Norton’s construct of investment and psychological theories of motivation such as Dörnyei’s L2 motivational self-system are traditionally used separately, in this theoretical paper I will argue that bringing the two together may offer a more comprehensive understanding of learners’ variable desire to engage in social interaction inside and outside the L2 classroom.

    On the one hand, Norton’s (1995) sociological construct of investment offers new perspectives on language learning and teaching. Norton Peirce was concerned that most psychological theories of language learning motivation did not do justice to the often inequitable relations of power learners negotiate in different sites. Investment recognizes that the language learner has a complex social identity which changes across time and space and that learners often have different investments in the language practices of their classrooms and communities (p. 17).

    On the other hand, Dörnyei (2005) proposed the L2 Motivational self system which was inspired by theoretical advances in psychology and which responded to dissatisfaction with the concept of integrative motivation. The system reorients L2 motivation ‘in relation to a theory of self and identity’ (Dörnyei, 2005:93). In the L2 motivational self system, the ideal L2 self refers to ‘the L2-specific facet of one’s ideal self’. Specifically, ‘if the person we would like to become speaks an L2, the ideal L2 self is a powerful motivator to learn the L2 because of the desire to reduce the discrepancy between our actual and ideal selves’ (Dörnyei 2005:105).

    The construct of investment and the construct of L2 motivational self system have also yielded recommendations for classroom practice. In summary, using the existing research literature I will show that the investments and motivations of language learners, as well as their teachers’ acknowledgment, serve to illuminate a greater relationship between sociocultural/identity and L2 motivation theories than in the past.

    Dörnyei, Z. (2005). The psychology of the language learner: Individual differences in second language acquisition. Wahwah, NJ : Erlbaum.

    Norton Peirce, B. (1995). Social identity, investment, and language learning. TESOL Quarterly, 29(1), 9-31.


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