If we accept the idea that motivation is neither a natural gift nor the result of fortuitous circumstances, then we can start seeing this important aspect of (language) learning as a competence to be developed through systematic intervention. In order to do this, we need to view motivation as a multi-dimensional factor which encompasses psychological, social and contextual issues.
This paper will examine some of these dimensions, starting from the network of interpersonal and sociocultural relationships which include the classroom culture, the school and family backgrounds, and the larger community and societal identities. The features of the learning tasks, which teachers set in the classroom, and their impact on the “will and skill” to learn will then be discussed. Finally, I will consider the influence that personal values, perceptions, beliefs and attitudes have in shaping an individual’s identity as a language learner, with particular reference to the causal attributions that are used to explain positive or negative outcomes.
Theoretical perspectives on language learning motivation will be backed up by “voices from the classroom”, i.e. students’ statements - the results of surveys carried out in Italian upper secondary schools in the past few years.