Why Do Adults Decide to Learn a Minority Language? A Study of the Motivation(S) of Potential New Speakers of West Frisian

Open access


This study focuses on the motivation of adults learning a minority language, based on a tripartite model: integrative and instrumental (Gardner & Lambert, 1959; 1972) and personal (see Benson, 1991) motivation. Adults learning a minority language are potential new speakers, a group that has been described as central to language revitalisation (see Pujolar & O’Rourke, 2018). Since the motivation to learn these languages does not seem to be linked to economic success or wider job opportunities, researchers have taken interest in knowing what drives people to learn a minority language (e.g., O’Rourke & DePalma, 2016). In this study, (potential) new speaker motivations were investigated by means of ten open-ended interviews with adult learners of West Frisian—a minority language spoken in the Netherlands—in two different settings: Afûk Frisian courses (a more traditional learning setting) and Bernlef Frisian courses (a student association that offers informal courses for their members). The results show a predominance of integrative and personal motivation (also found in O’Rourke & DePalma, 2016), but not exclusively (as suggested by Jaffe, 2015) since the language appears to be tightly linked to the province and it is deemed beneficial—to a certain extent—for socioeconomic success in the province.

Belmar, G. (2018). New Speakers of a Minoritized Language: Motivation, Attitudes and Language Use of ‘Nije Sprekkers’ of West Frisian. Master’s Thesis, University of Groningen, the Netherlands. Retrieved from http://arts.studenttheses.ub.rug.nl/22455/1/BelmarGuillemThesisFinal.pdf.

Benson, M. J. (1991). Attitudes and motivation towards English: A survey of Japanese freshmen. RELC Journal, 22(1), 34–48. doi: 10.1177/003368829102200103.

Boo, Z., Dörnyei, Z., & Ryan, S. (2015). L2 motivation research 2005–2014: Understanding a publication surge and a changing landscape. System, 55, 145–157. doi:10.1016/j_system.2015.10.006.

Colardyn, D., & Bjornavold, J. (2004). Validation of formal, non-formal and informal learning: Policy and practices in EU member states. European Journal of Education, 39(1), 69–89. doi: 10.1111/j.0141-8211.2004.00167.x.

Cooper, R.L. (1989). Language planning and social change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Costa, J. (2015). New speakers, new language: on being a legitimate speaker of a minority language in Provence. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 2015(231), 127–146. doi: 10.1515/ijsl-2014-0035.

Deci, E.L., & Ryan, R.M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behaviour. New York: Plenum.

Dörnyei, Z. (2009). The L2 motivational self system. In Z. Dörnyei & E. Ushioda (Eds.), Motivation, Language Identity, and the L2 self (pp. 9–42). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Dörnyei, Z., & Al-Hoorie, A.H. (2017). The motivational foundation of learning languages other than Global English: Theoretical issues and research directions. Modern Language Journal, 101, 455–468. doi: 10.1111/modl.12408.

Dörnyei, Z., & Ushioda, E. (2011). Teaching and researching motivation, second edition. Harlow: Pearson.

Eaton, S. E. (2010). Formal, non-formal and informal learning: The case of literacy, essential skills and language learning in Canada. PhD Thesis, University of Calgary, Canada. Available online: http://www.en.copian.ca/library/research/eaton/eaton.pdf.

Fishman, J. A. (1991). The cases of Basque and Frisian. In J. A. Fishman (Ed.), Reversing language shift: Theoretical and empirical foundations of assistance to threatened languages (pp. 149–186). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Gardner, R. C. (2001). Language learning motivation: the student, the teacher, and the researcher. Texas Papers in Foreign Language Education, 6(1), 1–18. Available online: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED464495.pdf

Gardner, R. C., & Lambert, W. (1959). Motivational variables in second language acquisition. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 13, 266–272.

Gardner, R. C., & Lambert, W. (1972). Attitudes and Motivation in Second Language Learning. Rowley, MA: Newbury House.

Gorter, D., & Jonkman, R. (1995). Taal yn Fryslân op ‘e nij besjoen. Leeuwarden/Ljouwert: Fryske Akademy.

Gorter, D., Meer, C. van der, & Riemersma, A. (2008). Frisian in the Netherlands. In G. Extra, & D. Gorter (Eds.), Multilingual Europe: Facts and policies (pp. 185–206). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Hilton, N., & Gooskens, C. (2013). Language policies and attitudes towards Frisian in the Netherlands. In C. Gooskens, & R. van Bezooijen (Eds.), Phonetics in Europe: Perception and Production (pp. 139–157). Frankfurt am Main: P.I.E. – Peter Lang. Available online: http://www.let.rug.nl/gooskens/pdf/publ_peterlang_2013d.pdf

Idescat (2015). Language use of the population of Catalonia. Key results of the survey on language use of the population 2013. Generalitat de Catalunya. Retrieved from: http://llengua.gencat.cat/web/.content/documents/publicacions/altres/arxius/EULP2013_angles.pdf

Jaffe, A. (2015). Defining the new speaker: theoretical perspectives and learner trajectories. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 2015(231), 21–44. doi: 10.1515/ijsl-2014-0030

Laanen, F. (2001). The Frisian Language in the Netherlands. In S. Trifunovska (Ed.), Minority Rights in Europe: European Minorities and Languages (pp. 67–84). The Hague: Asser Press.

McLeod, W., & O’Rourke, B. (2015). “New speakers” of Gaelic: perceptions of linguistic authenticity and appropriateness. Applied Linguistic Review 6(2), 151-172. doi: 10.1515/applirev-2015-0008

O’Rourke, B., & DePalma, R. (2016). Language-learning holidays: what motivates people to learn a minority language? International Journal of Multilingualism, 14(4), 332–349. doi: 10.1080/14790718.2016.1184667.

O’Rourke, B., & Ramallo, F. (2013). Competing ideologies of linguistic authority amongst new speakers in contemporary Galicia. Language in Society, 42(3), 287–305. doi: 10.1017/S0047404513000249.

Pujolar, J., & O’Rourke, B. (2018). Position paper: The Debates on “New Speakers” and “Non-Native” Speakers as Symptoms of Late Modern Anxieties over Linguistic Ownership. (Unpublished). Retrieved October 10, 2018, from: https://www.academia.edu/35039330/Position_paper_The_debates_on_new_speakers_and_non-native_speakers_as_symptoms_of_late_modern_anxieties_over_linguistic_ownership.

Pujolar, J., & Puigdevall, M. (2015). Linguistic mudes: how to become a new speaker in Catalonia. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 2015(231), 167–187. doi: 10.1515/ijsl-2014-0037.

Rosiak, K., & Hornsby, M. (2016). Motivational factors in the acquisition of Welsh in Poland. Studia Celtica Posnaniensia, 1(1), 57–73. doi: 10.1515/scp-2016-0004.

Ushioda, E. (2017). The impact of global English on motivation to learn other languages: toward an ideal multilingual self. The Modern Language Journal, 101(3), 469–482. doi: 10.1111/modl.12413.

Sustainable Multilingualism

Darnioji daugiakalbyste

Journal Information


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 22 22 22
PDF Downloads 27 27 27