Adult International Students’ Motivation to Read in English and in Their First Language


This paper presents a study on English as a second language students’ motivation to read in English and in their first language (L1). The study used self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2017) as its theoretical foundation, with a particular focus on three types of motivation – intrinsic motivation, identified regulation, and controlled regulation. A survey was developed and administered to measure the three types of motivation of 41 adult international students studying at an intensive English program in the U.S. The results indicate that these students demonstrated a higher level of identified regulation and intrinsic motivation, compared to controlled motivation. That is, they were more strongly motivated to read in English because of its usefulness and the enjoyable experience it brings, compared to external rewards, such as doing well on a test. When asked to compare their reading motivation for English and for their L1, however, the responses were split. Some considered it to be the same. Many, however, reported that if they wished to read for enjoyment (intrinsic motivation), they would turn to their L1, not English. Research with children often highlights the importance of intrinsic motivation for their reading development. This study, however, showed that when working with adults learning to read in a new language, nurturing intrinsic motivation can be challenging because of their existing literacy in L1. The study’s outcomes help researchers and practitioners explore the role of intrinsic motivation in second language reading development and how we could nurture it in the classroom.


Reading, Literacy, Motivation, English as a Second Language, Adult Learners


Literacies Learning


Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


  • Reiko Komiyama
    • Associate Professor, English, California State University, Sacramento, United States United States