Exploring the relationship between second language learning motivation and proficiency: A latent profiling approach

Karen Dunn, Janina Iwaniec

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A foundation of second language motivational theory has been that motivation contributes to explaining variance in language learning proficiency; however, empirical findings have been mixed. This paper presents an innovative approach to exploring L2 proficiency and motivations of teenage English language learners in Madrid, Spain (N=1773). Participants completed a multi-skill English language test, plus an eight-scale questionnaire operationalising constructs from Dörnyei’s L2 Motivational Self System (L2MSS, Dörnyei, 2005). Data were analysed using Latent Variable Mixture Modelling (LVMM), a person-centred profiling approach. Results indicated five distinct classes of students, characterised by differing motivation-proficiency profiles. The importance of this study is that the analysis does not assume a homogenous relationship between motivational traits and proficiency levels across the learner sample; whilst there is undoubtedly a connection between the two areas, it is not a straightforward correlation, explaining to some extent discrepancies in previous findings and laying groundwork for further, more nuanced, investigation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalStudies in Second Language Acquisition
Publication statusAcceptance date - 16 Aug 2021

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