It is a sad fact that most schools and teachers accomplish very little in terms of helping students to love language. When it comes to motivation, I see my task as a teacher to be, first and foremost, that of showing students that English can be fun. This is because of the damage that schools have done to our students.
Take, for example, my experience with the Chinese language. In school, it was always a drag to be in Chinese class. I hated reading the boring passages in my textbook. I hated having to learn new words. I hated the ways my Chinese teachers would threaten and cajole us into paying some kind of attention. As an adult, now I realise that all that pain was unnecessary.
If only my teachers had introduced me to the silliness of the Lao Fu Zi comic books, or some other entertaining text. Sitting on my shelf now is a “Lao Fu Zi teaches idioms” comic book, which I’m sure I would have found infinitely more interesting than the standard-issue textbook. (Note: my Chinese is still pretty lousy, since I don’t get much practice.)
If students can find engaging with English fun (or any subject, for that matter), it is almost as if the teacher becomes unnecessary. Students can, and will, direct their own learning once they are motivated — and motivation IS a crucial part of getting students to perform well.
It is not an accident that I am an English teacher. There have been people in my life who have made English fun for me — not least my parents who used to read bedtime stories to me when I was younger. Make no mistake — this element of fun was, and is, crucial to my abilities with the language.