Haven't blogged for a long time, been far too busy recently and frankly working too hard (more than is good for my health). Still learning Chinese though and moving into new areas, but then I am a well motivated learner, a highly motivated self-learner. Actually the previous sentence is rubbish who am I kidding? I am just having fun and relaxing, enjoying myself, challenging myself a little, nobody ever had to motivate me to do that.
Whilst motivation in teaching Children to learn in general is important, I don't understand the relevance of much of the motivation discussions for adult learners. What kind of crazy mess are we in that there is a problem with motivation of adult students. If they aren't motivated why are they there (simply get a job or study something else, it not complicated), how did they end up on the course in the first place? If your course isn't helping motivated learners why is your course there?
Motivation, is surely something that comes from the inside, not something that can be poured in from the outside (outside events can motivate you but you still have to spark it up yourself). It is simple, you want to do something or be something, you work out what you need to do, get some help if needed and do the things to make it happen. You measure your success by getting nearer to the thing you want to be or achieve. If you can't do the things that are needed either you are incapable (get realistic) or you don't want it enough (find something that else that is worthwhile to you). If you can't find anything worthwhile then by all means blame the world, order more fast food and spend as much free time as you have blobbing out munching grease (or even eating healthy organic food I suppose), in front of mind-numbing TV (even choosing to do nothing is a choice).
What motivates me
Many many many years ago, I worked out a system for being motivated and it has helped me to accomplish a few life changing events, I am human though and suffer from my fair share of human frailties and weaknesses so my system has not converted me in some kind of supreme, being that has perfected every aspect of his life prior to moving onto the next plane of existence. When I feel I need to apply it though it works. In summary it was provoked by light cones and the many worlds theory, but you don't need to understand these to understand how I apply it. for example assuming the sun is fine now then what ever catastrophe hits it I will remain unaffected for around 8 minutes (light or radiation, or the stoppage of light can't get to me for that long because of the distance). In the same way assuming I imagine (and I do take the time to imagine so I know what I am aiming at) a me that can speak Chinese fluently, then the first time I decide I want to be that me I cannot possibly achieve it by tomorrow, I don't know how long it will take but I can start to guess (unlike the speed of light in vacuum the speed of learning Chinese is not a constant, but at the moment until someone invents a brain knowledge download device I can make some guesses).
I have to do things to bring the imagined goal closer and I have make realistic guesses how much closer it is (rather than focusing on the effort I put into it or using non-related indicators to measure progress). Every action that I take may or may not effect the probability that I achieve the goal (the probability that I eventually occupy the world where I speak Chinese), you could be honest and step outside of yourself and ask if I was someone else would they be prepared to bet on my achieving that goal, what odds would they give/accept at this point in time.
I am motivated by wanting to do/be something enough that it overcomes the inertia of being lazy or wanting to work on something else. Other people have motivated me, but I never expect someone to or offload that responsibility.
I really dislike the current trend where you hear approaches like we are all "good looking (Americans seem obsessed with this) , smart, intelligent, young (old doods are fossils of course and can't do anything) etc.etc.) If you need your ego massaged to do something then ..... go somewhere where charisma counts more than results and where everybody smells of rainbows. Basically the me that I imagine that can speak fluent Chinese doesn't miraculously become good looking with flashy white teeth and doesn't actually need to be that smart. I am ugly, middle aged and maybe sometimes a bit smelly, that has nothing to do with learning Chinese (so long as I don't let it get to point where Chinese people can't bear talk with me of course ;)). I don't need to be pampered, pumped up, feeling happy etc. to learn, maybe I will be tired, sad, even a little depressed at some times doing the process, fair enough that is life. In fact if I can make it fun, then that would be a trick, if I can make it self-driven then that would be a trick.... I have posted about effortless learning in the past.
I don't need someone to sugar coat the problem or prod me by pretending it will be easy or quick or give me gold stars every time I cough up a Chinese word (maybe when I was five year old but not now). I am driven by a more English drive, I like to hear how hard it is, that makes the goal more sweet, or even provides two goals, I can both try to achieve the end result and try to find an easier way.
What motivates other people
I am in awe of the motivation and dedication I see in other people, people who play golf for example, will happily sacrifice huge chunks of their free time in the pursuit of improving their game. The strength of character required to put all that time into improving their golf game is phenomenal, I am sure that their none golfing partners are grateful and supportive to the hardworking self-motivated golfers. People who like beer for example I have known many who will selflessly sacrifice most of their evenings to the selfless pursuit of excellence in beer drinking, even to the extent of risking their health due to intoxicating effects. Those dedicated selfless souls who religiously quality control the modern music industry, listening with due diligence to hours and hours on their Ipods, on buses in cafes etc. whilst I selfishly use the same device to listen to Chinese (shame on me). Those dedicated fishermen who will set forth in the middle of the night to go somewhere in the cold and spend a freezing wet day on a riverbank fishing (I have to assume that they are keeping the skills alive for times when other foods may run out). The elevated souls that sit honing their brains on crossword puzzles, sudoko puzzles and Nintendo brain trainers, the best I can feebly manage in my lazyness it to hone mine on language learning. Last but not least, my own teenage sons, I never would have thought that young people could work so hard, risk so much damage to their thumbs, sacrifice so much of the free time in the pursuit of playstation game excellence. To all these amazing people I salute you, this humble soul has no concept of how you do it.
I know that are more deep issues at play for some people, what if you have to learn a language as the side effect of another goal for example. I will revisit this and other topics another time when I feel motivated enough.