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volume 2, número 1, jan./jun. 2002
Linguagem em (Dis)curso
Linguagem em (Dis)curso
volume 2, número 1,
LEARNERS BE MOTIVATED TO SPEAK
FOREIGN LANGUAGE THROUGH THE USE OF GAMES?
Este trabalho objetiva responder
se o uso de jogos aumenta a
motivação de alunos no
aprendizado de uma língua
estrangeira e em particular
relatar uma gratificante
experiência pedagógica na qual o
jogo “Habits and Hobbies” foi
aplicado durante uma aula com um
grupo de alunos a fim de
examinar o efeito deste jogo no
desempenho dos alunos na
jogo “Habits and Hobbies”, estudantes de língua
learners be motivated to speak a foreign language through the
use of games? The major purpose of the present study is to
address this question and in particular, this study aims at
reporting a rewarding teaching experience in which the
“Habits and Hobbies” game by Hadfield, 1990 (apud
Biancamano & Perna, 1993) was applied during a class to a
group of students in order to examine the effect of this game
on the learners’ speaking performance.
ethereal, elusive, and difficult to be clearly measured, the
effects of motivation are felt and observed every day in
classrooms around the world. According to Cunningsworth
(1992), a student who is not well taught but is motivated will
have better results in learning a foreign language than a
student who is well taught but is not motivated. Cunningsworth
(1992, p. 59) also states that “motivation determines the
student’s level of attention during class, and the assiduity
which he does his homework and revises what he has been taught
during the day”.
It is commonly thought that if motivation is
present, students become active as well as involved in the
learning process; if absent, the learner will be passive,
disinterested, and not involved in the learning process and
therefore will not learn. Thus, foreign language teachers have
to be aware of the necessity of looking for techniques and
interactive activities such as games in order to enhance their
classes and also to motivate their students to learn a foreign
language. Researchers such as Wright (1989) and Moura (1986)
have stated that games have a positive effect on unmotivated
learners of a foreign language. However, only a few studies in
applied linguistics in the Brazilian EFL context have
investigated the importance of games in motivating learners to
speak a foreign language. Thus, the present study is an
attempt to help improve the area of applied linguistics,
showing that learners will probably be more willing to speak a
foreign language through the use of games. The present study
also aims at reporting a rewarding teaching experience in
which a game was applied to a group of students to examine the
effect of this game on the learners’ speaking performance.
First of all, I will identify some
psychological views on motivation, then I will explore the
questions: a) What is motivation in EFL learning? and b) Who
and What motivates foreign language students? After that, I
will talk about the advantages of the use of games in EFL
classes, games in EFL classroom and the Habits and Hobbies
game. Then, I will present the method, which includes:
subjects, procedures and the measuring instrument. Finally, I
will present results and discussion and the concluding remarks.
This is a qualitative study and the term “foreign” is used
here to refer to English taught in Brazil.
Theoretical background on motivation
Views on Motivation
According to Wlodkowski (1985), there are over
twenty internationally recognized theories of motivation, all
of them with their own terminology and definitions,
experimental approaches and opposing viewpoints. Williams
& Burden (1997), explain that “a behaviorist would tend
to consider motivation largely in terms of external forces,
i.e. what specific conditions give rise to what kind of
behavior and how the consequences of that behaviour affect
whether it is more or less likely to happen again” (p. 112).
An extension of the behaviourist view centered
on the identification of a whole variety of basic human needs.
(Murray, 1938, apud Williams & Burden, 1997) pointed out
some human needs such as people’s need to join with other
people, people’s need to dominate others and also people’s
need to understand or make sense of their worlds, as well as
basic biological needs. Murray envisaged these needs as
causing inner tensions which had to be liberated. Motivation
was defined in terms of the ‘press’, that is the desire to
liberate the tension and satisfy the needs.
Another study on motivation relates to the
notion of the need to achieve, or achievement motivation. Ames
(1992) identified three different kinds of goals in the area
of achievement motivation. The first goal, the mastery or the
learning goals, focuses on obtaining competence or mastering a
new set of knowledge or skills to achieve success; the second
kind of goals are called performance goals or ego-involvement
goals, which are related to doing better than others or doing
well without a lot of effort in order to avoid failure, and
the last ones are called social goals which focus on
relationships among people.
An important aspect of the achievement
motivation theory is that learners can be motivated to either
avoid failure (more often associated with performance goals)
or achieve success (more often associated with mastery goals)
(Ames, 1992). In other words, it means that when learners want
to avoid failure they try to select either easy tasks in order
to achieve success or difficult tasks in order to have a good
excuse for why failure occurred. However, when learners want
to achieve success they try to select moderately difficult
tasks, which will provide an interesting challenge for them to
keep the high expectations for success.
From a cognitive view of motivation, people
can choose the way in which they behave, so that they have
control over their actions (Williams & Burden, 1997). When
making a choice, however, people have to be aware of the
possible results of what they decide to do, allowing them to
set goals for themselves, and then they can decide to act in
certain ways in order to achieve these goals (Williams &
Burden, 1997). Thus, from a cognitive perspective,
“motivation is concerned with such issues as why people
decide to act in certain ways and what factors influence the
choices they make” (Williams & Burden, 1997 p. 119).
A cognitive view of motivation, then, centers
around individuals making decisions about their own actions as
opposed to the behaviourist view which considers motivation in
terms of external forces over which they have no control.
Taking into account the views quoted above it
is also important to mention Gardner’s approach to
motivation. Gardner & Lambert (1959, apud Crookes &
Schmidt, 1991) made the distinction between integrative
motivation and instrumental motivation. Integrative motivation
was identified by the fact that students are attracted by the
culture of the community speaking that L2 and they want to
integrate themselves into such a culture or become a part of
that society. It is associated with components such as
“interest in foreign languages”, “desire to learn the
target language”, “attitudes toward learning the target
language”, “attitudes toward the learning situation”,
“desire to interact with the target language”, and
“attitudes toward the target language community” (Gardner,
1982, apud Dörnyei, 1990 p. 46).
Instrumental motivation, on the other hand, is
marked by the fact that the learner studies the L2 with a
utilitarian purpose in mind, such as a better job or a higher
salary. Thus, no matter what type of motivation students have,
foreign language teachers have to keep in mind that the
strength of motivation depends on the state of a student’s
needs and goals.
What is motivation in EFL learning?
Motivation may be defined as “a state of
cognitive and emotional arousal, which leads to a conscious
decision to act, and which gives rise to a period of sustained
intellectual and/or physical effort in order to attain a
previously set goal or goals” (Williams & Burden, 1997
p. 120). In other words, a person gets interested in some way
and this interest may be started by different causes, maybe
internal ones, coming from inside the learner such as an
interest in the activity or a wish to be successful. Other
causes may be external, for example the influence of another
person or even an event. However, whatever the cause, the
person’s interest is activated, leading this person to make
a conscious decision to act in certain ways in order to
achieve a goal or goals related to the activity undertaken.
Once the activity has started the person has to persist in
achieving the goals and all this is influenced by the context
and situation, and will be personal to the individual.
Specifically in EFL learning, motivation is
“a complex phenomenon which can be defined in terms of two
factors: learners’ communicative needs, and their attitudes
towards the second language community” (Lightbown &
Spada, 1993 p. 40). It means that if students need to speak
the foreign language in a variety of social situations or
maybe to get a better job they will notice the importance of
the foreign language and consequently will be motivated to
learn it. Likewise, if students have positive attitudes
towards the speakers of the language, they will probably want
to have more contact with them.
Ur (1996), who is concerned with English
language teaching, also sees motivation as a very important
phenomenon. As she considers motivation difficult to give a
definition, she prefers to think about motivation in terms of
‘motivated’ learners, that is, learners who are willing to
involve themselves in learning activities to progress. Ur
(1996) states that teaching and learning can become much
easier and more pleasant when there is learners motivation.
But what are some of the characteristics of motivated learners?
Ur (1996), points out the following characteristics:
Positive task orientation. The learner is
willing to tackle tasks and challenges, and has confidence in
his or her success.
Ego-involvement. The learner finds it
important to succeed in learning in order to maintain and
promote his or her own (positive) self-image.
Need for achievement. The learner has a need
to achieve; to overcome difficulties and succeed in what he or
she sets out to do.
High aspirations. The learner is very aware of
the goals of learning, or of specific learning activities, and
directs his or her efforts towards achievement them.
Perseverance. The learner consistently invests
a high level of effort in learning, and is not discouraged by
setbacks or apparent lack of progress.
Tolerance of ambiguity. The learner is not
disturbed or frustrated by situations involving a temporary
lack of understanding or confusion; he or her can live with
these patiently, in the confidence that understanding will
come later (p. 275).
A very outstanding characteristic among the
ones quoted above is the need for achievement in which
learners are motivated to reach a goal that they have set,
being willing to overcome difficulties in order to achieve
Thus, keeping in mind some of the
characteristics of motivated learners, foreign language
teachers should be conscious of the fact that learners bring
to the classroom not only their intelligence and aptitude but
also a lot of attitudes and interests which are consequence of
a variety of psychological and sociological factors. Foreign
language teachers should also be aware that it is part of
their responsibility to channel these affective elements.
Who And What Motivates Foreign Language
It is important to say that students’
motivation in foreign language learning is the result not only
of their internal environment but also of many other factors
involved in the external milieu in which they are studying
that language, and the teacher is one of the most important of
such factors. The characteristics foreign language teachers
should possess could be summed up as follows: they should be
competent, observant, tactful and communicative; in addition,
however, they should stimulate interest, have a capacity for
self-evaluation and be willing to develop their skills. Above
all they must feel a genuine interest for their students, be
extremely sensitive to the students in order to motivate them.
As far as the second part of my question is
concerned (What motivates foreign language students?) I can
say that the way a teacher presents the content must be
dynamic and interesting in order to get the students’
attention. Besides, foreign language teachers have to look for
activities that promote interaction among students in the
classroom and activities that provide meaningful dialogue in
the target language.
Concluding these questions asked above I would
stress that motivation can be seen as both a cause and an
effect of successful learning. Thus, it is important that
teachers keep in mind that they are dealing with a
self-perpetuating or self-destroying phenomenon. In the same
way as motivation breeds motivation, a de-motivating factor
can weaken the foundations of all motivation. We are
confronted with a chain reaction, in which we value especially
the human factor; that is, the teacher-student relationship.
The advantages of the use of games in EFL classes
many times have we, foreign language teachers, found our
classes “boring” and have become upset with our own acting
in classes? Most of the time foreign language teachers
dedicate hours and hours preparing their classes and the
result they have is students totally absorbed in other
thoughts. Wouldn’t it be better to change the environment of
the classroom? Asking constantly for silence would ruin our
nerves and our images before the students.
“Games can play an important part in the
language process” say Hadfield & Hadfield (1995, p. 6).
When students are asked to play games in the classroom, they
generally get motivated, because games are fun. If students
are having fun, they will probably find learning English
interesting; consequently, if they find what they are studying
interesting they will tend to absorb and retain the content
being aimed at much more than if they are only studying
because they have to.
Games In EFL Classrooms
As previously pointed out, foreign language
teachers have to be creative, dynamic and they always have to
look for different activities and techniques in order to
motivate their students to learn a foreign language. Games are
activities that may help increase motivation and knowledge of
the language. “Game playing, having apparently originated as
a form of instruction, now appears again to be coming into its
own as an instructional activity” (Rodgers, 1978 p. 251).
According to Richard-Amato (1996), Games are
often associated with fun. While it is true that games are
usually fun, one must not lose sight of their pedagogical
value, particularly in second language teaching. Games can
lower anxiety, thus making the acquisition of input more
likely. In addition, they are often highly motivating,
relevant, interesting and comprehensible. Games are sometimes
used in classrooms to develop and reinforce concepts (e.g.,
colors, shapes, numbers, word definitions), to add diversion
to the regular classroom activities, and even to break the
ice, particularly in the case of rank beginners. Their most
important function, however, is to give practice in
communication skills. Although some are quiet, contemplative
games, others are noisy and require much verbal or physical
involvement. Some are meant for small groups, others for large
groups (p. 193).
Foreign language teachers must select games
which can be adapted to the objectives being developed, using
them to reinforce or even introduce new objectives. The
objective of a game must not be a simple passtime, but it must
seek education, through entertainment. To achieve it, the
teacher must apply it in a correct and planned way, seeking
apprenticeship. Games promote student involvement and
participation. Students learn the content aimed at by the
activity while they have fun.
Wright (1989) was able to verify that by
use of games foreign language learners are given the
opportunity to learn and speak a foreign language in a
creative and enjoyable way. Games generate the basic
ingredients to energize a group of students: fun, action,
competition and challenge. Games can also help students know
each other and make students feel more relaxed in the
By the use of games, teachers can make their
students practice important grammatical structures, develop
oral and listening skills and improve vocabulary, general
comprehension and fluency in a relaxed and funny way that may
help students to learn without noticing they are studying.
According to Stevick (1982), games are a rich
source to achieve positive results in learning a foreign
language. Games are fun and students get motivated when they
are asked to play games in the classroom. At the same time,
students may learn the content aimed at by the activity.
The Habits and Hobbies Game
The Habits and Hobbies game by Hadfield, 1990
(apud Biancamano & Perna, 1993) is a very interesting game
in which students have a chance to communicate among
themselves in a dynamic way and it also practices the function
of talking about hobbies. In order to play this game students
have to master some structures such as: “Do you ...?”,
“What do you usually do...”, “How often do you ...?”,
“When do you ...?”, “I ... once/ twice a day / a week/
on weekends/ month/ year”, “... in the afternoons/
mornings/ evenings”, “...on days of the week”.
The Habits and Hobbies game can be applied
with any number of students from eight upwards. The teacher
must copy enough cards and questionnaires for everyone in
class. The objective of the game is to fill in the
questionnaire. To fill in the questionnaires students have to
move round the class, asking questions such as: “Do you play
the violin?”, How often do you have English classes?”,
“When do you have swimming lessons?” and so on. Students
have to get the signature of a person in each category. The
Habits and Hobbies game allows the students to speak and
practice the language in an enjoyable way and at the same time
their communicative competence can be increased. I have
applied the Habits and Hobbies game as an experiment to
examine the effect of this game on the students’ speaking
The subjects participating in the present
study were ten beginner-level students in two classes at
Centro de Cultura Anglo-Americana Language Institute in Tubarão,
Santa Catarina State, Brazil. Their average age was twelve.
Beginner-level students were chosen because (1) they seem to
be interested in learning a foreign language in a different
and enjoyable way, and (2) because many times through my
experience at a Language Institute I have seen students who
become unmotivated and give up studying English. This is the
main reason for the kind of research I am carrying out.
Procedures First, students were observed by me and filmed
by another teacher during a 60- minute class in which a
grammatical structure (The Simple Present Tense) was reviewed
through oral questions. Second, students were observed and
filmed by another teacher again during another 60-minute class
in which the “Habits and Hobbies” game was applied to
review the same grammatical structure. During both classes
cards and questionnaires were distributed to the students and
they were asked to fill in the questionnaires. The two classes
were observed and filmed in order to compare students’
speaking performance through oral questions and through the
game, and also to check if they got more motivated to speak a
foreign language through the use of the Habits and Hobbies
game or not. I also took pictures of the students during both
classes to compare their facial expressions during the
classes. In addition, a questionnaire written in Portuguese
(to avoid students’ misunderstanding) was also applied after
the control and the experimental classes in order to have a
clearer conclusion through students’ answers which class
students got more motivated to speak English.
The Measuring Instrument
As motivation is difficult to be clearly
measured, I considered the students’ oral participation and
their facial expressions to measure in which class students
were more motivated. Besides, I also considered the analysis
of the answers of the questionnaires to evaluate students’
opinions on the two different classes, the pictures and the
videotape to conclude whether the use of the “Habits and
Hobbies” game had positive results on motivating students to
speak English as a foreign language.
Before being applied to the students the
questionnaire was analyzed and discussed by colleagues, other
EFL teachers in order to avoid students’ misunderstanding.
The questionnaire was also analyzed by a pedagogical authority
to check if it was clear and well designed to apply to the
Students did not have to sign the
questionnaire and they were asked to answer the questions with
calmness and sincerity. The first question, “How did you
feel in today’s class?”, was asked to verify students’
enthusiasm during both classes. Through their answers it was
possible to analyze in which class they felt more motivated.
The second question, “What was your participation in today’s
class?”, was designed to check students’ participation
during both classes. Students were also asked to justify their
answers. Thus, through their answers I could measure in a
clearer way students’ participation during the control and
the experimental classes. The third question, “Did something
call your attention in today’s class?” was chosen
especially to check if the Habits and Hobbies game played
during one of the classes called more students’ attention
than the oral questions asked during the other class. The
fourth question was chosen in order to know if games are the
activities students most like in English classes. And the last
question was designed to hear students’ voice, that is, to
have a clear conclusion about how students felt during both
classes and also to know the suggestions they wrote about
Results and discussion
indicate that overall class motivation was enhanced when the
“Habits and Hobbies” game was applied. From the analysis
of the videotape I could notice that students looked more
interested in speaking a foreign language through the use of
the game than through oral questions. Students walked around
the classroom as they tried to fill in their questionnaires
and they got involved also with this interest practicing the
language. During the control class (through oral questions
only) students were not enthusiastic; they just answered the
questions as they were asked without moving or showing
explicit signs of enthusiasm as I could observe in other
classes I taught. However, during the class in which the
“Habits and Hobbies” was applied I could realize that
students were much more willing to speak English; they
participated more and they were highly motivated. It was
interesting to notice that the game quoted above helped
students to know each other better as they asked the questions
about their habits and hobbies. Besides, during the game
students felt much more relaxed in the classroom environment.
The pictures that were taken during both
classes just confirmed through the students’ facial
expressions that students were motivated in the class in which
the game was applied. Students looked happy, active and full
of energy as they walked around the classroom trying to fill
in their questionnaires. However, the pictures taken during
the control class, in which students were just asked oral
questions, showed that students looked bored and disinterested
in learning a foreign language.
The analysis of the questionnaires applied to
the students after the oral questions to check their opinions
about the class showed that eight out of ten students felt a
little motivated during this class, and the other two felt
motivated during the class. In relation to the second question
(“What was your participation in today’s class”?), all
students answered that they participated a little. One student
wrote that is was a normal class. Regarding the third question
(“Did anything call your attention in today’s class?”),
the ten students commented that nothing had called their
attention. In the fourth question students were asked to rank
from 1 to 5 what they like most in English classes, number 1
for what they like most and number 5 for what they like least.
Seven out of ten students ranked games number
1, two students ranked number 1 in the Internet and one
student ranked number 1 in songs. In the last question
students had to write something about that day’s class or
provide some suggestions for English classes. Eight students
wrote that English classes should have more games, songs and
drama as we can see in the following examples: “A aula de
Inglês podia ter mais jogos e teatros” (English classes
could have more games and drama), “As aulas de Inglês
poderiam ter mais jogos porque com os jogos nós aprendemos de
uma forma mais divertida” (English classes could have more
games because with games we learn in a more enjoyable way),
“Eu acho que a aula de Inglês devia ter mais jogos, músicas
e teatros” (I think an English class should have more games,
songs and dramas). Three of these eight students pointed out
that English classes should have fewer drills and the other
five of these eight students wrote that English classes should
have more games and not only videos about the lessons and
texts. “As aulas de Inglês deviam ter menos drills” (English
classes should have fewer drills), “As perguntas não foram
difíceis. As aulas devem ter mais jogos e não apenas os vídeos
e textos do livro” (The questions were not difficult.
Classes should have more games and not only videos and texts
from the book). One student did not want to express his/her
opinion and the other one made a comment on the teacher’s
performance “Lições novas não são problemas quando Super
Eliana está por perto” (New lessons are not problems when
Super Eliana is around).
The analysis of the questionnaires given to
the students after the second class, that is the class in
which the “Habits and Hobbies” game was applied, was
impressive. All the students answered in the first question
that they felt motivated during that class. Concerning the
second question the ten students answered that they
participated a lot during the class. They made comments such
as: “Porque hoje eu aprendi coisas novas” (Because today I
learned new things ), “Falei bastante com meus colegas” (I
talked a lot to my classmates), “Andamos pela sala e
perguntamos e participamos” (We walked around the classroom,
we asked and we participated), “Todos participaram da
aula” (Everybody participated in the class), “Uma
atividade legal foi desenvolvida” (A nice activity was
developed). In the third question eight of the ten students
wrote that something called their attention during the class.
One of the students explained that they played a game and it
was nice. Another student commented that the game was
different and everybody participated. Two other students wrote
that it was a different and enjoyable class and three others
commented that they got interested and motivated playing a
game. Three out of ten students did not make any comments.
In the fourth question nine out of ten
students ranked 1 in games to express what they like most in
English classes, and one student ranked 1 in the Internet.
Concerning the last question students suggested different
activities that should be included in the English classes. All
of them pointed out that English classes should have more
games, songs, and the Internet: “Eu acho que nós devemos
ter mais jogos, músicas, teatros e termos também internet”
(I think we should have more games, songs, dramas and we
should also have the Internet), “Podia botar Internet e
muito mais jogos e teatros” (It could have the Internet,
many more games and dramas), “Mais jogos e músicas. Com
isso nós aprendemos mais” (More games and songs. With games
and songs we learn more). One student wrote that English
classes should have fewer readings and listening comprehension
practice: “Podia ter menos leituras e Lcps” (It could have
fewer readings and listening comprehension practice). Five out
of ten students commented that it was a very enjoyable and
different class because they had learned new things. Another
student wrote that the class was nice because they had to talk
to everybody to fill in their questionnaires and then they
learned in a better way. Two other students commented that
English classes should continue like the one in which they
played the game.
After having analyzed both classes through the
students’ questionnaire answers, the videotape and the
pictures, I can say that games are effective tools foreign
language teachers have to motivate learners to speak a foreign
language. The results of this experiment indicate that
students were highly motivated and they were more willing to
speak English during the class in which the game was applied.
The results also indicate that students are tired of a lot of
drills, readings and listening comprehension practice.
Although classes are not the same every day, I suggest that
foreign language teachers make use of games in their classes
in order to provide a better social interaction among students
and also to give students a chance to use language in a
is an important factor that contributes for the acquisition of
a foreign language. But how can teachers motivate their
students to learn a foreign language? It was the aim of this
project to show that games are activities that help enhance
motivation. It is known that motivation is difficult to be
measured, but teachers can notice when their students are
motivated by their facial expressions, attitudes and also by
their participation in class. During this experiment in which
a game was applied, I could realize that my students were glad
in participating in class and they were actively involved in
the learning process without noticing they were studying.
Besides, games can help students to know each other and can
also make students feel more relaxed in the classroom
Thus, the present study was a very successful
and rewarding experiment especially because there was enough
involvement on the part of the learners, who displayed a
feeling of accomplishment for having been able to use the
language in a more creative and dynamic way. They got
motivated and had fun while they were learning.
To conclude, I want to emphasize that foreign
language teachers have to be imaginative, look for different
and interesting activities that promote social interaction
among students, activities that provide motivating dialogue in
the target language and, also activities that serve as a way
to bring individuals and groups closer. Thus, after this
rewarding experience I can say that games are a good source to
start students into the habit of using English for
communication in a more enjoyable way.
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Bettiol teaches American and
British literatures at
Universidade do Sul de Santa
Catarina - Unisul. She also
works as a translator at
Unisul. She attends the New
Mexico State University
Master's Program in English.