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The investigation into the possible l2 selves to interpret l2 motivation of vietnamese learners of english as a foreign language in VATC a thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of mas

MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING
HO CHI MINH CITY OPEN UNIVERSITY
------------------------------------------

NGUYỄN MỘNG HẰNG

THE INVESTIGATION INTO THE POSSIBLE L2 SELVES TO
INTERPRET L2 MOTIVATION OF VIETNAMES LEARNERS OF
ENGLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE IN VATC

Major: TEACHING ENGLISH TO SPEAKERS OF OTHER LANGUAGES
Major code: 60140111

MASTER OF ARTS IN TESOL
Supervisor: ĐẶNG TẤN TÍN, Ph.D.

HO CHI MINH City, 2016


STATEMENT OF AUTHORSHIP
I certify that the thesis entitled “AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE

POSSIBLE

L2

SELVES

TO

INTERPRET

L2

MOTIVATION

OF

VIETNAMESE LEARNERS OF ENGLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE IN
VATC” is my own work.
Except where reference is made in the text of the thesis, this thesis does not
contain material published elsewhere or extracted in whole or in part from a thesis by
which I have qualified for or been awarded another degree or diploma.
No other person’s work has been used without due acknowledgement in the main
text of the thesis.
This thesis has not been submitted for the award of any degree or diploma in any
other tertiary institution.

Ho Chi Minh City, October 26
NGUYEN MONG HANG

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
With great respect and humility, I wish to express my sincere thanks to all the
people and the Hochiminh City Open University that, in one or another way, made this
thesis possible.
First of all, my sincere and special appreciation goes to Dr. Dang Tan Tin, my
supervisor, who has walked me all the way through this journey with great passion and
patience. He has always guided me ahead by academic advice and emotional
encouragement. I have benefited massively from his wise prompts, searching


questions, constructive comments and emotional comfort.
Moreover, my appreciation goes to Dr. Pham Vu Phi Ho, who introduced me to
my supervisor and gave a considerable amount of good advice on academic writing by
his seminars and workshops. I would also like to thank Mr. Trinh Thai Van Phuc and
Ms. Ho Thi Bao Uyen, two coordinator assistants for the TESOL master program, for
their willingness and motivation.
I would like to thank my colleagues who were always willing to help and share
experience. Special thanks go to my dear classmates for their best suggestion as well as
their constant and enthusiastic assistance. The thesis has brought us together.
I am also grateful to the informants in the study who have spent their valuable
time

participating

in

interviews,

generously sharing

their

excitement

and

disappointment of English learning and other experiences with me. Without their
support, this study could not be carried out.

ii


ABSTRACT
The thesis aims at investigating the ideal L2 selves and ought-to L2 selves of
Vietnamese learners of English because the L2 selves determine the level of L2
motivation in learners. In order to investigate the perception of learners in terms of
their L2 selves, qualitative data analysis was employed in the study. Four IELTS
learners at Vietnamese-American Training College took part in the interview study, of
which questions adapted from Kim’s (2006) interview questions and a version of AlShehri’s (2009) self-report questions. Based on the themes provided by Unemori et al.
(2004), the responses of the four participants were analyzed. The six themes which are
Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, Career, Education, Extracurricular, and Attainment of
material goods, were categorized accordingly.
In terms of the ideal L2 self, their ideal L2 self tends to fall in Career domain. (1)
They would like work for an English-related working environments. (2) They also
expressed the wish to find a well-paid job (Attainment of material goods) because the
English-related jobs would help them find a better income. (3) The most significant
feature of the participants’ L2 self-images in the domain of Extra-curricular activities is
related to English pop-culture. (4) Most of the participants expressed their wish to
communicate in English fluently with foreigners, or Vietnamese people living overseas
(Interpersonal). (5) No participants in the study expressed the wish to study overseas
although they are studying IELTS, a paper test commonly used for applying for
overseas study (Education). (6) They expressed their imagined life in the future as a
positive one thanks to English. Besides that, the ideal L2 self of living overseas is also
found (Intrapersonal).

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In terms of the ought-to L2 self, (1) they learn English because of the fear of
losing opportunities to do business with foreigners or the fear of failing the job
interview (Career), (2) because of the fear of losing better income from business deals
with foreign customers (Material attainment), (3) the fear of failing the university
entrance exam and the fear of being scolded for bad marks are found in Education
domain, (4) the fear of being behind friends who have high English test scores and the
fear of being ashamed in front of their children (Interpersonal).
From the findings, it can be concluded that the perception of their ideal L2 selves
and ought-to L2 selves of the four participants are varied in terms of content in
different domains of life. The results obtained can be used to help those learners sustain
their L2 motivation in both short and long-term L2 learning process in order to reach
L2 attainment.

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Table of Contents

STATEMENT OF AUTHORSHIP ...............................................................................i
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT .............................................................................................ii
ABSTRACT .................................................................................................................. iii
LIST OF TABLES ..................................................................................................... viii
LIST OF ABRREVIATIONS ......................................................................................ix
Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION ...................................................................................... 1
1.1 Background of the study ...................................................................................... 1
1.2 Statement of problem ........................................................................................... 3
1.3 Purpose of the study ............................................................................................. 4
1.4 Research Questions ............................................................................................... 4
1.5 Significance of the study ....................................................................................... 4
1.6 Basic assumptions ................................................................................................. 5
1.7 Organization of the study ..................................................................................... 5
Chapter 2: LITERATURE REVIEW .......................................................................... 7
2.1 Theoretical background to the research ............................................................. 7
2.1.1 Historical overview of theories related to possible L2 selves ..................... 7
2.1.2 Conceptual framework ................................................................................ 12
2.1.3 The role of imagination in possible selves .................................................. 14
2.1.4 Conditions for the motivating capacity of the ideal and ought selves ..... 16
2.1.5 Importance of researching Ideal L2 Self and Ought-to L2 Self............... 21
2.2 Review of related literature ............................................................................... 21
2.2.1 Pakistani learners’ L2 selves ....................................................................... 22
2.2.2 Japanese students’ L2 selves ....................................................................... 24
2.2.3 Iranian students’ L2 selves .......................................................................... 25
2.2.4 Taiwanese students’ L2 selves ..................................................................... 28
2.3 Implications for the present study..................................................................... 30

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2.4 Summary of chapter 2 ........................................................................................ 31
Chapter 3: METHODOLOGY ................................................................................... 33
3.1 Research design ................................................................................................... 33
3.2 Research site ........................................................................................................ 34
3.3 Participants.......................................................................................................... 36
3.4 Procedure of the study........................................................................................ 38
3.5 Instrument for data collection ........................................................................... 40
3.6 Methods of Data Analysis .................................................................................. 45
3.6.1 Coding scheme for students’ responses about their L2 selves ................. 46
3.6.2 Coders ............................................................................................................ 47
3.6.3 Coding procedure ......................................................................................... 48
3.7 Summary of chapter 3 ........................................................................................ 48
Chapter 4: DATA ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION ................................................ 49
4.1 Description of the participants .......................................................................... 49
4. 2 Findings............................................................................................................... 51
4.2.1 Findings for Ideal L2 Selves ........................................................................ 51
4.2.2 Findings for Ought-to L2 Selves ................................................................. 56
4.2.3 The common characteristics in possible L2 selves of participants .......... 57
4.3 Discussion ............................................................................................................ 58
4.3.1 Discussion of the Research Question 1 ....................................................... 58
4.3.2 Discussion of the Research Question 2 ....................................................... 59
4.4 Summary of chapter 4 ........................................................................................ 62
Chapter 5: CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION ...................................... 63
5.1 Conclusion ........................................................................................................... 63
5.1.1 Conclusion to Research question 1 ............................................................. 63
5.1.2 Conclusion to Research question 2 ............................................................. 64
5.2 Implications ......................................................................................................... 64
5.2.1 Theoretical implication ................................................................................ 64
5.2.2 Future research implication ........................................................................ 65
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5.3 Limitations and suggestions for further research ........................................... 65
5.4 Recommendations ............................................................................................... 66
5.5 Summary of chapter 5 ........................................................................................ 67
REFERENCES ............................................................................................................. 68
APPENDIXES .............................................................................................................. 78
APPENDIX A ............................................................................................................ 78
The interview questions (English version) .......................................................... 78
The interview questions (Vietnamese version) ................................................... 80
APPENDIX B ............................................................................................................ 82
THE INTERVIEW WITH KEN .......................................................................... 82
THE INTERVIEW WITH KEN .......................................................................... 86
APPENDIX C ............................................................................................................ 90
THE INTERVIEW WITH ANNE ....................................................................... 90
THE INTERVIEW WITH ANNE ....................................................................... 93
APPENDIX D ............................................................................................................ 96
THE INTERVIEW WITH DANIEL ................................................................... 96
THE INTERVIEW WITH DANIEL ................................................................... 99
APPENDIX E .......................................................................................................... 102
THE INTERVIEW WITH MARY .................................................................... 102
THE INTERVIEW WITH MARY .................................................................... 106
APPENDIX F .......................................................................................................... 110
The letter to VATC’s authority (Vietnamese) .................................................. 110
APPENDIX G .......................................................................................................... 112
The Consent form of interviewee (Vietnamese) ............................................... 112

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LIST OF TABLES
Table 3. 1 Questions of the semi-structured interview adapted from Kim’s (2006)
interview questions and a version of Al-Shehri’s (2009) self-report questions ............. 44
Table 3. 2: Coding scheme for L2 selves ....................................................................... 47
Table 4. 1: Description of participants’ background .................................................... 50
Table 4. 2: Summary of Participants’ ideal L2 selves ................................................... 55
Table 4. 3: Summary of Participants’ ought-to L2 selves.............................................. 56

viii


LIST OF ABRREVIATIONS
CEFR: The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages
EFL: English as a foreign language
ESL: English as a second language
L2: Second/Foreign language
L2 community: target language community
L2 Motivation: Motivation to learn a foreign/second language
IELTS: International English Language Testing System
Possible L2 selves: Possible selves for a foreign/second language
TOEIC: Test of English for International Communication
TOEFL iBT: Test of English as a Foreign Language internet-Based Test
VATC: Vietnamese-American Training Center

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x


AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE POSSIBLE L2 SELVES OF
VIETNAMESE LEARNERS OF ENGLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE
IN VATC
Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION
1.1 Background of the study
According to Bandura (1986), individuals possess a self-system that enables
them to exercise a measure of control over their thoughts, feelings, and actions
(different cognition, different motivation, and different behaviors). Particularly,
the part of one’s self-system which is the most integrated into motivation is
termed ‘the possible selves’ (Markus & Nurius, 1986) or ‘the future self-guides’
(Higgins, 1987). The future self-guides consist of ‘ideal self’ (what they would
ideally become) and ‘ought-to self’ (what they should become to meet
expectations and to avoid negative outcomes). Motivation arises when one wants
to reduce the difference between their current self and either their ideal self or
their ought-to self (Higgins, 1987).
Along with the contribution from the two psychological theories which are
the theory of possible selves and self-discrepancy theory, Dornyei (2005) has reconceptualized the motivation to learn second/foreign language (L2 motivation)
within the framework of self/identity as a result of the dissatisfaction towards the
highly influential concept of integrative motivation proposed by Gardner (1959).
Integrative motivation or integrativeness refers to the L2 learners’ desire to be
identified with the members of the target language community (L2 community)
(Gardner, 2001).
The rapid globalization and the rise of Global English, in which English has
widely been used as a lingua franca among speakers of international world
(Crystal, 1997) have provoked criticism on the validity of the traditional
Gardner’s model of motivation. Since the ownership of English language does not
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necessarily belong to the native speakers of British or American, and nowadays
English belongs to the people who speak it (Jenkins, 2007; Norton, 1997), a large
number of contemporary learners of English see no obvious target reference
group to be identified with (McDonough, 1981; Clement and Kruidenier, 1983;
Graddol, 2006). Even more, several studies have demonstrated the lack of
identification with native speakers of English as a significant motivating factor in
a variety of settings (Lamb, 2004; Warden & Lin, 2000; Yashima, 2000). It
raises a question of what type of person that English learners would like to
become (ideal L2 self) and what others would like English learners to become
(ought-to L2 self) if that is not the integrative disposition towards the British or
American native speakers. Therefore, it can be assumed that English learners
have low motivation to learn L2 because of not having a clear and vivid image of
what they would like to become in L2-related aspects (1), and/or because of not
being aware of what L2-related attributes they ought to possess under social
pressure (2). Answering the question of what are the learners’ ideal L2 self and
the ought-to L2 self can help explain for the learners’ motivation to study
English.
To date, an increasing number of studies have successfully employed the
theory of possible L2 selves to interpret individuals’ motivation toward language
learning, and offered empirical evidence regarding the motivational function of
L2-specific selves (e.g. Chen, 2012; Csizér & Kormos, 2009; Csizér et al., 2010;
Kim, 2009; Kormos et al., 2011; Lamb, 2007; Taguchi et al., 2011; White &
Ding, 2009)
As Shahbaz & Liu (2012) suggest, in Asian settings, self-related factors
should be focused to keep the students motivated for a long and tedious process
of L2 learning. However, Le (2013) finds out, there is a lack of research studies
on the Vietnamese learners relating to a number of factors involving the L2 selves
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and motivation of the Vietnamese learners which should be taken into
consideration to ensure the success in teaching and learning a foreign language in
Vietnam. These important self-related factors have not received adequate
attention from researchers as, to the best knowledge of the researcher, up to now
there has been no formal study on Vietnamese learners’ ideal L2 self conducted.
This situation, hence, calls for more research to explore and address these issues
to enhance the L2 motivation so as to achieve the ultimate goal of promoting
Vietnamese students’ language proficiency.
1.2 Statement of problem
Vietnam, with no doubt, is under the influence of English language due to
the growth of international relations of the country with other nations and the
advances of technology and science throughout the world (Phan, 2011). It is
obvious that many English language centers have been mushroomed to help
Vietnamese learners to integrate into the trends of globalization and international
interdependency of the global village. In Hochiminh City, the most populous city
in Vietnam, Vietnamese-American Training Center (hereafter VATC) is one the
most favorite institutions selected by those who want to improve their English
proficiency.
Having worked at VATC, the researcher found the phenomenon that some
learners have high level of motivation while others have low in various English
classes offered by VATC such as the class for preparation for TOEFL iBT,
IELTS, TOEIC, etc. The writer of the thesis has noticed that the students learn
English with three main purposes, which is similar to the findings of Hoang
(2007). The majority of them learn English just to pass the tests, while some view
English as a tool for more attractive and lucrative employment opportunities; and
a small number of others need English to continue their higher education at
graduate and doctoral levels. However, these above are only individual
3


observations; so far, there has been no formal study on this issue at VATC.
Therefore, the writer aims to conduct a formal study on the perception of learners
in terms of the ideal L2 self and the ought-to L2 self so as to know what
motivates them in English learning.
1.3 Purpose of the study
The primary concern of this study is to explore and describe the ideal L2
self and the ought-to L2 self of the Vietnamese learners of English as a foreign
language to examine what are the L2 self-images that they envison in relation to
their English learning. The study’s results will help to identify which areas of
learners’ L2 selves can be strengthened to motivate them in their English
learning.
1.4 Research Questions
To achieve the aims mentioned above, the writer seeks for answers to two
research questions:
1.

What are the perceptions of Vietnamese learners of English

in terms of their ideal L2 self?
2.

What are the perceptions of Vietnamese learners of English

in terms of their ought-to L2 self?
1.5 Significance of the study
This study will be conducted for several expected outcomes. In order to
contribute a small part in motivating the Vietnamese learners of English as a
foreign language, particularly the students learning English in VATC, the
researcher conducts this study with the hopes that its findings will enable learners
and educators to have a positive perspective towards their L2 learning and
teaching.

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Especially, for students who have low motivation, they can have a reference
of what they can use L2 in their ideal future and increase their awareness of
others’ expectations and negative outcome in terms of their L2 so that they can
start generating these L2 self-images for themselves to increase higher
motivation.
In addition, the findings of the study will help teachers gain deeper
understanding of what learners would like to become in L2-related aspects, so
that they can design classroom activities to enhance learners’ ideal L2 self in
order to increase their motivation, and know what factors in L2 learning
environment has the most influential effect on their ought-to L2 self.
Also, the deep understanding of the Vietnamese learners’ ideal L2 self and
ought-to L2 self will help educators and curriculum designer with a channel of
information to take into their consideration when they design the L2 curriculum
so that it can match the learners’ L2 selves in outlining and implementing
intervention programs to increase the L2 motivation among Vietnamese learners.
1.6 Basic assumptions
In this study, it is assumed that all participants answer the questions in the
interviews honestly and truthfully.
1.7 Organization of the study
The study consists of five chapters as follows:
Chapter 1 gives the background of the study, the statement of problem, the
research purposes, the research questions, and significance of the study. This
chapter ends with an organization of the thesis.
Chapter 2 provides literature review of the theoretical dimensions of the
research and relevant previous studies. The research gap is also stated in this
chapter as a bridge leading to the current study.
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Chapter 3 deals with the research methodology employed for the study. This
chapter starts with the description of the research site and the participants. It also
includes the research design, instruments, and procedures for data collection. The
section of data analysis for the two research questions is also illustrated in this
chapter.
Chapter 4 analyzes the data collected from the instruments namely the semistructured interviews and discusses the findings drawn out from the preceding
chapter.
Chapter 5 summarizes the main findings of the thesis. Some contributions of
this work are also mentioned in this chapter. Next, it reveals the limitations and
offers suggestions for further research. Some recommendations for further
research are presented as the final part in this chapter.

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Chapter 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
This section of the study consists of two main parts, namely theoretical
background to the study, and the review of previous studies including the
research gap. The conceptualization begins with many important issues, including
the concept of possible selves and future self-guides, the concept of possible L2
selves, the role of imagination in possible L2 selves, and the conditions for
learners’ motivational capacity of the L2 selves, which leads to the conceptual
framework L2 Motivational Self System. This part continues with the reasons
why ideal L2 selves and ought-to L2 selves worth researching in L2 motivation
research. This chapter ends with the research gap that leads to the current study.
2.1 Theoretical background to the research
2.1.1 Historical overview of theories related to possible L2 selves
2.1.1.1 Theories related to possible selves
“Possible selves” is one critical domain of self-knowledge (ones’ knowledge
of who they are) that pertains to how individuals think about their potential and
about their future (Markus & Nurius, 1986). Three components of future-oriented
self-knowledge are named as the expected self, the hoped-for self, and the fearedself. They are mental representations of one person about what they might
become, what they would like to become, and what they are afraid of becoming
(Markus & Nurius, 1986). Firstly the expected self is a future self that a person
feels he or she can realistically achieve. Secondly, the hoped-for self represents a
highly desired possible future, which is often not fully grounded in reality.
Thirdly, a feared self is what a person is afraid of becoming in the future.
While the two extremes, the hoped-for self and the feared-self are easy to
grasp and illustrate such as ‘the successful self’ for the former and ‘the
incompetent self’ for the latter, the selves of the last type ‘the expected self’ is
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more likely that these selves refer to ‘expected’ or ‘likely’ selves (Carver et al.,
1994), that is, reflect realistic anticipated outcomes of a future action. Clearly, not
all types in the theory of possible future selves proposed by Markus & Nurius
(1986) will exert motivation. Therefore, Higgins (1987), after one year since the
work of Markus and Nurius (1986) presented a similar conceptual scheme called
Self-Discrepancy Theory. In the theory of self-discrepancy, people are motivated
to reach a condition where their self-concept matches their personally relevant
self-guide. In other words, the future self-guides inside an individual provide
incentive for action because sufficient discrepancy between these future selfguides and the actual self will urge the individual to reconcile their behavior to
reduce the discrepancy.
Higgins suggested that there are two types of idealized future selves that
influence behavior (1987). The ideal self, the first type, refers to the attributes
people hope or wish they could become. The ought-to-self, the second type, refers
to the attributes a person feels obliged or duty-bound to become. Moreover, the
distinction between these two types of selves is distinguished by Higgins (1987)
based on self-perceptions (i.e. “I should be fluent in English”) versus the
perceptions of others (i.e. “My mother thinks I should be fluent in English). In
general, ideal selves have a promotion focus, where the concern is on growth,
achievement, and goal-reaching. Conversely, ought-to selves have a prevention
focus, and are concerned with regulation of behavior in order to stay responsible
and safe (Higgins, 1998).
Therefore, in this current study, ‘possible selves’, or ‘future self-guides’ are
“hypothetical images about one’s future, including the ideal selves that we would
like to become, such as ‘the good parent,’ ‘the successful business person,’ and
‘the loving spouse;’ as well as the selves that we are afraid of becoming, such as
8


‘the alcoholic,’ ‘the college dropout,’ and ‘the lonely spinster.’ (Strahan &
Wilson, 2005, p. 3)
2.1.1.2 Theories related to possible L2 selves
However, not until Dornyei’s work that the language learning literature
applies the theory of possible selves. Dornyei (2005) borrowed two concepts from
Higgins (Higgins, 1987) – the ideal self and the ought self to propose a new,
broad construct of L2 learning called the L2 Motivational Self System. This
construct is composed of three dimensions, namely the Ideal L2 self, the Ought-to
Self, and the L2 Learning Experience. The first dimension, Ideal L2 Self, is the
L2-specific facet of one’s ‘ideal self’. If the person we would like to become can
speak an L2, the ‘ideal L2 self’ is a powerful motivator to learn the L2 because of
the desire to reduce the discrepancy between our actual selves (i.e. incompetent
L2 speaker) and ideal selves (i.e. competent L2 speaker). The second dimension,
Ought-to L2 Self, concerns the L2-related attributes that other people believe an
individual ought to possess to meet expectations and to avoid possible negative
outcomes. The third component, L2 Learning Experience, is added because
Dornyei suggested that some learners may not have future-self images related to
L2 before they begin to learn a language. They may actually produce some
images due to the learning experience itself. Under this category Dornyei
included the impact of the teacher, curriculum and peer group, etc. which
concerns situated, ‘executive’ motives related to the immediate learning
environment and experience.
One of the reasons that Dornyei’s L2 Motivational Self System framework
was proposed is due to the criticism on the Gardners’ motivation theory. The
basic premise underlying the integrative concept (Gardner & Lambert, 1972),
namely that the L2 learner ‘must be willing to identify with members of another
ethnolinguistic group and take on very subtle aspects of their behaviors’, has
9


provoked considerable dissatisfaction towards the concept of integrativeness
(CoetzeeVan Rooy 2006; Lamb 2004; Yashima 2000). There are several reasons
for this growing opposition. Firstly, according to Dornyei (2009), the label
‘integrative’ is limiting and does not make much sense in many language
environments, especially in learning situations where a foreign language is taught
only as a school subject without any direct contact with its speakers such as
teaching English or French in Hungary, China, Japan or other typical 'foreign
language learning' contexts (Dornyei, 2010). Secondly, in one study of Yashima
(2009), although many Japanese learners wish to interact with native speakers of
English, they are not particularly interested in identifying with them. Thirdly, in
the learning of world languages such as English or French, it is not clear who
‘owns’ the L2, resulting in the lack of specific L2 community, then the question is
actually of which target language community the learner wants to become a
member (Dornyei, 2010). Moreover, the actual empirical findings did not always
fit Gardner’s original interpretation of the notion (Coetzee-Van Rooy, 2006;
Dornyei et al., 2006; Irie, 2003; Lamb, 2004; Ushioda, 2006; Warden & Lin,
2000; Yashima, 2000). All of these concerns undermine the Gardner’s theoretical
concept of integrativeness; as a result, very few motivation researchers currently
include this concept in their study, which calls for the need of rethinking the
integrative concept.
In addition, Rashidi et al. (2013) mentioned there are some studies indicated
that instrumental orientation, when English becomes an instrument for learners to
achieve a goal such as passing an exam or getting a job promotion, could help
learners gain L2 outcomes well or even better than the integrative one (Dörnyei &
Ushioda, 2011). Interestingly, Oxford (1996) also found that instrumental
orientation was more influential among foreign language learners who were
“separated in space and attitude from the target culture” (p. 5), while integrative
10


orientation was more predictive of motivation among second language learners
who had the opportunities to interact with the target language community and
thus had better attitudes towards and perceptions of the community (Clément,
Dörnyei, & Noels, 1994; Dörnyei, 1990; Oxford, 1996).
However, actually, not only the integrative but also the Gardner’s
‘instrumentality motivation’ faces problem when it is very difficult to distinguish
instrumentality, especially in the case of English language. In today’s world, it
seems to have all of these aspirations such as ‘meeting with westerners, using
pop-songs, studying and travelling abroad, pursuing a desirable career’ being
associated with each other (Lamb, 2004)
In such a situation, Dornyei’s framework L2 Motivational Self System was
established with the good point that Dornyei tried to avoid contradicting the large
body of empirical data accumulated previously with integrative and instrumental
motives because this motivation theory was viewed as fundamental or classic in a
long time, which was highly influential in much L2 motivation research during
half of century since Gardner and Lambert first proposed this concept in 1959.
The L2 Motivational Self System was formed in response to the situation that
Pavlenko (2001) blamed the social psychological approaches to L2 motivation for
not reflecting the complexity of the modern globalized multilingual world when
these approaches viewed the world as ‘homogeneous and monolingual cultures,
or in-groups and out-groups, and of individuals who move from one group to
another’ while in reality, more than half the inhabitants are not only bilingual or
multi-lingual but also members of multiple ethnic, social and cultural
communities. Therefore, as Norton (2000) stated that it can be problematic if
language learners are characterized as motivated or unmotivated with clear-cut
target identities because identity and motivation are multiple, complex and a site
of struggle, being socially constructed.
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Since its first introduction in 2005, the L2 Motivational Self System has
been widely tested and validated in different EFL countries such as Hungary,
Saudi Arabia, China, Japan, and Iran (Al-Shehri, 2009; Csizér & Kormos, 2009;
Ryan, 2009; Taguchi, Magid, & Papi, 2009). L2 Motivational Self System has
brought noteworthy contributions. Firstly, it serves to advance our thinking and
understanding about issues of language learning motivation in the modern
globalized multilingual world. Secondly, it brings L2 motivation theory in line
with the current analyses of language and identity in multilingual contexts.
Thirdly, it serves to illuminate fundamental underlying processes of motivation in
these analyses. With its suitability for answering my two research questions of
what are the learners’ perceptions in terms of ideal L2 self and ought-to L2 self in
order to investigate what motivates them to study English in a globalized world,
my current study relies on L2 Motivational Self System as conceptual framework.
2.1.2 Conceptual framework
The Dornyei’s (2005) ‘L2 Motivational Self System’ consists of the
following three components:
1) Ideal L2 Self, which is the L2-specific facet of one’s ‘ideal self’: if the
person we would like to become speaks an L2, the ‘ideal L2 self’ is a powerful
motivator to learn the L2 because of the desire to reduce the discrepancy between
our actual and ideal selves. Traditional integrative and internalized instrumental
motives would typically belong to this component.
(2) Ought-to L2 Self, which concerns the attributes that one believes one
ought to possess to meet expectations and to avoid possible negative outcomes.
This dimension corresponds to Higgins’s ought self and thus to the more extrinsic
(i.e. less internalized) types of instrumental motives.

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(3) L2 Learning Experience, which concerns situated, ‘executive’ motives
related to the immediate learning environment and experience (e.g. the impact of
the teacher, the curriculum, the peer group, the experience of success.
Since possible selves are shaped by social influences, the ideal L2 self /
ought-to L2 self does not necessarily originate from the individual, but is
probably a product of one’s conformity with socio-contextual influences
embedded within the wider world (Dörnyei (2009)
To differentiate between the ideal and the ought selves, Deci and Ryan’s
(1985) described the graded internalisation of external motives in selfdetermination theory, which offers an internalisation continuum of extrinsic
regulation. There are four stages of the process which make an external motive
being internalized, in which (1) and (2) appear to be linked to the ought self and
(3) and (4) to the ideal self.
(1) External regulation: refers to the least self-determined form of extrinsic
motivation, coming entirely from external sources such as rewards or threats (e.g.
teacher’s praise or parental confrontation);
(2) Introjected regulation: involves externally imposed rules that the
individual accepts as norms he/she should follow in order not to feel guilty (e.g.
some laws of a country);
(3) Identified regulation: occurs when people engage in an activity because
they highly value and identify with the behaviour, and see its usefulness
(e.g.learning a language which is necessary to pursue one’s hobbies or interests);
(4) Integrated regulation: is the most developmentally advanced form of
extrinsic motivation, involving choiceful behavior that is fully assimilated with
the individual’s other values, needs and identity (e.g. learning English because
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proficiency in this language is part of an educated cosmopolitan culture one has
adopted).
However, there is still a confusion in this distinction (Boyatzis and Akrivou,
2006). It is not always easy to decide whether an ideal self represents one’s
genuine dreams or whether it has been the result of the desire to be conformed in
the society due to the social pressure because human beings are social beings and
adhere to some extent to the norms established by the society (Dornyei, 2007).
This means that, to some extent, the ought-to selves may be internalized and
transformed to ideal selves.
As stated by McIntyre et al. (2009), the L2 Motivational Self System
enables the researchers to explore various types of motivations a learner will
experience because “the self, like motivation, is multifaceted and constantly
changing”. In addition to the L2 Motivational Self System, the researcher also
employed the concept of ‘domains of possible selves’ (Oyserman and Markus,
1990). Although the relationship between the L2 selves and the L2 motivation has
been investigated (Kim, 2009; Lamb, 2012; Ueki & Takeuchi, 2012), little
attention has been devoted to the content of their future L2 self-images.
According to Oyserman and James (2009), individuals possess multiple positive
and negative possible selves which are often linked with differing social roles and
identities. These possible selves are likely to develop in domains relevant to
current life tasks such as being a student, a parent or a life partner. Therefore,
focusing on the domains in which the L2 selves are constructed should be
prioritized in order to understand the nature of learners’ L2 selves.
2.1.3 The role of imagination in possible selves
Traditionally thinking, a person’s self-concept is the summary of their selfknowledge related to how the person views him/herself at present. It is also
usually assumed to concern information from the past experience (Dornyei,
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