The L2 Motivation of Learners with Special Educational Needs

  • Edit H. Kontra


According to a report prepared for the European Commission in 2005, considerable progress has been made in providing barrier-free access to all areas of the curriculum, including modern foreign languages, to learners with special educational needs (SEN). Research shows that a good number of children and adolescents with SEN make use of language learning opportunities in both inclusive education and special schools, and achieve reasonable levels of success. A comparable number of SEN learners, however, do not reach the goals set by the curriculum: they struggle, fail and abandon language learning as soon as they are allowed to do so. Language learning is a demanding endeavor even for people without learning difficulties, and it can be even more challenging for people with SEN. This chapter explores the role played by motivation and related individual differences in the differential success of language learners with special needs, and how the teacher, the teaching method, and the wider educational context contribute to the process.


  1. Abrams, Z. (2008). Alternative second language curricula for learners with disabilities: Two case studies. The Modern Language Journal, 92(3), 414–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ainscow, M., & César, M. (2006). Inclusive education ten years after Salamanca: Setting the agenda. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 21(3), 231–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arries, J. F. (1999). Learning disabilities and foreign languages: A curriculum approach to the design of inclusive courses. The Modern Language Journal, 83(1), 98–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bedoin, D. (2011). English teachers of deaf and hard-of-hearing students in French schools: Needs, barriers and strategies. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 26(2), 159–175. Scholar
  5. Cawthorn, I., & Chambers, G. (1993). The special needs of the deaf foreign language learner. Language Learning Journal, 7, 47–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Crombie, M. A. (2000). Dyslexia and the learning of a foreign language in school: Where are we going? Dyslexia, 6, 112–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Crookes, G., & Schmidt, R. W. (1991). Motivation: Reopening the research agenda. Language Learning, 41, 469–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Csizér, K. (2010). Diszlexia és nyelvtanulási motiváció [Dyslexia and language learning motivation]. In J. Kormos & K. Csizér (Eds.), Idegennyelv-elsajátítás és részképesség-zavarok (pp. 97–124). Budapest: Eötvös Kiadó.Google Scholar
  9. Csizér, K., Kontra, E. H., & Piniel, K. (2015). An investigation of the self-related concepts and foreign language motivation of young deaf and hard of hearing learners in Hungary. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 5(2), 229–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Csizér, K., Kormos, J., & Sarkadi, Á. (2010). The dynamics of language learning attitudes and motivation: Lessons from an interview study of dyslexic language learners. The Modern Language Journal, 94(3), 470–487. Scholar
  11. Csuhai, S., Henger, K., Mongyi, P., & Perlusz, A. (2009). “Siket gyermekek kétnyelvű oktatásának lehetőségei és korlátai” című kutatás eredményei. Zárótanulmány [The results of the investigation entitled “Possibilities of and barriers to the bilingual education of deaf children.” A final report]. Budapest: Fogyatékos Személyek Esélyegyenlőségéért Közalapítvány. Retrieved from
  12. Department for Education & Department of Health. (2014). SEND code of practice: 0 to 25 years: Statutory guidance for organisations which work with and support children and young people who have special educational needs or disabilities. Retrieved from
  13. Dörnyei, Z. (1994). Understanding second language motivation: On with the challenge! The Modern Language Journal, 79, 505–518.Google Scholar
  14. Dörnyei, Z. (2005). The psychology of the language learner: Individual differences in second language acquisition. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  15. Dörnyei, Z. (2009). The L2 motivational self system. In Z. Dörnyei & E. Ushioda (Eds.), Motivation, language identity and the L2 self (pp. 9–42). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  16. Dotter, F. (2008). English for deaf sign language users: Still a challenge. In C. J. Kellett Bidoli & E. Ochse (Eds.), English in international deaf communication (pp. 97–121). Bern: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  17. Ellis, S., & Tod, J. (2012). Identification of SEN: Is consistency a realistic or worthy aim? Support for Learning, 27(2), 59–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education. (2013). Organisation of provision to support inclusive education—Literature review. Odense, Denmark: European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education.Google Scholar
  19. European Commission. (2005). Special educational needs in Europe: The teaching and learning of languages. Insights & innovation. Jyväskylä, Finland: University of Jyväskylä. Retrieved from Scholar
  20. Falkowska, J. (2016). Monolingual, bilingual, trilingual? Using different languages in an EFL class for the D/deaf. In E. Domagała-Zyśk & E. H. Kontra (Eds.), English as a foreign language for deaf and hard-of-hearing persons: Challenges and strategies (pp. 55–72). Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars.Google Scholar
  21. Fleming, J. (2008). How should we teach deaf learners? Teaching English as a written language to deaf European students. In C. J. Kellett Bidoli & E. Ochse (Eds.), English in international deaf communication (pp. 123–153). Bern: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  22. Gardner, R. C. (2001). Integrative motivation and second language acquisition. In Z. Dörnyei & R. Schmidt (Eds.), Motivation and second language acquisition (pp. 1–20). Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.Google Scholar
  23. Gardner, R. C., & MacIntyre, P. D. (1993). On the measurement of affective variables in second language learning. Language Learning, 43(2), 157–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gardner, R. C., Masgoret, A.-M., & Tremblay, P. F. (1999). Home background characteristics and second language learning. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 18, 419–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gulati, B. (2016). Visualizing—The most effective way to teach EFL to deaf and hard of hearing students. In E. Domagała-Zyśk & E. H. Kontra (Eds.), English as a foreign language for deaf and hard-of-hearing persons: Challenges and strategies (pp. 153–167). Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars.Google Scholar
  26. Horwitz, E. K., Horwitz, M. B., & Cope, J. (1986). Foreign language classroom anxiety. The Modern Language Journal, 70, 125–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Janáková, D. (2008). “Time to share.” practical strategies for teaching English to Czech deaf students. In D. Janáková (Ed.), Teaching English to deaf and hard of-hearing students at secondary and tertiary levels of education in the Czech Republic (2nd ed., pp. 59–64). Prague: VIP Books.Google Scholar
  28. Javorsky, J., Sparks, R., & Ganschow, L. (1992). Perceptions of college students with and without specific learning disabilities about foreign language courses. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 7, 31–44.Google Scholar
  29. Jedynak, M. (2012). Problems with L2 classroom research in the SEN setting with visually challenged learners. Glottodidactica, 39, 57–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kontra, E. H. (2013). Language learning against the odds: Retrospective accounts by four deaf adults. In E. Domagała-Zyśk (Ed.), English as a foreign language for deaf and hard of hearing persons in Europe (pp. 93–111). Lublin: Wydawnictwo KUL.Google Scholar
  31. Kontra, E. H., & Csizér, K. (2013). An investigation into the relationship of foreign language learning motivation and sign language use among Deaf and hard of hearing Hungarians. International Review of Applied Linguistics (IRAL), 51(1), 1–22. Scholar
  32. Kontra, E. H., Csizér, K., & Piniel, K. (2015). The challenge for deaf students to learn foreign languages in special needs schools. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 30(2), 141–155. Scholar
  33. Kontráné Hegybíró, E. (2010). Nyelvtanulás két kézzel [Language learning by two hands]. Budapest: Eötvös Kiadó.Google Scholar
  34. Kormos, J. (2017a). The effects of specific learning difficulties on processes of multilingual language development. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 37, 30–44. Scholar
  35. Kormos, J. (2017b). The second language learning processes of students with specific learning difficulties. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  36. Kormos, J., & Csizér, K. (2010). A comparison of the foreign language learning motivation of Hungarian dyslexic and non-dyslexic learners. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 20, 232–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kormos, J., & Kontra, E. H. (2008). Hungarian teachers’ perceptions of dyslexic language learners. In J. Kormos & E. H. Kontra (Eds.), Language learners with special needs: An international perspective (pp. 189–213). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Machová, P. (2008). Various methods used in EFL teaching of deaf and hard-of hearing students in heterogenous classes. In D. Janáková (Ed.), Teaching English to deaf and hard of-hearing students at secondary and tertiary levels of education in the Czech Republic (2nd ed., pp. 65–73). Prague: VIP Books.Google Scholar
  39. MacIntyre, P. D. (2002). Motivation, anxiety and emotion in second language acquisition. In P. Robinson (Ed.), Individual differences and instructed language learning (pp. 45–68). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Malinovská, O., & Ludíková, L. (2017). ICT in teaching foreign languages to adult people with acquired severe visual impairment. Procedia—Social and Behavioral Sciences, 237, 311–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mandják, G. (2008). The foreign language learning experiences of young dyslexic language learners. Unpublished MA thesis, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest.Google Scholar
  42. Marschark, M., Young, A., & Lukomski, J. (2002). Editorial: Perspectives on inclusion. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 7(3), 187–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. McColl, H. (2006). Adapting MFL in the curriculum to meet the needs of deaf students. BATOD Association Magazine, May, 2006. Retrieved from
  44. Meiring, L., & Norman, N. (2005). How can ICT contribute to the learning of foreign languages by pupils with SEN? Support for Learning, 20(3), 129–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Mercer, S. (2011). Language learner self-concept: Complexity, continuity and change. System, 39, 335–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Mole, J., McCall, H., & Vale, M. (2008). Deaf and multilingual: A practical guide to teaching and supporting deaf learners in foreign language classes. Norbury, Shropshire: Direct Learn Services.Google Scholar
  47. Nabiałek, A. (2016). Immersion in the English language for deaf students. In E. Domagała-Zyśk & E. H. Kontra (Eds.), English as a foreign language for deaf and hard-of-hearing persons: Challenges and strategies (pp. 169–181). Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars.Google Scholar
  48. Nijakowska, J. (2000). Dyslexia—Does it mean anything for the foreign language teacher? In L. Peer & G. Reid (Eds.), Multilingualism, literacy and dyslexia (pp. 248–256). London: David Fulton Publishers.Google Scholar
  49. Nijakowska, J. (2010). Dyslexia in the foreign language classroom. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Piechurska-Kuciel, E. (2008). Input, processing and output anxiety in students with symptoms of developmental dyslexia. In J. Kormos & E. H. Kontra (Eds.), Language learners with special needs. An international perspective (pp. 86–109). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. PLLBPAE Project Consortium. (2010). Good practice for improving language learning for visually impaired adults. Project report. “Pedagogy and language learning for blind and partially sighted adults in Europe” 2008–2010. Retrieved from
  52. Pritchard, P. (2013). Teaching of English to deaf and severely hard-of-hearing pupils in Norway. In E. Domagała-Zyśk (Ed.), English as a foreign language for deaf and hard-of-hearing persons in Europe (pp. 113–134). Lublin: Wydawnictwo KUL.Google Scholar
  53. Reese, S. (2006). When foreign languages are not seen or heard. The Language Educator, 2006, February, 32–37.Google Scholar
  54. Sarkadi, Á., & Kormos, J. (2010). Diszlexiás diákok és felnőttek tapasztalatai a nyelvtanulás terén [The language learning experiences of dyslexic pupils and adults]. In J. Kormos & K. Csizér (Eds.), Idegennyelv-elsajátítás és részképesség-zavarok (pp. 125–144). Budapest: Eötvös Kiadó.Google Scholar
  55. Schneider, E., & Crombie, M. (2003). Dyslexia and foreign language learning. London: David Fulton.Google Scholar
  56. Stevens, A., & Marsh, D. (2005). Foreign language teaching within special needs education: Learning from Europe-wide experience. Support for Learning, 20(3), 109–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Stoppok, A. (n.d.). The early learning of English as a foreign language by hearing impaired children in special needs schools. Retrieved from
  58. The Douglas Fir Group. (2016). A transdisciplinary framework for SLA in a multilingual world. The Modern Language Journal, 100(Supplement 2016), 19–47.Google Scholar
  59. United Nations General Assembly. (2007). Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Resolution/adopted by the General Assembly, 24 January 2007, A/RES/61/106. Retrieved July 17, 2017, from
  60. Urdarević, I. (2016). Teaching English to deaf and hard-of-hearing students in Serbia: A personal account. In E. Domagała-Zyśk & E. H. Kontra (Eds.), English as a foreign language for deaf and hard-of-hearing persons: Challenges and strategies (pp. 91–107). Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars.Google Scholar
  61. Ushioda, E. (2013). Motivation and ELT: Global issues and local concerns. In E. Ushioda (Ed.), International perspectives on motivation (pp. 1–17). Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wire, V. (2005). Autistic spectrum disorders and learning foreign languages. Support for Learning, 20(3), 123–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edit H. Kontra
    • 1
  1. 1.Selye János UniversityKomarnoSlovakia

Personalised recommendations