The Motivational Self-System of Learners of Kurdish as a Heritage Language: A Mixed-Methods Study

Document Type : Original Article


1 Professor in Applied Linguistics, Faculty of Literature and Humanities, Ilam University, Ilam, Iran.

2 Ph.D. Candidate in English Language Teaching, Faculty of Literature and Humanities, Ilam University, Ilam, Iran.


The ongoing increase in the population of Kurdish as Heritage Language (HL) learners encouraged the present study to explore the learners’ motivations as well as the influential factors on its development. Second Language Motivational Self-System (L2MSS) was adopted as the theoretical framework wherein, the subscales of the Ideal-self, Ought-to self and Motivational Intensity were explored. The study drew on a mixed-methods design in which semi-structured interviews were conducted with four undergraduate participants and a total number of 213 undergraduate Iranian learners of Kurdish participated in a survey. The qualitative results indicated that the interviewees had a positive experience of learning Kurdish in the classroom and were more enthusiastic to get engaged in the process of learning in the future. Furthermore, the quantitative results indicated that the participants more often pursued Kurdish in terms of the Ideal self and that learning Kurdish revealed to be an opportunity to fulfill the learners’ wishes. It was also found that the male participants were propelled by stronger motivational force which was more probably due to stronger sense of identity among male participants.


Main Subjects

Abidin, Mohamad Jafre Zainol, et al. “EFL Students’ Attitudes Towards Learning English Language: The Case of Libyan Secondary School Students.” Asian Social Science, Vol. 8, No. 2, 2012, pp.119–34.
Abu-Rabia, Salim. "Gender Differences in Arab Students' Attitudes toward Canadian Society and Second Language Learning." The Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 137, No. 1, 1997, pp. 125-128.
Akram, Muhammad and Ghani, Mamuna. "Gender and Language Learning Motivation." Academic Research International, Vol. 4, No. 2, 2013, pp. 536-540.
Akmalia, Frida, et al. “Teaching Arabic as a Heritage Language.” Language and Education, Vol. 36, No. 1, 2022, pp. 95-98.
Aliakbari, Mohammad, et al. “On Language Distribution in Ilam Province, Iran.” Iranian Studies, Vol. 48, No. 6, 2014, pp.1-18.
Alqahtani, Saleh Mohammad A. "The Effect of Teachers’ Motivational Strategies on EFL Learners’ Achievement." Diss. The University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia, 2015.‏
Anonby, Erik., et al. “Kordestan Province in the Atlas of the Languages of Iran: Research Process, Language Distribution, and Language Classification.” Current Issues in Kurdish Linguistics, edited by Songül Gündoğdu, et al., University of Bamberg Press, 2019, pp. 9-38.
Ary, Donald, et al. Introduction to Research in Education. 2018, Boston MA: Cengage Learning.
Asl, Esmaeil Safaei. “Multilingualism in Iran; Unity or Pluralism? (A Case Study in East Azerbaijan Province)”. Research on Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol. 3. No. 18, 2013, pp. 83-89.
Bacon, Susan M. "The Relationship between Gender, Comprehension, Processing Strategies, and Cognitive and Affective Response in Foreign Language Listening." The Modern Language Journal, Vol. 76, No. 2, 1992, pp. 160-178.
Baker, Susan C., and MacIntyre, Peter D.  "The Role of Gender and Immersion in Communication and Second Language Orientations." Language Learning, Vol. 50, No. 2, 2000, pp. 311-341.
Bensalem, Elias, and Thompson, Amy S. "Multilingual Effects on EFL Learning: A Comparison of Foreign Language Anxiety and Self-Confidence Experienced by Bilingual and Multilingual Tertiary Students." International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, Vol. 25, No. 7, 2022, pp. 2653-2667.
Botes, E’Louise, et al. "The Power to Improve: Effects of Multilingualism and Perceived Proficiency on Enjoyment and Anxiety in Foreign Language Learning." European Journal of Applied Linguistics, Vol. 8, No. 2, 2020, pp. 279-306.‏
Campbell, Russell N. and Rosenthal, Judith W. “Heritage Languages.” Handbook of Undergraduate Second Language Education, edited by Judith W Rosenthal, 2013, Routledge. pp. 165-186.
Cenoz, Jasone. Towards Multilingual Education: Basque Educational Research from an International Perspective, Bristol, Blue Ridge Summit. Multilingual Matters, 2009.
Cekaite, Asta, and Evaldsson, Ann-Carita. "Stance and Footing in Multilingual Play: Rescaling Practices and Heritage Language Use in a Swedish Preschool." Journal of Pragmatics, Vol. 144, 2019, pp. 127-140.‏
Chaffee, Kathryn Everhart, et al. "Why Don’t “Real Men” Learn Languages? Masculinity Threat and Gender Ideology Suppress Men’s Language Learning Motivation." Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, Vol. 23, No. 2, 2020, pp. 301-318.‏
Chayinska, Maria, et al. National Identity and Beliefs about Historical Linguicide are Associated with Support for Exclusive Language Policies among the Ukrainian Linguistic Majority. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, Vol. 25, No. 4, 2022, pp. 924-940.
Chen, S. H., et al. “Heritage Language Socialization in Chinese American Immigrant Families: Prospective Links to Children’s Heritage Language Proficiency.” International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, Vol. 24, No. 8, 2021, pp. 1193-1209.
Coleman, James A., et al. "Motivation of UK School Pupils towards Foreign Languages: A Large-Scale Survey at Key Stage 3." Language Learning Journal, Vol. 35, No. 2, 2007, pp. 245-281.‏
Cummins, Jim. "Heritage Language Teaching in Canadian Schools." Journal of Curriculum Studies, Vol. 24, No.3, 1992, pp. 281-286.‏
Dávila, Liv T. "Ecologies of Heritage Language Learning in a Multilingual Swedish School." Journal of Language, Identity and Education, Vol. 16, No. 6, 2017, pp. 395-407.‏
Dewaele, Jean‐Marc, et al. “Effects of Trait Emotional Intelligence and Socio-biographical Variables on Communicative Anxiety and Foreign Language Anxiety among Adult Multilinguals: A Review and Empirical Investigation.” Language Learning, Vol. 58, No. 4, 2008, pp. 911–960.
De Smet, Audrey, et al. “Classroom Anxiety and Enjoyment in CLIL and Non-CLIL: Does the Target Language Matter?” Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, Vol. 8, No. 1, 2018, pp. 47–71.
Doiz, Aintzane, and Lasagabaster, David "Teachers’ and Students’ Second Language Motivational Self-System in English‐Medium Instruction: A Qualitative Approach." TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 52, No. 3, 2018, pp. 657-679.
Dörnyei, Zoltán. “The L2 Motivational Self-System.” Motivation, Language Identity and the L2 Self, edited by Zoltán Dörnyei and Ema Ushioda, Multilingual Matters. 2009, pp. 9-42.
---. The Psychology of the Language Learner: Individual Differences in Second Language Acquisition. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. 2005.
Ehrlich, Susan. “Gender as a Social Practice: Implications for Second Language Acquisition.” Studies in Second Language Acquisition. Vol. 19, No. 4, 1997, pp. 421–46.
Fishman, Joshua. A. “300-Plus Years of Heritage Language Education in the United States.” Heritage Languages in America: Preserving a National Resource, edited by Joy Kreeft Peyton, et al.  Washington, DC. Center for Applied Linguistics and Delta Systems, 2001 pp. 81-97.
Francis, Becky, et al. “Language as Capital, or Language as Identity? Chinese
Complementary School Pupils’ Perspectives on the Purposes and Benefits of Complementary Schools.” British Educational Research Journal, Vol. 35, No. 4, 2009, pp. 519–538.
Hair, Joseph.F., et al. "When to Use and How to Report the Results of PLS-SEM", European Business Review, Vol. 31, No. 1, 2019, pp. 2-24.
He, Agnes Weiyun. “The Heart of Heritage: Sociocultural Dimensions of HLL.” Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, Vol. 30, 2010, pp. 66-82.‏
Henry, Alastair. "L2 Motivation and Multilingual Identities." The Modern Language Journal, Vol. 101, No. 3, 2017, pp. 548-565.‏
Hornberger, Nancy. H., and Wang, Shuhan. C.  “Who Are Our Heritage Language Learners? Identity and Biliteracy in Heritage Language Education in the United States.”  Heritage Language Education: A New Field Emerging, edited by Brinton, et al. New York, NY: Routledge. 2008. pp.3-38
Jeon, Mihyon. "Korean Heritage Language Maintenance and Language Ideology." Heritage Language Journal, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2008, pp. 206-223.‏
Kalan, Amir. Who’s Afraid of Multilingual Education? Conversations with Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Jim Cummins, Ajit Mohanty and Stephen Bahry About the Iranian Context and Beyond, Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 2016.
Kaplan, Robert B., and Richard B. Baldauf. Language Planning from Practice to Theory. Multilingual Matters, Vol. 108, 1997.‏
Khaleghizadeh, Sharareh, et al. "Ideal Self, Ought-to Self, Integrative, and Instrumental Motivations Among Non-Iranian Learners of Persian: A Case Study of Chinese and Korean Learners." Language Related Research, Vol. 11, No. 2. 2020, pp. 287-314.
Kheirkhah, Mina, and Cekaite, Asta. "Language Maintenance in a Multilingual Family: Informal Heritage Language Lessons in Parent–Child Interactions." Multilingua, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2015, pp. 319-346.‏
King, Kendall A. "Language Ideologies and Heritage Language Education." International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, Vol. 3, No, 3, 2000, pp. 167-184.
Kondo-Brown, Kimi. "Heritage Language Instruction for Post-Secondary Students from Immigrant Backgrounds." Heritage Language Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2003, pp. 1-25.‏
Lai, Mee-Ling. "Gender and Language Attitudes: A Case of Postcolonial Hong Kong." International Journal of Multilingualism, Vol. 4, No. 2, 2007, pp. 83-116
Lamb, Martin. "Integrative Motivation in a Globalizing World." System, Vol. 32, No. 1, 2004, pp. 3-19.
Leeman, Jennifer. "Investigating Language Ideologies in Spanish as a Heritage Language.” Spanish as a Heritage Language in the United States: The State of the Field, edited by Sara M. Beaudrie and Marta Fairclough, Georgetown University Press, Washington, DC. 2012. pp. 43-59.‏
---.  “Heritage Language Education and Identity in the United States.” Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, Vol. 35, 2015, pp. 100–119., doi:10.1017/S0267190514000245.
Lowther Pereira, Kelly Anne. "Identity and Language Ideology in the Intermediate Spanish Heritage Language Classroom." Diss. The University of Arizona, 2010. ‏ Retrieved from:
Ludwig, Jeannette. "Attitudes and Expectations: A Profile of Female and Male Students of College French, German, and Spanish." The Modern Language Journal, Vol. 67, No. 3, 1983, pp. 216-227.
‏Mahmoodi, Mohammad Hadi, and Yousefi, Moslem "Second Language Motivation Research 2010–2019: A Synthetic Exploration." The Language Learning Journal, 2021, pp. 1-24.‏
Meyerhoff, Miriam. Introducing Sociolinguistics. Routledge. 2011.
Melo-Pfeifer, Sílvia. "The Role of the Family in Heritage Language Use and Learning: Impact on Heritage Language Policies." International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2015, pp. 26-44.‏
Montrul, Silvina. "Current Issues in Heritage Language Acquisition." Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, Vol. 30, 2010, pp. 3-23.‏
Mori, Setsuko, and Gobel, Peter "Motivation and Gender in the Japanese EFL Classroom." System, Vol. 34, No. 2, 2006, pp. 194-210.
Muchnick, Arlene Goldberg, and Wolfe, David E. "Attitudes and Motivations of American Students of Spanish." Canadian Modern Language Review, Vol. 38, No. 2, 1982, pp. 262-281.
Nourzadeh, Saeed, et al. "An Examination of Iranian Learners’ Motivation for and Experience in Learning Korean as an Additional Language." International Journal of Multilingualism, 2020, pp. 1-15.
Rezaei, Saeed, and Bahrami, Ava. “Attitudes toward Kurdish in the City of Ilam in Iran.” The Sociolinguistics of Iran’s Languages at Home and Abroad. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, 2019, ‏pp. 77-106.
Ricento, Thomas K., and Hornberger, Nancy H.  "Unpeeling the Onion: Language Planning and Policy and the ELT Professional." Tesol Quarterly, Vol. 30, No.3, 1996, pp. 401-427.‏
Schmitt, Norbert. Vocabulary in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2000.
Sheyholislami, Jaffar and Sharifi, Amir. “It is the Hardest to Keep”: Kurdish as a Heritage Language in the United States.” International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Vol. 2016, No. 237, 2016, pp. 75-98.‏
Sheyholislami, Jaffer. "Kurdish in Iran: A Case of Restricted and Controlled Tolerance" International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Vol. 2012, No. 217, 2012, pp. 19-47.
---. “The Language Varieties of the Kurds.” The Kurds: History, Religion, Language, Politics, edited by Wolfgang, et al. Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior, Austria, 2015, pp. 30-51.
Siridetkoon, Pitchayapa, and Dewaele, Jean-Marc. "Ideal-Self and Ought-to Self of Simultaneous Learners of Multiple Foreign Languages." International Journal of Multilingualism, Vol. 15, No. 4, 2018, pp. 313-328.‏
Skutnabb-Kangas, Tove., & Harmon, David. “330. Biological Diversity and Language Diversity: Parallels and Differences.” In Handbook of Ecolinguistics, edited by Hermine Penz and Alwin Fill, New York: Routledge, 2018, pp. 11-25.
Sun, He, et al. “Child, Family, and School Factors in Bilingual Preschoolers’ Vocabulary Development in Heritage Languages.” Journal of Child Language, Vol. 47, No. 4, 2020, pp. 817–843.
Sung, Hyekyung, and Padilla, Amado M. “Student Motivation, Parental Attitudes, and Involvement in the Learning of Asian Languages in Elementary and Secondary Schools.” Modern Language Journal, Vol. 82, No. 2, 1998, pp. 205-216.
Szecsi, Tunde, and Szilagyi, Janka "Immigrant Hungarian Families' Perceptions of New Media Technologies in the Transmission of Heritage Language and Culture." Language, Culture and Curriculum, Vol. 25, No. 3, 2012, pp. 265-281.‏
Temples, Amanda L. "Heritage Motivation, Identity, and the Desire to Learn Arabic in US Early Adolescents." Journal of the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages, Vol. 9, 2010, pp. 103-132.‏
Te Huia, Awanui. "Exploring the Role of Identity in Māori Heritage Language Learner Motivations." Journal of Language, Identity and Education, Vol. 16, No. 5, 2017, pp. 299-312.‏
Thompson, Amy. S., and Khawaja, Anastasia  “Foreign Language Anxiety in Turkey: The Role of Multilingualism.” Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, Vol. 37, No. 2, 2016, pp. 115–130.
Valdés, Guadalupe, et al. “Heritage Language Students: Profiles and Possibilities.” Heritage Languages in America. Preserving a National Resource., edited by Joy Kreeft Peyton, et al.  Washington, DC. Center for Applied Linguistics and Delta Systems, 2001, pp. 33-77.
Valdés, Guadalupe. "Bilingualism, Heritage Language Learners, and SLA Research: Opportunities Lost or Seized?" The Modern Language Journal, Vol.  89, No. 3, 2005, pp. 410-426.‏
Warschauer, Mark. Technology and Social Inclusion: Rethinking the Digital Divide. MIT press, 2004.‏‏
Weisi, Hiwa. Language Dominance and Shift among Kalhuri Kurdish Speakers in the Multilingual Context of Iran: Linguistic Suicide or Linguicide? Language Problems and Language Planning, Vol. 45, No. 1, 2021, pp. 56-79.
---. L2 Acquisition and LI Endangerment and Their Impact on Learning English: A Case Study of Kurdish Speakers in Iran. Shiraz University, Shiraz, Iran, 2013. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation.
Williams, Marion, et al. "'French is the Language of Love and Stuff': Student Perceptions of Issues Related to Motivation in Learning a Foreign Language." British Educational Research Journal, Vol. 28, No. 4, 2002, pp. 503-528.
Wright, Margaret. "Influences on Learner Attitudes towards Foreign Language and Culture." Educational Research, Vol. 41, No .2, 1999, pp.197-208.
Xu, Hui Ling, and Moloney, Robyn “Identifying Chinese Heritage Learners' Motivations, Learning Needs and Learning Goals: A Case Study of a Cohort of Heritage Learners in an Australian University.” Language Learning in Higher Education, Vol. 4, No. 2, 2014, pp. 365-393.‏
Yeh, Yu-Ching, et al. “Learning Vietnamese as a Heritage Language in Taiwan.” Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, Vol. 36, No. 3, 2015, pp. 255-265.
Yilmaz, Birgul. “Language Ideologies and Identities in Kurdish Heritage Language Classrooms in London.” International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Vol, 2018, No. 253, 2018, pp. 173-200.
  • Receive Date: 06 January 2023
  • Revise Date: 27 July 2023
  • Accept Date: 02 September 2023
  • First Publish Date: 17 September 2023