The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

English: Teaching English as a Second Language: M.A.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

James H. Robinson

Second Advisor

Isolde Muller

Third Advisor

Susan P. Dowds

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

SLA, Motivation, Identity, L2, L2 self-system, university undergraduates, Sri Lanka


Measuring the motivational elements of students towards learning English and demarcating the salient elements of their motivation is crucial as this information can be used to make the English learning experience more effective. The motivation of Sri Lankan undergraduate students towards learning English is generally rated as quite low. Therefore, measuring the motivational elements pertaining to their L2 learning and finding the salient features would be essential to enhancing their learning experience within the university system.

The study of motivation in SLA has taken a different direction from the socio- educational method by R. Gardner and R. N. Lalonde (1985) which heavily focused on the concept of integrativeness as the main motivating element in SLA. As this was later found to be inadequate in explaining the current learning experience of ESL or EFL in a more globalized and international context, additional elements were incorporated to make the measurement more meaningful

Dörnyei (2009a) conceptualized the L2 self-system which is conditioned to meet the current status of SLA. The L2 self-system incorporates integrativeness and also uses the concept of the ‘ideal L2 self’, corresponding with motivation as the drive for the ultimate goal of a competent L2 self. It has been validated a number of times in both EFL and ESL contexts as Japan, China, Iran and Pakistan. This system has not been so far implemented to study the L2 motivation within the ESL context in Sri Lanka.

This study presents the motivational elements present among the undergraduates studying in government funded universities in Sri Lanka.

An online questionnaire developed for this by integrating subscales from previous studies from Tagushi, Magid, and Papi (2009) and Ryan (2009) with the addition of a few contextual questions, was distributed among Sri Lankan undergraduate students. After testing the completed questionnaires for reliability the salient motivating factors for different demographics were extracted and the correlations between salient factors were studied.

The study shows a strong correlation between the ‘ideal L2 self’ and the ‘ought to L2 self’ which is an indication of strong motivation towards learning the L2. The findings also indicates that Sri Lankan undergraduate students are strongly influenced by promotional instrumentality and preventional instrumentality, denoted by the strong correlation between the two subscales. Their motivation is geared towards learning English for the personal extrinsic goals such as employment opportunities and graduate studies. While their levels of motivation was generally high the need to pedagogically assist their requirements of promotional instrumentality was seen as a crux to the pedagogical implications. A significant difference between the demographics in the study was not observed.