Motivation and motivational dynamics of Chinese students learning languages other than English as college majors

  • Lefan Wang

Student thesis: PhD Thesis


The primary aim of this thesis is to contribute to our knowledge regarding the motivation to learn languages other than English (LOTEs) in the Chinese higher educational context. It works in concert with the LOTE and multilingual shift of the research scope advocated in the field of applied linguistics and L2 motivation in particular, as well as with the recent bloom of LOTE degree programmes in Chinese higher educational institutions. This thesis is comprised of two studies—the first study aims to establish a multilingual motivational self system encapsulating the motivational set-ups of Chinese students majoring in LOTEs (CMLOTEs); the second study aims to investigate the dynamic evolution of the LOTE learning motivation of CMLOTEs throughout the process of their college study.
Study I is a large-scale quantitative survey, with 1,034 participants learning 32 LOTE majors. A structural equation modelling approach was utilised to establish the multilingual motivational self system, and variance analyses (i.e., T-tests, Mann–Whitney U tests and ANOVAs) were further conducted to compare the LOTE learning motivation of participants across different genders, years of college learning, initial statuses of college enrolment, majored languages, and expectations regarding career and educational development. The results suggest that the participants’ LOTE learning effort can be predicted, either directly or indirectly, by their motivational self-guides relating to English, their studied LOTE, multilingualism, and academic development, as well as their LOTE learning experience. Moreover, the intensity of those motivational self-guides/factors and the LOTE learning effort of participants were significantly varied according to the participants’ years of college learning, initial statuses of college enrolment, and expectations with regard to pursuing career and educational development in their majored LOTEs.
Study II analysed the learning narratives of 23 Chinese students learning 14 LOTE majors and sheds light on the evolution of motivational self-guides and LOTE learning motivation throughout the four years of college learning. Its findings indicate that the participants were motivated by both education-related and language-related motives to choose a LOTE major and to start learning their majored LOTE at the beginning of college study. While the turbulence of their motivation during the course of LOTE learning was mainly caused by the wax and wane of the LOTE learning self, the LOTE learning experience, and the academic self. In addition, Study II also discusses several salient issues associated with the motivational dynamics of CMLOTEs, such as the motivating impact of English on participants’ decision to learn a LOTE, the sustaining of long-term motivation, and the participants’ destinations of LOTE learning motivation (for example, pursuing a job or education employing their majored LOTE or switching to other disciplines with a faded LOTE learning self).
The results and findings presented in this thesis underpin the existing self-oriented L2 motivation theories and expanded our research horizon by contributing data from the Chinese LOTE and multilingual learning context. The wealth of data in this thesis is expected to be of value for both researchers of language learning motivation and practitioners of LOTE education. For these stakeholders, pedagogical implications and future research orientations are proposed at the end of this thesis.
Date of AwardJul 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Nottingham
SupervisorChristine Muir (Supervisor), Zoltán Dörnyei (Supervisor), Xiuzhi Liu (Supervisor) & Lixian Jin (Supervisor)


  • languages other than English
  • LOTE learning motivation
  • ideal multilingual self
  • Multilingual Motivational Self System
  • LOTEs in China

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