How to Keep Your Students Motivated: A Guide for Language Teachers

Motivation is key to learning a language. If your students are genuinely interested in developing their language skills, they’ll improve much more quickly, as well as create a positive classroom environment that’s conducive to learning. Unfortunately, not all students are as excited about learning a language as you are about teaching it. If you’re dealing with students who are lacking motivation or seem uninterested in learning a foreign language, don’t worry: our experts are armed with plenty of tips to steer them back on track.

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By Rex Pe  from Savannah, Georgia, USA (student teacher Uploaded by Adrignola) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Know the Warning Signs of an Unmotivated Student

To get your students to be more motivated you first have to be able to spot when they need your help. However, it’s not always clear when students are feeling frustrated with their work, as they may be reluctant to say so directly. Still, there are several signs — such as poor attendance or reduced class participation — that are tell-tale symptoms of frustration or discouragement. If you sense that one or more of your students is feeling this way, check out our teacher’s full list of warning signs, as well as advice regarding how to respond to them.

Be Open, Honest, and Communicative

Language is inherently communicative: after all, the purpose of language is to communicate! As such, language teachers in particular should make sure that communication in the classroom is open, clear, and honest. Some students may struggle to admit that they are having a problem depending on their language level and cultural background, so be sensitive to your students’ individual needs and communicative abilities, and tailor your lessons accordingly. As our veteran teacher points out, it’s crucial that your students know they can turn to you when they’re having doubts.

Track Their Progress

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“Participantes do Enem” by Wilson Dias/ABr via Wikimedia Commons.

As our teacher remarks, tests are often a cause for anxiety — but a savvy teacher can use testing as a tool for maintaining students’ motivation. Indeed, periodically administering a language level test gives your students a concrete way of monitoring their progress, and they’ll be surprised by how much they’ve learned as time goes on. Further, level tests can help both you and your students understand what to focus on in order to maximize lesson time in future classes.

Make Sure the Problem Isn’t You

A language teacher’s role is more than simply conveying linguistic knowledge: you have to engage your students in order to get them excited about learning a language. Indeed, your students will be much more motivated to learn a language when they’re in the presence of an exceptionally motivational teacher. Our seasoned teachers, who have mastered the art of motivation through experience, have several suggestions — such as using reward systems and highlighting the real-life applications of language-learning — that are sure to instill some excitement in even your most unmotivated students.

Learning a language is a journey that is often fraught with challenges. It’s expected that students will occasionally feel disheartened or unmotivated. But it’s our job as language teachers to encourage them to stick with it — it’s worth it in the end! Luckily, our  teachers have got your back, with wisdom and advice that comes from years of experience. For more insider advice from our language teachers, check out the rest of our teacher’s handbook — with over 100 free articles, it’s guaranteed to help you get the most out of your language classes, for both you and your students.