Many language learners may have shared the feeling that learning another language is an effort-demanding task and, more often than not, a longterm process. This feeling accords with reality. For example, students in China begin to learn English from primary school up to the university as a compulsory course, and some of them even start at kindergarten. In this long-term process, some language learners succeed and some fail. We may ask: why are some people successful while others do not achieve the same level? In order to answer this question, L2 (second language) researchers have looked into many factors influencing L2 achievement, including learner motivation, learner strategies, metacognition, and learning aptitude (e.g., Gardner, 1985; Gardner & Lambert, 1972; O’Malley & Chamot, 1990; Oxford, 1990). For example, a higher aptitude for L2 or FL (foreign language) learning is considered to be a factor that also predicts speed of learning and higher attainment or proficiency. The use of language learning strategies is often related to more successful learning. To continue developing their language proficiency levels, language learners not only have to equip themselves with the necessary skills for successful learning but also need to have a strong desire to learn the language. Learner motivation is consistently viewed as a critical determinant of students’ FL learning and achievement (Dornyei, 1994; Gardner, 1985). Dornyei (2001a, p.2) even believed that “99 per cent of language learners who really want to learn a FL (i.e., who are really motivated) will be able to master a reasonable working knowledge of it as a minimum, © The Author(s) 2017
K. Li, Motivational Regulation in Foreign Language Learning, DOI 10.1057/978-1-349-93118-7_1
regardless of their language aptitude”. However, motivation is diverse, complex, and undergoes many fluctuations. Seldom could we maintain a high level of motivation all the time in language learning. Some days we may try to learn for hours with great focus while other days all we do is sit and mope. It seems that we have less or no motivation to do anything even if we have enough work to do. Actually, a lack of motivation is a frequent problem experienced by language learners, especially FL learners. In the prolonged and effortful process of FL learning, learners encounter a myriad of obstacles that are likely to interfere with their attempt to sustain an adaptive level of motivation. In such situations, students are expected to concentrate all of their attention and efforts on learning tasks that may be regarded as boring, irrelevant or unimportant to them. Therefore, they need to rely on certain strategies to help themselves sustain or increase their level of motivation. Students’ ability to regulate their motivation to increase their effort and sustain persistence at learning tasks will have a tremendous impact on language learning and achievement.