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International Journal of Applied Linguistics Vol. 20 No.

2 2010

A comparison of the foreign language

learning motivation of Hungarian dyslexic
and non-dyslexic students ijal_247 232..250

Judit Kormos Lancaster University

Kata Csizr Etvs Lornd University

In this research we surveyed the language learning motivation of Hungarian

learners of English and German with and without dyslexia. The results of the
questionnaire study that altogether involved 1,182 participants indicate that for
most learner groups the best direct predictor of how much effort they were
willing to invest in language learning was their image of themselves as
language learners. Dyslexic language learners were found to have signicantly
less favorable motivational characteristics than their non-dyslexic peers, which
was apparent in language learning self-concepts, attitudes, and motivated
behavior. The pedagogical implications of these ndings are also discussed.
Keywords: motivation, dyslexia, learning disabilities, self-concept, foreign
language learning

In dieser Studie untersuchten wir die Fremdsprachlernmotivation von 1182

ungarischen Deutsch- und Englischlernern, von denen ein Teil an Dyslexie
leidet. Die Ergebnisse der Fragebogenstudie zeigen, dass das Selbstbild der
Teilnehmer als Sprachlerner fuer die Mehrzahl der Forschungsteilnehmer-
gruppen die beste Vorhersage ueber das Mass der Anstregungen, die sie fuer
das Erlernen der Fremdsprache auf sich nehmen wuerden, zuliess. Die Studie
ergab, dass an Dyslexie leidende Sprachlerner signikant weniger positive
Motivationscharakteristiken haben als gleichaltrige Teilnehmer, die nicht an
Dyslexie leiden. Dies zeigte sich im Sprachenlernen hinsichtlich des
Selbstkonzepts, der Einstellungen und des motivierten Verhaltens. Die
paedagogischen Implikationen dieser Ergebnisse werden auch diskutiert.
Stichwrt: Motivation, Dyslexie, Lernbehinderung, Selbstkonzept, Fremd-


The investigation of language learning motivation is an important eld in

language pedagogy, as motivation is seen as one of the key variables
contributing to the successful acquisition of a foreign or second language (L2)

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L2 learning motivation of Hungarian dyslexic and non-dyslexic students 233

(Drnyei 2005; Gardner 1985; 2006). Despite the fact that the relationship
between students attitudinal and motivation dispositions and their learning
behavior in various mainstream educational settings has been researched
thoroughly in the past decade (for a summary see Drnyei 2005), almost no
attention has been paid to the motivational characteristics of learners with
special educational needs. L2 learning is an integral part of life and education
in the European Union. The requirement agreed on by the Community in 1995
is that all its citizens should acquire prociency in at least two foreign
languages (Europeans and Their Languages: Summary, 2006). Therefore, it is
of great relevance that learners with special educational needs are also
provided with equal and appropriate opportunities to acquire a second or
foreign language (L2). However, these opportunities cannot be created
without an awareness of why and how students with learning difculties,
such as dyslexic language learners, differ from those with no such apparent
The situation of dyslexic students in Hungary is interesting for a number
of reasons. First of all, the orthography of the Hungarian language is highly
transparent in other words it has relatively simple soundsymbol relations
in comparison with many other languages such as English. Therefore a high
number of dyslexic students with good compensatory skills remain
undiagnosed at the beginning of their school years. It frequently happens that
students reading disability only becomes apparent when they start learning
foreign languages with non-transparent orthography (Gyarmathy and Vassn
Kovcs 2004) because the compensatory strategies of dyslexic students are not
sufcient to cope with the complex nature of the orthographic system of
another language. Second, Hungary is largely dependent on international
investments and foreign trade; therefore it is almost impossible to nd a
well-paying job if one does not speak at least one foreign language. In
addition, a certicate of intermediate level of prociency in a foreign language
is also a prerequisite for obtaining a university degree. Dyslexic students
often do not acquire sufcient language skills and are thus seriously
disadvantaged both in higher education and in the job market.
Our investigation is rooted in the L2 motivation eld, where in recent
years much effort has been invested in investigating how language-related
attitudes affect the language learning processes and how students self-images
contribute to the successful acquisition of L2s (Drnyei 2005; 2009; Noels
2001a; 2001b; Ushioda 2009). The aim of the present paper is to examine what
similarities and differences exist in the motivational characteristics of
Hungarian dyslexic language learners and learners without learning
difculties in terms of their self-concept, attitudinal dispositions, motivated
behavior, perceptions of their language learning experiences, and family
Our study is based on a nationwide questionnaire survey carried out in
a Central European country, Hungary, and involved four groups of
participants: learners of English or German with and without dyslexia. In this

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234 Judit Kormos and Kata Csizr

paper, we aim to present ndings concerning the role of various attitudinal,

motivational, and self-related variables in students learning behavior that are
potentially generalizable across the borders of Hungary to similar educational
settings in Europe. We rst provide a theoretical background to our study,
which is followed by the description of the research procedures. Next, we
discuss differences in motivational characteristics across the four learner
groups and what latent dimensions contribute to students motivated
behavior in these four samples.

Background to the study

Dyslexia is difcult to dene for two reasons: rst, it represents an underlying

concept that is not directly observable, and second, it is dimensional, that is,
dyslexic symptoms can be placed on a continuum ranging from mild to severe
(Fletcher, Lyon, Fuchs, and Barnes, 2007). At the behavioral level, dyslexia is
dened as the impairment of reading and/or writing skills (Morton 2004). A
number of etiological causes of dyslexia have been proposed. In their review
of the past 40 years of dyslexia research, Vellutino, Fletcher, Snowling, and
Scanlon (2004) argued that previous research ndings suggest that reading
disability is the result of weak phonological processing skills. There is also a
growing body of evidence which indicates that dyslexia is of neurobiological
origin (Grigorenko 2001). For the purposes of the present study, we endorse
the denition of the International Dyslexia Association (cited in Lyon,
Shaywitz, and Shaywitz 2003: 1):

Dyslexia is a specic learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It

is characterized by difculties with accurate and/or uent word
recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difculties
typically result from a decit in the phonological component of language
that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the
provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may
include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading
experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background

Dyslexic students are likely to encounter a large number of problems

when learning foreign languages (see Downey, Snyder, and Hill 2000;
Ganschow, Sparks, and Javorsky 1998; Sparks, Ganschow, and Patton, 2008).
Moreover, due to their constant sense of failure, dyslexic language learners are
at risk of losing their motivation to learn foreign languages (Kormos, Csizr,
and Sarkadi, forthcoming), develop symptoms of foreign language anxiety
(Sparks and Ganschow 1991), and have low self-esteem (Crombie 1999). In the
view of Hungarian language teachers, linguistic problems and negative
experiences in foreign language lessons have serious consequences for the

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L2 learning motivation of Hungarian dyslexic and non-dyslexic students 235

language learning motivation of students with dyslexia (Kormos and Kontra

2008). In an American college context, Sparks et al. (2008), however, found
that dyslexic students were just as motivated as their peers with no reading
disability. As motivation is the key construct of our research, we will briey
review four theories of language learning motivation that are relevant to our
Several studies in the L2 eld have acknowledged the social and
contextual inuences on individual motivation (e.g. Gardner 1985; Ushioda
2009; Williams and Burden 1997). In Williams and Burdens (1997) theory,
motivation is conceptualized as consisting of three interrelated stages: reasons
for doing something, deciding to do something, and sustaining the effort. In
their interactive model, L2 motivation is broken down into several factors
along the organizing principle of external/internal dimensions. The external
dimension involves the role of signicant others, school, and social
environment, whereas the internal factors subsume interest, value, locus of
control, attitudes, and other affective and demographic features.
Another line of motivation research that constitutes an important
background for our study is based on self-determination theory. Noels and
her colleagues initiated a number of research projects into how self-
determination theory may provide a broader framework for L2 motivation
research (Noels 2001b; Noels, Clment, and Pelletier 2001). Self-
determination theory posits that regulations (i.e. behavior control) create a
continuum from self-determined (intrinsic orientation) to controlled
(extrinsic orientation) forms of motivation (Deci and Ryan 1985; 2002; Deci,
Vallerand, Pelletier, and Ryan 1991; Ryan and Deci 2000). These forms of
motivation are distinguished by the degree of internalisation, that is, to what
extent individuals identify with the given regulation. Noels and her
co-workers also investigated how different classroom-related variables
such as the teachers communication style, students anxiety, perceived
competence, and motivation relate to the self-determination continuum
(Noels et al. 1999). Based on this work, Noels (2001a) proposed a heuristic
model of the motivational process, which accounts both for the interpersonal
and intergroup aspects of L2 motivation.
The third theory that is relevant to our investigation is attribution theory in
psychology (Weiner 1984; 1992), which posits that people try to understand
their failures and successes by drawing causal conclusions and attributing
them to various causes, such as ability, effort, luck, or task difculty. Ushiodas
(2001) work partly draws on this theory and is also an example of an
alternative qualitative framework of motivation. Ushioda identied four
distinct attributional patterns that characterize motivated language learners:

1. Positive outcomes are viewed as a result of personal ability or personal

qualities (e.g. effort, persistence).
2. Negative outcomes are looked at as a result of changeable temporary
shortcomings (e.g. lack of effort, lack of contact with L2 community).

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236 Judit Kormos and Kata Csizr

3. Demotivating instances are assigned to classroom context (e.g. teaching

methods, classroom pressure) and
4. Own resources and initiatives are used to motivate the self.

In the most recent theory of language learning motivation, Drnyei (2005)

proposed the model of L2 Motivational Self System, which consists of three
main components: Ideal L2 Self, Ought-to L2 Self, and the L2 Learning
Experience (see also Drnyei 2009). In this model, integrativeness that is, the
wish to become similar to native L2 speakers (Gardner 1985) is included in
the construct of the Ideal L2 Self, which is ones ideal self-image expressing
the wish to become a competent L2 speaker. The Ought-to L2 Self contains
attributes that one believes one ought to possess (i.e. various duties,
obligations, or responsibilities) in order to avoid possible negative outcomes
(Drnyei 2005: 106). L2 Learning Experience covers situation specic motives
related to the immediate learning environment and experience (p. 106). The
model of Motivational Self-System is based on Higgins self-discrepancy
theory (1987), in which it is argued that motivation is the result of someones
wish to reduce the discrepancy between ones ideal self, that is, ones image of
what one would like to become, and ones actual self, that is, ones actual
self-state. Motivation also comes about from the intention to lessen the gap
between ones actual self and ones ought-to-self, that is, ones perception of
what signicant others would like one to become.
Our study addressed the following research questions in the Hungarian

1. What are the differences in motivational variables in learning a foreign

language between students with and without dyslexia?
2. How does the foreign language studied inuence motivational variables?
3. Is there an interaction between the effect of dyslexia and the foreign
language studied on motivational variables?
4. How do factors which affect motivated behavior differ across students of
German and English with and without dyslexia?



Our research is a cross-sectional study that investigated four different groups

of learners. The participants of the survey were 1,182 pupils (605 males; 568
females; 9 with missing gender data). They were all aged 13 or 14 and
attended the nal, eighth grade of the primary school system. The sample
consisted of learners of English (n = 793) and German (n = 398). 184
participants held an ofcial diagnosis of dyslexia and 998 students were
non-dyslexic (for details of the sample see Table 1).

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L2 learning motivation of Hungarian dyslexic and non-dyslexic students 237

Table 1. The sample investigated in the survey

English as L2 German as L2 Total

Dyslexic 112 72 184

Non-dyslexic 681 317 998
Total 793 389 1,182

We followed a stratied sampling approach and selected students from

each main region and type of settlement of Hungary. The nal sample
contained 439 (37.1%) students from Budapest, the capital of Hungary.
Budapest is the largest city in the country, where one fth of the total
Hungarian population resides. 503 (42.6%) of the students lived in cities,
while 154 (13.0%) lived in smaller towns and 86 (7.3%) in villages. There were
three different types of participating schools, which reected the varying
amount of support that is available to students with dyslexia in Hungary. 18
schools were regular primary schools where dyslexic students studied in
mainstream education (Type 1 school). These schools were selected randomly
using a stratied sampling approach. The research also involved a school
specically established for students with different learning disabilities that
has several subsidiary schools in Budapest (Type 2 school). Dyslexic students
in all the four subsidiary schools of this institution participated in the survey.
The third type of school included four schools that were mainstream schools
with a special educational program for students with learning disabilities and
were similar to Type 2 schools. These schools participated in a special program
of the Hungarian Ministry of Education, which supported the foreign
language education of students with learning disabilities by providing
training for the language teachers and helping them develop a special
curriculum and teaching materials for dyslexic language learners.
All the dyslexic participants held an ofcial document that certied the
diagnosis of dyslexia. In every case, the students dyslexia was identied
by an expert with the use of the GMP test (Gsy 1995), which is a test of
phonological and auditory processing skills, and Meixners diagnostic
reading test (published in Juhsz 1999). Meixners diagnostic reading test
consists of a letter naming, a syllable reading, word reading, and a short-text
reading task, which are all scored in terms of speed and accuracy. Both tests
have different established minimum standards for various age groups. The
criterion used for experts for the identication of dyslexia is that the student
should score below the established standard on both of these tests. Owing to
data protection reasons, information on students scores on these tests could
not be made available for the purpose of this research. Although specimens of
the testing materials are public, complete tests and scoring procedures are not
available for those non-qualied in diagnosing dyslexia. These circumstances
only allowed us to establish two groups of students those with and without

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238 Judit Kormos and Kata Csizr

dyslexia and made it impossible to differentiate between students exhibiting

different levels of severity of dyslexic symptoms.


Our questionnaire contained 75 questions for dyslexic language learners and

72 questions for non-dyslexic students. The questions aimed to measure the
most important factors in L2 learning motivation that were identied in
previous research, and the instrument also included questions of learning
difculties for dyslexic students. The questions were adapted from two
sources: a previous motivation questionnaire used by Drnyei and Csizr in
a variety of Hungarian research projects (for an overview see Drnyei,
Csizr, and Nmeth 2006) and from a newly developed questionnaire by
Ryan (2005).
For questions 152, participants had to assess on a ve-point scale to what
extent they agree or disagree with statements. These questions intended to
cover the following latent concepts:

1. Ideal L2 Self (5 questions): students views of themselves as successful L2

speakers. Example: I like to think of myself as someone who will be able to speak
2. Ought-to L2 Self (6 questions): students perceptions of the various
language learning related duties and obligations that are set by their
immediate environment. Example: If I fail to learn English, Ill be letting
other people down.
3. Motivated learning behavior (5 questions): students efforts and
persistence in learning English/German. Example: I am willing to work
hard at learning English/German.
4. Language learning experience (5 questions): the extent to which students
like learning English or German in the classroom. Example: I really enjoy
the English/German lessons.
5. Parental encouragement (4 questions): the extent to which parents
encourage their children to study a foreign language. Example: My parents
really encourage me to study English.
6. Language learning attitudes (3 questions): the extent to which students
like learning English or German. Example: I really enjoy learning English.
7. International posture (4 questions): students attitudes to English/
German as an international language. Example: Studying English/German
will help me to understand people from all over the world.
8. The teachers role (6 questions): to what extent teachers help students in
the learning process. Example: My teacher tries to treat everyone individually.
9. Difculties in language learning (7 questions): how difcult students
think the various aspects of language learning are. Example: English/
German pronunciation is difcult.

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L2 learning motivation of Hungarian dyslexic and non-dyslexic students 239

10. Anxiety (6 questions): the level of anxiety felt when students use English
in everyday life. Example: I would feel uneasy speaking English with a native
11. Self-perception (4 questions): how students see themselves as language
learners. Example: I have good language learning abilities.

In addition to these scales, dyslexic participants had to assess on a ve-

point scale to what extent they agree or disagree with statements concerning
difculties in language learning. These questions were intended to cover the
following latent concepts:

1. Learning difculties: how difcult dyslexic students nd learning in

general. Example: Due to my dyslexia, I am a slow reader.
2. Teachers role in accommodating dyslexic learners: what help the teachers
offer to dyslexic learners. Example: When giving grades, my teacher takes into
account the fact that I am a dyslexic learner.

In the last part of the questionnaire, we asked students background

questions concerning what languages they would like to study in the future,
and what their age and gender was. Dyslexic students were asked about their
age of diagnosis and the compensatory teaching they received.


The questionnaire was partly based on a motivation questionnaire developed

and piloted by Ryan (2005), which was then adapted to the Hungarian
context by Glik (2006). This questionnaire was modied to suit the
elementary school population, and new items were added about dyslexia
based on our previous interview research (Kormos et al., forthcoming;
Kormos, Csizr, and Sarkadi 2009). Two versions of the questionnaire were
piloted by the two asuthors in think-aloud sessions with altogether 12
dyslexic learners. As a result, the wording of some questions was simplied
and some items were omitted.
The nal questionnaire was printed in four versions, separately for
students of English and German and for dyslexic and non-dyslexic
participants. The questionnaires for the non-dyslexic participants did not
contain any dyslexia-related items, and therefore it was not apparent to non-
dyslexic students that dyslexic students received a different questionnaire.
Non-dyslexic students lled in the questionnaire in group sessions in a self-
report format. For dyslexic learners individual sessions were organized, and
for them the questionnaire was read aloud in order to accommodate their
reading difculties. Although it might have potentially affected dyslexic
students responses that they were treated as a different group in this
research, in the pilot phase of the data collection we did not experience any

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240 Judit Kormos and Kata Csizr

such inuences. In the main study, students seemed appreciative of the fact
that they were helped to ll in the questionnaire and that we were interested
in their views on language learning.
All the questionnaires were computer-coded, and SPSS (Statistical Package
for Social Sciences) 13.0 was used for analyzing the data. As the data were
normally distributed, we applied parametric procedures. The level of
signicance was set for p < 0.05, and where necessary, we used the Bonferroni
correction procedure.

Results and discussion

Main attitudinal/motivational dimensions

In order to identify broader dimensions underlying the attitudinal/

motivational variables measured by the questionnaires, we submitted the
questionnaire items to principal component analysis in a separate procedure
for each subsample. We chose principal component analysis because, on the
basis of previous Hungarian (see Drnyei et al. 2006 for a summary) and
international research projects (e.g. Ryan 2005), we had an understanding of
the possible latent structures in our study. When the principal component
analysis reinforced our hypothetical latent structures, emerging latent
dimensions with satisfactory loading characteristics were turned into scales.
The reliability measures of these scales indicate a good representation of
students dispositions concerning various aspects of L2 learning (Table 2).
There were three scales whose presence in the data could not be justied
because of their low reliability indices: Ought-to L2 Self, learning difculties,
and teachers role in accommodating dyslexic learners, and hence these scales
were omitted from further analysis.

Comparative analysis of the scales

The descriptive statistics for our participants indicate more negative trends
than positive ones (Table 3). On the positive side, we can note that most
participants receive a relatively substantial amount of encouragement and
support from their family in language learning. Students are also aware of
the internationally important role of English, and the somewhat less
signicant regional importance of German, in Hungary. Learners of English
have a strong L2 self-concept and are able to see themselves as successful
users of the language in the future. This nding shows that students
language learner self is fully-edged and can be reliably measured in the
case of relatively young participants as well. The mean values for the
attitudes and motivated behavior of students, however, reveal that despite
the great importance of foreign language knowledge in Hungary, students at

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L2 learning motivation of Hungarian dyslexic and non-dyslexic students 241

Table 2. The reliability coefcients in the four sub-samples for the scales included in
further analyses

Scales Dyslexic learners Non-dyslexic learners

English German English German

(n = 112) (n = 72) (n = 681) (n = 317)

Ideal L2 self .90 .83 .87 .84

Motivated learning .88 .90 .88 .88
Language learning .78 .78 .86 .87
Parental .87 .81 .84 .84
Language learning .85 .84 .86 .88
Self-perception .78 .79 .79 .75
The teachers role .88 .76 .90 .90
International posture .72 .69 .67 .69
Lack of difculties .85 .85 .82 .79
Anxiety .83 .71 .84 .80

the age of 14 only display a moderate level of liking and enthusiasm for
learning English and German. This might partly be explained by the fact
that because in Hungary young students hardly ever have the opportunity
to use these languages outside the classroom (Kormos and Csizr 2007):
they simply regard them as one of the school subjects. Another reason for
the participants relatively unfavorable attitude might be related to the
quality of foreign language instruction in elementary schools, which is also
reected in the relatively low mean values of the language learning
experience scale. A series of projects conducted in Hungary by Nikolov have
shown that the most frequently applied teaching techniques in primary
English and German classes are based on the audio-lingual and grammar
translation method (Nikolov 1999; Nikolov and Csap 2002). The suitability
of these methods for teaching young children is highly questionable. This
suggests that it might be partly due to classroom factors that students do not
seem to like learning languages and do not succeed in acquiring a sufcient
level of language prociency (for a discussion of problems in foreign
language teaching in Hungary, see also Lukcs 2002).
The language that students study was found to have an effect on six of the
variables: Ideal L2 Self, language learning attitudes, international posture,
self-perceived prociency, parental encouragement, and motivated behavior.
The mean values for each of these scales were higher for the group which
studied English than for the participants who learned German. In line with

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242 Judit Kormos and Kata Csizr

Table 3. Descriptive statistics concerning the results of the four sub-samples and the
comparison of scores

Scales Sample Mean St. F for F for F for

dev. dyslexia language interaction

Ideal L2 Dys E 3.66 1.14 51.65** 68.59** 0.38

self Dys G 2.99 1.00
Non-dys E 4.16 .83
Non-dys G 3.58 .95
Language Dys E 3.32 1.05 0.01 6.84* 0.39
learning Dys G 3.15 1.10
attitudes Non-dys E 3.36 .96
Non-dys G 3.10 1.03
Language Dys E 3.26 .90 3.35 2.47 0.66
learning Dys G 3.45 .86
experience Non-dys E 3.18 .93
Non-dys G 3.24 1.01
Teachers Dys E 4.10 .92 16.97** 1.63 0.07
role Dys G 4.18 .79
Non-dys E 3.73 1.02
Non-dys G 3.86 1.08
Self-perception Dys E 3.10 .90 57.63** 7.29* 0.22
Dys G 3.10 .97
Non-dys E 3.59 .82
Non-dys G 3.43 .80
International Dys E 4.20 .76 9.22* 124.99** 0.46
posture Dys G 3.49 .94
Non-dys E 4.34 .64
Non-dys G 3.71 .81
Language Dys E 2.91 .97 73.17** 0.70 0.30
learning Dys G 2.89 .94
difculties Non-dys E 3.53 .81
Non-dys G 3.44 .80
Anxiety Dys E 3.17 1.18 2.67 0.72 0.00
Dys G 3.15 1.00
Non-dys E 3.05 1.06
Non-dys G 3.02 1.04
Parental Dys E 4.11 1.07 8.28* 44.55** 1.10
encouragement Dys G 3.51 1.05
Non-dys E 4.25 .84
Non-dys G 3.82 .99
Motivated Dys E 3.50 1.00 22.22** 32.29** 0.3
learning Dys G 3.08 1.04
behaviour Non-dys E 3.82 .80
Non-dys G 3.43 .88

* p < 0.001. ** p < 0.0001.

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L2 learning motivation of Hungarian dyslexic and non-dyslexic students 243

our previous results in a national survey of students of English and German

(Csizr and Kormos 2008), this research also suggests that English is the
language which is more motivating for Hungarian students to study than
German. Due to its status as an international language, students of English
display more positive attitudes towards this language and are willing to study
it harder than the other foreign language, German. These results are also
reected in the fact that students learning English receive more support from
their environment and have stronger L2 self-concept.
If we examine the differences between the motivational variables across
learners of German and English with and without dyslexia, it can be seen
that dyslexia has an effect on almost all the investigated variables: the Ideal
L2 Self, self-perceived competence, international posture, parental
encouragement, motivated behavior, and the extent to which students
experience difculties in learning a foreign language. Given the nature of
the problems dyslexia causes, it is understandable that regardless of which
language they study, dyslexic learners experience more difculties in
acquiring a foreign language than their non-dyslexic peers. As foreign
language learning poses a considerable challenge for dyslexic students, they
also hold negative views of themselves as language learners, and nd it
difcult to imagine themselves as competent and successful users of the L2
in the future. If we consider these three variables together, the ndings
suggest that students with dyslexia have a considerably more negative self-
concept in the academic domain of foreign language learning than non-
dyslexic students. It seems that as a result of the difculties with language
learning, they view both their present and future language learner selves as
relatively unsuccessful.
German is a language with transparent orthography and is often
recommended for dyslexic learners to study instead of English. The lack of
interaction between the language studied and the presence of dyslexia,
however, reveals that there seems to be no relationship between the effect of
German and dyslexia. Moreover, the motivational characteristics for dyslexic
learners of German are the least favorable in the sample, which shows that
even if German might be easier to learn in terms of spelling, just as non-
dyslexic learners, students with reading disabilities also seem to prefer
learning English on account of its international status.
The motivated behavior of dyslexic students also shows lower mean
values than that of the non-dyslexic students. Although Sparks et al. (2008)
found no signicant differences in the motivation of learning-disabled and
non-learning disabled students in an older age group in an American
setting, our dyslexic participants were reported as investing less energy and
effort in learning a foreign language than their non-dyslexic peers. We have
to note, however, that Sparks et al. (2008) used a composite motivational
measure that included attitudes, motivated behavior, and language learning
goals and orientations, whereas our measure is specic for motivated
behavior only.

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244 Judit Kormos and Kata Csizr

The relationship between the motivational scales and the

criterion measures

If we examine the variables that have an effect on motivated behavior, we can

see that the two common scales in the models for the four groups of learners
are the Ideal L2 Self and self-perception (see Tables 4ad). This indicates that,
in line with self-determination theory, intrinsic interest and a strong self-
concept (as expressed by the construct of the Ideal L2 Self), as well as how
learners see themselves as successful language learners, are strongly related to
motivated behaviour (Deci and Ryan 1985; 2002). In all the models, except for
dyslexic learners of English, language learning attitudes are also an important
predicting variable of motivation. The important role of language learning
attitudes in affecting motivated behaviour has been documented in social
psychological studies of motivation, which highlight the inter-relationship of

Table 4a. Results of the regression analysis of the attitudinal and motivational scales
with motivated learning behavior as the criterion variable for students of English
with dyslexia

Variable Final model

B SEB Beta

Ideal L2 self .41 .07 .47

Self-perception .31 .09 .27
Language learning experience .25 .08 .14
R2 .70
F for change in R2 10.984*

* p < .001.

Table 4b. Results of the regression analysis of the attitudinal and motivational scales
with motivated learning behavior as the criterion variable for students of German
with dyslexia

Variable Final model

B SEB Beta

Language learning attitudes .40 .08 .43

Ideal L2 self .28 .08 .27
Self-perception .30 .09 .28
Anxiety .16 .06 .15
R2 .77
F for change in R2 6.27*

* p < .05.

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L2 learning motivation of Hungarian dyslexic and non-dyslexic students 245

Table 4c. Results of the regression analysis of the attitudinal and motivational scales
with motivated learning behavior as the criterion variable for students of English
without dyslexia

Variable Final model

B SEB Beta

Ideal L2 self .38 .03 .39

Language learning attitudes .28 .02 .33
Self-perception .24 .03 .25
Anxiety .07 .02 .09
Parental support .08 .02 .09
R2 .74
F for change in R2 15.50*

* p < .000.

Table 4d. Results of the regression analysis of the attitudinal and motivational scales
with motivated learning behavior as the criterion variable for students of German
without dyslexia

Variable Final model

B SEB Beta

Ideal L2 self .37 .04 .39

Language learning attitudes .31 .04 .36
Parental support .15 .04 .17
Self-perception .14 .05 .13
R2 .69
F for change in R2 9.80*

* p < .001.

attitudinal and behavioural variables (e.g. Drnyei 2005; Masgoret and

Gardner 2003).
The models for dyslexic learners of German and English are very similar
(see Tables 4a and b), with the difference that for students of German there is
an additional predictor variable of anxiety, and that for dyslexic learners of
English, instead of language learning attitudes, language learning experiences
contribute to motivated behaviour. We can only speculate on the role of
anxiety in learning German, which might be due to the fact that in teaching
German traditional methods of teaching such as grammar translation are
used more frequently than in teaching English (Nikolov and Csap 2002).
Dyslexic learners nd it difcult to understand grammatical concepts and to
participate in accuracy-focused written activities (Kormos and Kontra 2008),

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246 Judit Kormos and Kata Csizr

which might create anxiety and in turn inuences these learners motivated
behavior. The explanation for the second difference between the models
namely the relevance of language learning experiences for dyslexic learners of
English might be that the overwhelming presence of English in todays
world overrides students original attitudinal dispositions toward this global
language, as they feel that its learning is inevitable, but they remain sensitive
to instructional practices.
Another interesting difference between the models for both languages is
that for dyslexic learners of German, the Ideal L2 Self is only the second
strongest predictor variable, whereas in all the other models, it is the most
important factor affecting motivated behaviour. As can be seen in Table 2,
dyslexic learners of German seem to have developed the weakest Ideal L2 Self
among the samples investigated in our research, which might explain why
this variable plays a somewhat less important role in motivating this sub-
group of participants.
If we compare the models of motivated behavior for dyslexic and non-
dyslexic students, the main difference seems to be the lack of parental
inuence on motivation for the dyslexic learners. The comparison of the
amount of parental support received by dyslexic and non-dyslexic children in
studying foreign languages (Table 3) also shows that dyslexic children receive
less encouragement at home concerning language learning. The reasons for
this might be that, as dyslexic students experience difculties in acquiring L1
literacy skills, their parents provide more support for their children in L1
subjects and regard L2 learning as less important. Another explanation might
be that it is a widespread misconception that dyslexics cannot successfully
acquire another language, and therefore parents do not even make an attempt
to encourage their children to invest sufcient energy in language learning.
A nal explanation for the nding might be that, as dyslexia seems to be
hereditary (Grigorenko 2001), dyslexic students parents themselves might be
dyslexic and therefore, even if they might like to, might not be able to provide
the necessary help in language learning.
It is also important to discuss the variables that do not seem to play a
signicant role in directly affecting motivated behavior. In an interview study
we conducted with dyslexic language learners (Kormos et al. 2009), we found
that language learning experiences, instructional practices, and the teachers
attitude to accommodations had considerable inuence on students attitudes
to language learning and motivated behavior. From our survey data, however,
it seems that, except for dyslexic learners of English, these instructional
inuences do not contribute directly to effort and persistence in language
learning. It is possible, however, that indirect effects exist with the mediation
of language learning attitudes. If we carry out regression analysis with
language learning attitudes being the independent variable, we can see that for
all four samples, the scale of language learning experience is the best predictor
of students attitudes (English dyslexics Beta = .49, p < 0.001; German dyslexics
Beta = .60, p < 0.001; English non-dyslexics Beta = .61, p < 0.001; German

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L2 learning motivation of Hungarian dyslexic and non-dyslexic students 247

non-dyslexics Beta = .63, p < 0.001). These analyses suggest that external
motivational inuences stemming from the instructional setting have a direct
link with attitudes to learning, and it is through language learning attitudes
that they exert their inuence on effort and persistence in learning. If we
further examine the role of instructional practices by means of correlating
language learning experiences with the teachers role, it can be seen that there
is a strong relationship between how positively students evaluate their
language learning experiences in all four samples and their views concerning
the behavior and instructional methods of their teachers (English dyslexics r =
.59, p < 0.001; German dyslexics r = .57, p < 0.001; English non-dyslexics r = .65,
p < 0.001; German non-dyslexics r = .67, p < 0.001). These results indicate the
important inuence of contextual factors on language learning attitudes and
motivated behavior, and provide evidence for the situated nature of language
learning motivation.


Our results reveal that, regardless of which language the surveyed Hungarian
students studied and whether they had a diagnosis of dyslexia, one of the
most important direct predictors of how much effort they were willing to
invest in language learning was their image of themselves as language
learners. This shows that in the investigated setting, self-concept plays an
important role in inuencing motivated behavior. The ndings of our study
also indicate that language learning experiences and teachers behavior and
instructional practices affect students enthusiasm in language learning
indirectly with the mediation of language learning attitudes.
Our results suggest that dyslexic language learners display signicantly
less positive motivational characteristics than their non-dyslexic peers. This
difference is apparent in language learning self-concepts, attitudes, and
motivated behavior. The low level of motivation is likely to be caused by
dyslexic students difculties in language learning. Language learners with
dyslexia might easily get caught in a vicious circle because, owing to their
problems in language learning, they lose their motivation, which then might
lead to their experiencing further failures. The ndings also indicate that
dyslexic students seem to be in a disadvantageous position because they
receive less support from their parents.
As our study points to the important role teachers might play in
motivating students with dyslexia, it is essential that a wide range of
motivational strategies are employed in teaching dyslexic students, since
these learners need considerable effort and persistence, and the time they
spend with language learning in their academic and private life is longer than
in the case of non-dyslexic learners. It is also of great relevance that teachers
create learning situations and use language teaching materials that foster
students experience of success, however small it might be. Experience of

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248 Judit Kormos and Kata Csizr

success is a prerequisite for improving the generally low self-esteem of

students with dyslexia, and also enhances language learning attitudes, which
are important in inuencing motivated behaviour.
Although due to its representative nature our research might be
generalizable for the Hungarian primary school setting and perhaps might
describe trends characteristic of the countries in the Central European region,
the ndings might not be transferable to countries where dyslexia-friendly
educational approaches are carefully implemented in primary schools. In the
light of the fact that multilingualism is highly valued in the European Union,
it would be important to investigate the language learning processes of
dyslexic students in other European countries as well. It would also be
interesting to examine how the severity of dyslexic symptoms inuences
language learning motivation. Future research would also be necessary to
gain more information about the motivational characteristics of older groups
of dyslexic language learners.


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