Traditional perspectives on second language (L2) learning claim that a student’s degree of learning a L2 relies on the degree of motivation. Accordingly, a student would invest in learning and using a L2, if that student is motivated either to gain some socio-economic benefits (instrumental motivation) or to integrate into (integrative motivation) the cultural group of the target language (TL). However, recent research (Norton & Toohey, 2011; Norton 2013; Norton & De Costa, 2018), being awakened by poststructuralism, claim that one’s learning a L2 does not merely rely on their personality variables such as motivation or lack of motivation. Instead, their investment in learning or practically using that language plays a significant role, and their willingness to speak or resistance depends on the power relations of the community inside the class (teacher and other students) and the wider community outside. In a “racist, sexist or homophobic” (Norton & Costa, 2018, p. 92) classroom, a language learner may not invest in using L2 though they are highly motivated.
The Aristotelian discussion (Poetics) on the tragic flaw that leads to one’s tragic downfall is a convincing analogue to understand the dichotomy between motivation versus investment.
Norton, B. & Toohey, B. (2011). Identity, language learning, and social change. Language Teaching, 44(4), 412-446.
Norton, B. (2013). Identity and language learning: Extending the conversation. (2nd ed.). Bristol:
Multilingual Matters. Norton, B. & De Costa, P. I. (2018). Thinking Allowed: Research tasks on identity in language learning and teaching. Language Teaching, 51(1), 90-112.