Disempowering Forces and Disillusioned Selves: A Constructivist Grounded Theory Analysis of Demotivation among French Student Learners of English

Rowland Hill, Véronique Pottier


France sits steadfastly at the bottom of EU rankings for English proficiency, and yet French learners have an equivalent access to educational resources and teacher competence. It is a curious phenomenon which points to pupil demotivation during second language (L2) learning at school as a likely cause. The dominant model in L2 motivation – Dörnyei’s Motivational Self System – with its symbiosis of the ought self, the ideal self and the quality of the learning environment, has had its usefulness verified in other countries, but lacks sufficient flexibility to explain L2 demotivation in France. As a departure from the existing corpus of quantitative research on L2 motivation, this research uses Charmaz’ constructivist grounded theory approach to delve into the L2 learning experiences of twelve French students at a qualitative level. The originality of this approach is that the researcher must relinquish preconceived ideas, enter the constructed world of the participant and make conceptual sense of the data produced from the shared construction. The resulting force field/self-discrepancy model indicates that pupils are prevented from reaching language proficiency by disempowering forces, for example, limited contact with English speakers, and that this is compounded by negative emotions arising from discrepancies between the learner’s actual, ought and ideal selves. To address the complexity of this model, French schools should begin by empowering students to set targets towards a realistic English-speaking ideal self. Otherwise, there is a danger that the ideal L2 self becomes another source of disillusionment and hence another disempowering force.


Demotivation, Second Language Learning, Constructivist, Dis/Empowering Force, Self-discrepancy

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijalel.v.7n.5p.221


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