Creating positive attitudes towards English as a foreign language

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Elyildirim, S & Ashton-Hay, S 2006, 'Creating positive attitudes towards English as a foreign language', English Teaching Forum, vol. 44, no. 4, pp. 2-21.

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Most members of the language teaching profession realize that their students’ learning potential increases when attitudes are positive and motivation runs high. The research into the connection between positive attitudes and successfully learning a second language supports this simple observation, although it is important to understand that many variables are involved because we are dealing with complex social and psychological aspects of human behavior. For example, students’ ability to learn a second language can be influenced by their attitudes towards the target language, the target language speakers and their culture, the social value of learning the second language, and also the students’ attitudes towards themselves as members of their own culture (Ellis 1994). In addition, English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers should recognize that all students possess positive and negative attitudes in varying degrees, and that the negative ones can be changed by thoughtful instructional methods, such as using materials and activities that help students achieve an “understanding and appreciation of the foreign culture” (Brown 2000, 181). This article will describe some of the research about attitudes, motivation, and language learning; it will then discuss a project that examined educational factors that affect motivation and evaluated the effect of introducing special methods, materials, and activities to make attitudes more positive. The project utilized classroom action research, which is a useful method with clearly defined stages to allow teachers to identify, investigate, apply solutions to, and report on results and make recommendations about how to improve teaching strategies and educational policy.

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