Last Thursday I volunteered to visit a class that one of the teachers attending the Teachers' Seminar teaches. She is Japanese and her class of about 15 people wanted to talk to a "foreigner." I won't get into how I feel about that particular situation right now. I want to focus here on the motivations that the students have for learning English. All of the people in the group are over 65. Their language ablilty is very much at the beginner level. I was curious about what the people wanted to get out of the series of classes.
The class was basically a getting-to-know-you kind of effort. The learners would introduce themselves and I would ask some questions about them. I also requested at the beginning of the session that they tell me why they are studying English. Some of the motivations were very practical. They want to study so that they can speak more when they travel or speak with foreign nationals at their church. Two of the people had dual-citizenship grandchildren living in other countries, and one person had a daughter living in Singapore. Other people wanted to learn English to become "an international human," to prevent senility, or simply as a hobby. Two people said that they had no real motivation. I'm not sure what gets them into the classroom every week, but they were there.
I was encouraged to see so many people interested in learning English. Near the end of the class, they asked me what they could do to improve their language ability. I suggested that they focus on the most basic grammar and vocabulary and build a strong base. Make sure that they can listen, speak, read, and write all of it. Then with that base they can do most anything they want with language. If they find that they need more, then build on that.
I was really unsure about going to this before the fact. I was glad that I made the effort. It was good to meet people in that age group who are learning language and find out something about what motivates them.