The L2 Motivational Self System in the American second language classroom
Butler, Jamie Kathryn
Research developments in the field of Second Language Acquisition have led to a dynamic understanding of second language (L2) motivation. Dörnyei (2009) presents the L2 Motivational Self System (L2MSS) as a dynamic framework that accommodates past theories of L2 motivation—namely, the socioeducational model (Gardner, 1972). Drawing upon possible selves theory (Markus & Nurius, 1986) and self-discrepancy theory (Higgins, 1987), the L2MSS is comprised of three parts: the ideal L2 self (who one would like to become), the ought-to L2 self (who others want one to become), and the L2 learning experience (all the factors in the learning environment). The majority of L2MSS research investigates learners of English in a non-Anglophone setting. This study sheds new light on the L2MSS through an application of the framework within the French classroom at an American university. The L2MSS was used to create five Motivation Workshops, presented to the three participants over the course of one semester of an accelerated introduction to French course. The workshops served as an intervention program to activate, strengthen, substantiate, operationalize, and counterbalance the participants’ vision of their ideal L2 self. The study focused on the participants’ articulations of their ideal L2 self, the motivating power of the ought-to L2 self, and the changes to identity and motivation occurring within a learner during the study. Qualitative data, including Q sorting, interview, and written reflections, allowed for a rich portrayal of the dynamic systems being studied. By the end of the study, the three participants had more elaborate visions of their ideal L2 self. After the study, participants continued to grow as language learners by pursuing other languages. The findings of this study corroborate previous studies on the theoretical legitimacy of the L2 Motivational Self System. This study suggests that the L2 Motivational Self System can be applied effectively with American university learners of languages other than English.