Successful language learning in a corporate setting: The role of attribution theory and its relation to intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

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Csaba Kálmán
Esther Gutierrez Eugenio


Attribution theory (Weiner, 1985) and self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985) have been explored as contributors to L2 motivation (cf. Dörnyei, 2001) but have never been studied quantitatively in concert. In addition, students’ attributions for success in learning a foreign language have never been measured through the use of a questionnaire. The aim of this paper is therefore (a) to develop a questionnaire with reliable constructs that allows to measure adult learners’ attributions for their success in learning English in a corporate setting, (b) to investigate these learners’ attributions, and (c) to investigate the relationship between students’ attributions and the constructs of Intrinsic and Extrinsic motivation central to self-determination theory. Our main results show that among the attributions measured, interest, effort and corporate culture seemed to be the main causes that students recognised as directly involved in their success in learning English. Of all the attributional scales, interest and ability appeared to importantly contribute to intrinsic motivation, while corporate culture, encounters with foreign professionals and ability contributed to a lower extent to extrinsic motivation. It must be noted, however, that attributions for success to teacher and task were so consistently high that they could not be reliably measured with the questionnaire.


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Kálmán, C., & Gutierrez Eugenio, E. (2015). Successful language learning in a corporate setting: The role of attribution theory and its relation to intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 5(4), 583-608.
Author Biographies

Csaba Kálmán, Language Pedagogy PhD Programme, Eötvös Loránd University of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary, 1088, Rákóczi út 5.

csabakalman73@gmail.comCsaba Kálmán holds an MA in English Language and Literature from Eötvös Loránd University of Budapest, Hungary. He has extensive experience as a language teacher of adult learners of English in different corporate settings. Apart from general and business English courses, he specialises in ESP with special focus on the language of the energy industry, business presentations and negotiations. He also advises companies on drawing up and implementing their language education policies, and supervises their on-site language courses. Currently he is completing his PhD in Language Pedagogy at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. His main field of interest within motivation research is the teacher’s role in motivating adult language learners in a corporate environment.

Esther Gutierrez Eugenio, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest

egutierrezeugenio@gmail.comEsther Gutierrez Eugenio holds an MA-level degree in translation and interpreting from the University of Salamanca, Spain, a BSc in International Studies awarded by the Open University, UK and a Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) Modern Languages: Spanish with French from the University of Glasgow, UK. She has also been certified as a Sworn Legal Translator and Interpreter by the Spanish government. She has extensive experience working as a language teacher in different universities, language schools and secondary schools across Spain, Belgium, UK and Hungary, and as an interpreter trainer in Hungary. At the moment she is completing her PhD in language pedagogy and, besides her main doctoral research project on L3 teachers’ beliefs about multilingualism, she is also working in several projects on motivation and on language learning strategies used by highly-multilingual students.


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