Can You Really Motivate Someone to Learn a Language?


By Olessya Akimenko

Motivation is generally considered to be an important factor that can affect a learner’s success in English as an additional language (EAL). On the internet, you can find countless articles about how to motivate your EAL learners. The authors of these articles suggest multiple ways how this could be done, ranging from “triggering students’ interests” (Lesley University, n.d.) to “giving them a little friendly competition” (Pesce, n.d.) However, is it really possible to motivate a learner if they are not really interested?

First of all, let’s define motivation. According to Dörnyei and Skehan (2003), “motivation is responsible for why people decide to do something, how long they are willing to sustain the activity, and how hard they are going to pursue it” (p. 614). Speaking from my personal experience, as an EAL teacher with 10+ years of teaching experience, I don’t think it is possible to motivate someone to learn, unless they are already motivated. I believe that either a learner already comes motivated to learn or they don’t. The only thing that the teacher can do is not to let the learner lose this precious motivation. If they aren’t already motivated, there isn’t much that could be done.  

In this essay, I’d like to talk about how we as EAL teachers can create an environment for the learner, so they wouldn’t lose the motivation that they already have to learn a language. First of all, we do this by letting each and every learner contribute to the classroom practices and activities. It’s easy to lose motivation if you are not given an opportunity to actively participate. For example, Norton (1997) in her article “Language, Identity, and the Ownership of English” describes the experiences of an EAL learner who mentions how frustrating it can be to listen to only one student speak throughout the whole lesson. This student eventually drops the course feeling that she “didn’t learn at all”.

Second, we make sure that that the needs of all learners are addressed. People come to language classrooms with various needs, such as to get a (better) job or pursue post-secondary education, and those needs should be the main priority for the teacher. This, of course, might be harder to do in larger classrooms, but maybe this means that the classrooms do not need to be large.

Norton (2015) also suggests that classroom practices need to draw from and legitimize learners’ cultural capital, i.e., their prior knowledge and experience. Therefore, it is important to choose materials and activities that learners can relate to. Canada is a multicultural and multilingual country. However, do the learning materials for EAL students always reflect this cultural and linguistic diversity?

These are some of the ways that I believe can help teachers retain the motivation of their EAL students. And I am positive many teachers are already applying them. However, if you don’t, it’s probably high time to start.

Now, going back to my original idea that a learner either comes motivated to learn or they don’t, you may ask then why people come to learn a language if they are not really motivated? Can you really motivate them to learn? Well, this is something I’d like to hear your ideas on!

Olessya’s Bio

Olessya Akimenko is a PhD Candidate in the Languages, Cultures and Literacies program at SFU. She is currently conducting research for her thesis related to the professional identity negotiations of teachers of English as an additional language (EAL). Her other research and educational interests include dialogic pedagogy and the pedagogy of multiliteracies. Olessya also teaches at the Faculty of Education at SFU. Prior to starting her PhD program Olessya worked as an EAL teacher in Kazakhstan for more than 10 years.


Dörnyei, Z., & Skehan, P. (2003). Individual differences in second language learning. In C. J. Doughty & M. H. Long (Eds.), The handbook of second language acquisition (pp. 589-630). Blackwell.

Lesley University. (n.d.). 3 strategies for motivating ESL students.

Norton, B. (1997). Language, identity, and the ownership of English. TESOL quarterly, 31(3), 409-429.

Norton, B. (2015). Identity, investment, and faces of English internationally. Chinese Journal of Applied Linguistics, 38(4), 375-391. Pesce, C. (n.d.). How to motivate ESL students: The 10 best ways to increase teenage student motivation. Busy Teacher.

Teaching EAL learners with Movie/TV Dialogues: A Report


By Tanya Cowie

Watch the presentation recording from BC TEAL 2021 Image & Inspiration Conference at (accessible for 2021 conferenece attendees)

The yearly BC TEAL conference is always inspiring, and this year I was especially excited about Jason Ji’s presentation on “Teaching EAL learners with Movie/TV Dialogues”. Jason packed a lot in his presentation as he went through the theories of why video and TV are so engaging for students, how to find clips on grammar issues/expressions and how to merge clips together.  

When Jason was young, an EAL learner himself, it was the bits and pieces of English in videos and movies that stuck with him. Then, when he did grad studies in Cognitive Psychology, he learned the theories behind this:

Interesting Theories

The Dual Coding theory (Clark and Paivio, 1991) says that when we process verbal and visual input together, we have two ways of internalizing the stimuli, and this helps us with recall. From a pedagogical perspective, if students are exposed to both visual and verbal, they will remember.

The Emotional Memory Theory or Flashbulb memory Theory (Kensinger, 2009; Lerner and Keltner, 2000) affirms that we remember better when we are emotionally activated. If something is funny or traumatic, we recall it better.

The Elaboration theory (Hamilton, 2004) states that adding plot elements makes it easier to remember. Stories in novels and movies are great for this.

How Jason uses video in class

Jason uses video in his class by showing clips to teach grammar tenses, modals, phrasal verbs, idioms, collocations and even the academic word list. He finds scenes in TV and movies that use a specific grammar point or expression, and then splices the scenes together, adding captions. Jason used “supposed to” as an example, spliced several scenes together, and this allowed students to see the specific uses in context. This can be housed on Moodle, Blackboard or Canvas.

Finding clips

These websites have great clips that make it easy to find specific teaching points.

  •  (short clips and has a big data base)  
  • (clips are longer, so more context)
  • (gives an expression in movies, and at what time it is used. Then, go to utube or Netflix to find it.
  • (vector images you can use to overlay onvideos. For example, in Jason’s lesson, “on the house”, he had an image of a house on a video of him explaining the expression, then spliced it with other videos that used “on the house” in context.)

Video Editing

To splice videos together, go to:

Challenges & Concerns

Some of the clips are quite short, yet still activate prior knowledge and make it memorable. Pedagogically, the longer clips are better as show more context.

Bringing video into class is not only fun for students but gives them context, pronunciation and best of all, an effective way to recall new expressions. Jason did warn this whole process can be time-consuming and addictive! But fun for both students and instructors!  

To read more about memory and learning, read this article about Jason Ji’s work, Get smart better.

How do you help your students remember concepts? Do you use video in your class? Leave a comment below to shar your experience!


Clark, J. M., & Paivio, A. (1991). Dual coding theory and education. Educational Psychology Review, 3(3), 149-170.

Hamilton, R. (2014). The effect of elaboration on the acquisition of conceptual problem-solving skills from prose. The Journal of Experimental Education, 59, 5-17.

Ji, J. (2021, April 16). Teaching EAL learners with Movie/TV Dialogues [Recorded presentation]. BC TEAL Portal Access | Image & Inspiration.

Kensinger, E. A. (2009). Remembering the Details: Effects of Emotion. Emot Rev, 1(2), 99-1113.

Lerner, J., & Keltner, D. (2000). Beyond valence: Toward a model of emotion-specific influences on judgment and choice. Cognition and Emotion14(4), 473-493.

Author’s Bio: Tanya Cowie

Tanya has been teaching EAL for over 25 years and is currently teaching in the Pathways program at VCC. She is a lifelong learner and has interests in Intercultural Communication, Anti-racism, Film and EAL Pedagogy. Tanya has a certificate in Intercultural Studies from UBC, is an IDI Qualified administrator and a SIETAR BC board member.

March 20 #LINCchat Summary: Effective Feedback Strategies


The March 20th #LINCchat was on “Effective Feedback Strategies”.

Participants: @NathanielDStone, @JoyOfESL ‏, @vislief@MitziTerzo, @gabyG_jolie, @capontedehanna@VidyaXS, @valerievalera70, @DawnTorvik  LINCInstructor,  @EALStories, @StanzaSL , and @jennifermchow.

Please find a summary of this chat below. To read it, hover over the Twitter bird under the questions in the image below. The interactive image was made with Canva and ThingLink, using images from Open Clipart.

New to #LINCchat?

If you have never participated in #LINCchat before, go to for more information. #LINCchat is self-directed PD so you determine the level of your involvement. #LINCchats usually occur every other Tuesday, with occasional exceptions. If you have any ideas for topics or have comments about #LINCchat, please send @StanzaSL or @EALstories a tweet. Feel free to use the #LINCchat hashtag between chats to share thoughts and links with others.

zAB6NaOy_400x400Bonnie Nicholas (@EALstories) is an enthusiastic participant in the bi-monthly #LINCchat as well as a member of the #LINCchat team along with Svetlana Lupasco (@StanzaSL), Jennifer Chow (@jennifermchow), Augusta Avram (@LINCInstructor), and Nathan Hall (@nathanghall). Bonnie teaches LINC at NorQuest College in Edmonton.

BC TEAL Webinars: Moving Beyond Pronunciation Pairs: Teaching the Rhythm of Canadian English


Moving Beyond Pronunciation Pairs BC TEAL Webinar Series

Are you reluctant to teach pronunciation due to the variation in your learners’ needs? Don’t be! You can create valuable aha moments for students of various backgrounds by teaching them the pronunciation features of syllable and sentence stress. They will suddenly understand why others often do not understand them, why they often don’t understand others, and why English spelling and grammar are often difficult to learn. In this webinar recording, you will learn key features of the rhythm of Canadian English, a suggested progression for teaching it, and recommendations for teaching materials.

Cari-Ann Roberts Gotta is one of BC TEAL’s regional representatives. She holds a Master’s degree in Adult Education from UBC and a TESOL diploma from Vancouver Community College. Cari-Ann has been teaching in the field of English Language Learning for the past 12 years and currently works for Selkirk College in Nelson. Over the years she has developed her interest and skills in teaching pronunciation and has shared her learning with many language instructors and literacy tutors through numerous conference and training workshops.

Slides (click on the image below):

BCTEAL pronunciation webinar


From the newsletter: “Dialogue Journaling with Penzu Classic”


Article reprinted from the TEAL News, Winter 2018.


Figure 1: A Journal Entry

In this article, I review Penzu Classic’s free journal as a tool for facilitating online dialogue journaling. As a technique to foster writing skills, dialogue journaling can be used with young and old, native and non-native learners in any educational setting (Peyton & Staton, 1991, p.2). Dialogue journaling (DJ) is informal written communication between a student and teacher (tutor, self or more advanced peer) in a journal on a scheduled basis. Regarding non-native learners, many teachers use it to develop writing fluency, but it has also shown other benefits—for example, increasing grammar knowledge (Rokni & Seifi, 2013), stimulating interest in writing (Holmes & Moulton, 1997) and reducing writing anxiety (Holmes & Moulton, 1997; Liao & Wong, 2010). Not all research, however, is as supportive. For instance, Yoshihara (2008) found that DJ did not improve writing fluency to a statistically significant degree, but it did improve the learner- teacher relationship (Yoshihara, 2008). Other auxiliary uses include the ability to extend learner-teacher contact time and provide information on learners’ needs, interests and progress (Peyton, 2000).

For years, the paperbound journal has been used to facilitate this interactive writing activity—but now there are online journals that can be used in place of it. Being virtual, these journals remove geographical barriers, eliminate the frustration of reading messy handwriting (a grievance voiced not only by teachers but also by learners) and simplify the burden of dealing with late or lost journal entries (Longhurst & Sandage, 2004). There are many virtual journals, but one that stands out is Penzu Classic ( Although it offers three kinds of accounts, teachers and learners only need its free-of-charge Basic account to facilitate DJ. The Basic account provides one free journal where a learner can write an unlimited number of journal entries on an authentic-looking writing pad. The learner can also share his or her journal entries with a teacher, and, moreover, the learner and teacher can write back and forth on the journal entries within dialogue bubbles, giving the written dialogue a conversation-like feeling.

Key Characteristics of Dialogue Journaling

In addition to being relaxed and scheduled, dialogue journaling is learner-centered, conversation-like, not assessed and discreet (See Linnell, 2010; Peyton, 2000; Peyton, 2000; Putney, 1991 for further elaboration).


The learner decides what to write about. To illustrate, primary school learners can write questions about an upcoming field trip; middle or high school year learners, opinions on a new social trend; post-secondary or adult learners, reflections on a course assignment or challenge at work. But if the learner cannot decide what to write about, the teacher can step in and suggest a topic relevant to the learner or the curriculum (Linnell, 2010, p. 23). Regardless of whether the topic is selected by the learner or by the teacher, sensitive or inappropriate content can appear because of the open-ended nature of the writing. Therefore the teacher must make restrictions on topics, and ethical and legal responsibilities clear to learners (Peyton, 2000).


In DJ the learner and teacher take turns “asking questions, offering opinions, requesting clarification, voicing appreciation, or expanding on something [written]” (Denne-Bolton, 2013, p. 2). This interaction simulates oral conversation and, as Peyton and Staton (1991) highlight, emphasizes the dialogical nature of reading and writing.

Limited Error Correction

Since the teacher is a participant rather than an evaluator in a written conversation, error correction is not stressed (Peyton,2000, p. 2). However, the teacher can provide some discrete methods of correction in case the learner expects mistakes to be pointed out. In these cases, Linnell (2010) and Peyton (2000) have some suggestions, for example, teacher modeling [i.e. recasting] corrections in a reply. If the learner wrote, “I went to villago mall wqith my brother at Friday.” The teacher could reply with, “I
went to the park with my wife on Friday.” Another way to correct is by writing a “P.S.” at the bottom of a journal entry (Peyton, 2000).


The teacher should not share journal entries with other learners because confidentiality encourages risk-taking and expressive writing. But if the teacher attains the learner’s permission before- hand, Longhurst and Sandage (2004) note that, reading an entry out loud in class can be beneficial because the teacher’s request [to read the entry to other learners] itself is a form of encouragement and an affirmation of the learner’s thinking (p.72).

Dialogue Journaling and Second Language Acquisition Theory

Dialogue journaling encourages second language acquisition by providing three ideal conditions. First, since the teacher is able to tailor responses to provide understandable yet slightly challenging reading texts, the dialogue journal is a good venue for comprehensible input (Linnell, 2010, p.24). Krashen’s input hypothesis asserts that one condition for language acquisition is exposure to comprehend- sible input, i.e., language that is under- stood but “a little beyond” competence Krashen, 1982). Second, since the learner and teacher are conversing, albeit through writing, about authentic topics, the dialogue journal is a good place for the negotiation of meaning—clarifying, checking comprehension, paraphrasing (Linnell, 2010). This helps the learner to notice gaps in his or her abilities, and therefore, according to Long’s (1996) interaction hypothesis, aids in facilitating language acquisition.

Third, because the writing topics are self- selected, the learner is interested. And because the writing is uncorrected, the learner’s confidence is nurtured, and the learner feels comfortable to experiment with language. According to Krashen’s affective filter hypothesis, language acquisition is aided when a learner is motivated, self-confident and feels safe to take risks (Krashen, 1982).

Overview of Penzu Classic’s Free Journal

Even though it is free, the journal is secure and user-friendly. It is protected with two passwords. Learning how to use its features takes very little time. To illustrate, in order to create a journal entry, the learner logs in and then is brought to a writing pad ready to be filled with words. By selecting the coloured cube icon, a primary school learner can write in a kaleidoscope of colors, revealing emotions or modeling patterns. By selecting the bulleting, indenting, aligning, and numbering tools, an older learner can fashion outlines, essays, letters, poems, lists—a variety of texts.


Figure 2: A Journal Entry with Dialogue Journaling

Similar to creating a journal entry, other features are also straightforward because of their intuitively labelled icons. For example, to share a journal entry, the learner selects Share (the envelope icon) and then enters the teacher’s email address. To open a shared journal entry, the teacher selects Recent Entries, and then selects the shared journal entry. To comment—or dialogue—on a shared journal entry, the teacher selects Comments (the speech bubble icon) and then types a message appearing in a speech bubble above the journal entry.

Some shortcomings

No tool is perfect, and Penzu Classic is no exception. I found three shortcomings that I hope will be addressed in the near future. First, while there is a free Penzu app, DJ is not yet fully functional on mobile devices. As a result, DJ is limited to desktop and laptop computers.

Second, there are no painting tools, e.g., a freehand pencil, eraser or brush. Such tools would more effectively include very young children and those with limited literacy skills. As we know, these learners often use illustrations either as a compliment to their writing or as an alternative to writing in their journal entries. Another related flaw is that there are no drawing tools for diagrams, flowcharts, graphs, equations, or symbols. Without these, applications in subject areas like science and math are restricted. How can a primary school learner describe photosynthesis without diagramming it, or a high school learner ask questions about a quadratic equation without writing the equation?

Third, it is not possible to dialogue directly on a journal entry; dialoguing must take place above the journal entry in dialogue bubbles. Providing feedback, particularly through recasting, would be more effective if it was located next to the errors, rather than above the journal entry in speech bubbles. However, with Penzu Classroom, another kind of account offered by Penzu Classic, the teacher is able to write directly on the journal entry—but Penzu Classroom has an annual teacher’s fee of USD 50.00.


Providing three conditions that are conducive to language acquisition, dialogue journaling as an authentic, communicative technique is one way to supplement the teaching of writing skills to non-native learners. I’s free journal, although not without flaws, is an easy-to-use tool to facilitate secure DJ on laptops and desktop computers.


Denne-Bolton, S. (2013). The dialogue journal: A tool for building better writers. English Teaching Forum, 51(2), 2-11. Retrieved from _denne-bolton.pdf.

Holmes, V. L., & Moulton, M. R. (1997). Dialogue journals as an ESL learning strategy. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 40(8), 616-621.

Krashen, S. (1982). Principles and practice in second language acquisition. Retrieved from

Liao, M. T., & Wong, C. T. (2010). Effects of dialogue journals on L2 students’ writing fluency, reflections, anxiety, and motivation. Reflections on English Language Teaching, 9(2), 139-170.

Longhurst, J., & Sandage, S., A. (2004). Appropriate technology and journal writing: Structured dialogues that enhance learning. College Teaching, 52(2), 69-75. Retrieved from

Long, M. H. (1996). The role of the linguistic environment in second language acquisition. In W. C. Ritchie and T. K. Bhatia (Eds.), Handbook of Second Language Acquisition (pp. 413-468). New York: Academic Press.

Linnell, K. M. (2010). Using dialogue journals to focus on form. Journal of Adult Education, 39(1), 23-28.

Peyton, J. K. (2000). Dialogue journals: Interactive writing to develop language and literacy. ESL Resources. Revised. ERIC Q&A. Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for ESL Literacy Edu- cation. (ED450614). Retrieved from

Peyton, J. K., & Staton, J. (1991). An introduction to dialogue journal writing. In J. K. Peyton & J. Staton (Eds.), Writing our lives: Reflections on dialogue journal writing with adults learning English (Language in education series, 77) (pp. 1-3). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall Regents; National Clearinghouse on Literacy Education. (ED333763) Retrieved from

Putney, J. (1991). What are dialogue journals? In J. K. Peyton & J. Staton (Eds.), Writing our lives: Reflections on dialogue journal writing with adults learning English (Language in educaiton series, 77) (pp. 3-10). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall Regents; National Clearinghouse on Literacy Education. (ED333763) Retrieved from

Rokni, S. J. A., & Seifi, A. (2013). The effect of dialog journal writing on EFL learners’ grammar knowledge. Journal of Language and Linguistic Studies, 9(2), 57-67. Retrieved from


Errol Pitts has been teaching EFL and academic preparatory math, mostly with post-secondary and adult learners in international settings, for over 13 years. He has an M.Ed. and a B.Ed. from the University of Manitoba.

December 11 #LINCchat Summary: Self-care for Teachers



How would you define work-life balance? What are some quick self-care strategies you use during a typical work day to stay grounded? What can evening teachers do as part of a self-care routine to help them unwind? What policies and procedures should employers have in place to promote employees’ mental health and well-being? What are some strategies we can use to “work smarter”? What are the most common symptoms of burnout? What self-care advice would you give to your colleagues who are feeling stressed? What is one thing you will do to take better care of yourself?  

In this new format, the questions for this #LINCchat were kindly provided by #LINCchat enthusiasts on @Padlet. Thank-you to the educators who found time to share their thoughts about the importance of remembering to practice self-care during the last #LINCchat of 2017:  @StanzaSL, @PSCCESOL, @JoyOfESL, @ram_diane, @shafaqmkhan, @gabyG_jolie@thespreadingoak, @DawnTorvik, @seburnt, @LINCInstructor, @NancyVanDorp, @ElleninSaigon, @SumaBalagopal, @PervinFahim and @tarabenwell. 

I (@jennifermchow) had the privilege of working with Bonnie Jean Nicholas (@EALstories) to moderate #LINCchat for the first time.  

Please find a summary of this chat below. To read it, hover over the Twitter bird next to the subtopics in the image below. The interactive image was made with Canva and ThingLink 

To read all the tweets on this topic, follow the complete discussion HERE.      

New to #LINCchat?   

If you have never participated in #LINCchat before, go to for more information. #LINCchats occur every other Tuesday, with the occasional Friday.  If you have any ideas for topics or have comments about #LINCchat, please send @StanzaSL or @EALstories a tweet or post a message on Tutela. #LINCchat is taking a break until January. See you all again in the new year and let others know about #LINCchat as well. Feel free to use the #LINCchat hashtag between chats to share thoughts and links with others.   

Jen Bio Pic

Jennifer has been teaching in the LINC Program for more than 10 years. She loves using Twitter to stay connected as a mother, an educator and an active citizen. 

Twitter: @jennifermchow