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This paper presents results of the first year of a four-year longitudinal study examining motivation for independent language learning among Japanese freshman learners of English at a university in Japan. The participants were enrolled in optional independent learning modules offered by the university’s self-access centre. The aim of the modules is to introduce learners to resources and strategies for learning and to give them the opportunity to create and implement a plan of independent study in the language area of their choice. Despite a busy academic and personal schedule, 145 learners managed to successfully complete the first eight-week optional module in semester 1 and 50 of those learners went on to complete the second optional module in semester 2. The authors analysed learners’ weekly reflective journals in order to investigate the factors that helped learners maintain their motivation to continue the modules. In addition, interviews were conducted with 9 participants. Findings indicate that interest played a significant role in maintaining motivation for independent study and this is discussed by drawing on a theoretical framework called the self-regulation of motivation (SRM) model (Sansone, 2008; Sansone & Thoman, 2005).