L2 Motivation in ESP and EGP Courses

An investigation of L2 motivational selves among learners of English in Saudi Arabia

Keywords: L2 motivational self system, Ideal L2 self, Ought-to L2 self, ESP, EGP, Saudi university students


This paper investigates the L2 motivation of Saudi university students in ESP (English for Specific Purposes) and EGP (English for General Purposes) courses. One of the common arguments about ESP courses suggests that they are more likely to generate higher levels of motivation than other types of English courses (i.e., EGP courses). Some scholars (e.g., Basturkmen, 2010; Dudley-Evans & St John, 1998; Hutchinson & Waters, 1987) hold this view, asserting that ESP courses are more relevant to learners’ needs and interests, which increases their motivation. However, none of these claims are based on empirical research; the present study aims to fill this gap. Using Dörnyei’s (2005, 2009) L2 Motivational Self System, 4,043 students enrolled in ESP and EGP courses at four Saudi universities completed an online survey. The analysis showed a significant relationship between learners’ motivation and their attended English course. The ESP group had higher ideal L2 selves and more positive attitudes towards the L2 learning experience than the EGP group, whereas the ought-to L2 selves were not significantly different. In addition, a multiple regression model was designed, and indicated that the two self-constructs had an impact on participants’ L2 achievements, either positively or negatively.

Keywords: L2 motivational self system; Ideal L2 self; Ought-to L2 self; ESP; EGP; Saudi university students

Author Biography

Aser Nazzal K Altalib, The Australian National University (ANU), and Jouf University, Sakaka, Al Jouf, Saudi Arabia

Aser Altalib is currently a PhD candidate in the School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics, at the Australian National University, Canberra. He is a lecturer at Jouf University, Saudi Arabia. His research interests include language teaching and learning in higher education and language learning motivation.