Communication Strategies Used in Oral and Written Performances of EFL Learners from Different Proficiency Levels: The Case of Iranian EFL University Students

Document Type : Original Article


Sheikhbahaee University


Being able to communicate effectively is the optimal goal of all language learners; therefore, despite difficulties they face and restrictions they have while expressing themselves, they rely on employing diverse communication strategies (CSs). This descriptive study was set to analyze Iranian EFL learners’ use of CSs in oral and written performances at two levels of proficiency. To this end, 60 university students of EFL were selected and assigned to two distinct groups. The participants’ oral and written performances were analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively using Dornyei’s (1995) taxonomy of CSs. The results of the study revealed that the context of communication plays a significant role in the use of communication strategies. The use of CSs by participants’ significantly varied by their level of proficiency. The most frequent problem areas were 'lexical gaps', 'problems in discourse management', and 'uncertainty in conveying the message', which can be considered by language teachers and material designers.


Aliakbari, M., & Karimi Allvar, N. (2009). Communication strategies in the written medium: The effect of language proficiency. Linguistik Online, 40. Retrieved from
Bialystok, E., & Frohlich, M. (1980). Communication strategies for lexical difficulties. Interlanguage Studies Bulletin, 5 (1), 3-30.
Chimbganda, A. B. (2000). Communication strategies used in the writing of answers in biology by ESL first year science students of the University of Botswana. English for Specific Purposes, 19 (14), 305-329.
Condon, S., & Cech, C. (2010). Discourse management in three modalities. Language@Internet, 7. Retrieved from
Corder, P. (1981). Error analysis and interlanguage. UK: Oxford University Press.
Dornyei, Z. (1995). On the teachability of communication strategies. TESOL Quarterly, 29 (1), 55-85.
Ellis, R. (1994). The study of second language acquisition. New York: Oxford University Press.
García, S. (2011). Do second language learners solve lexical problems differently in speaking and writing? What the literature says. MEXTESOL Journal, 35 (2), 1-13.
Goodboy, A. K., & Myers, S. A. (2008). The effect of teacher confirmation on student communication and learning outcomes. Communication Education, 57, 153-179.
Kaivanpanah, Sh. , Yamouty, P., & Karami, H. (2012). Examining the effects of proficiency, gender, and task type on the use of communication strategies. Porta Linguarum, 17, 79-93.
Khamis, H. (2010). Communication strategies in computer-mediated communication: An Egyptian EFL context. CALICO Journal, 28 (1),35-48.
Lai, H. (2010). Gender effect on the use of CSs. English Language Teaching, 3 (4), 28-32.
Lazarton, A. (2001). Teaching oral skills. In M. Celce Murcia (Ed). Teaching English as a second or foreign language (3rd Ed, pp. 103-115). Mexico: Heinle & Heinle
Martinez- Flor, A., Uso-Juan, E., & Alcon- Soler, E. (2006). Toward acquiring communicative competence through speaking. In E. Uso-Juan & A. Martinez- Flor (Eds.), Current trends in the development and teaching of the four language skills (pp. 139-157). Berlin, New York: Mount de Gruyter.

Massi, M. P. (2001). Interactive writing in the EFL class: A repertoire of tasks. The Internet TESL Journal, 12 (6). Retrieved from

Mei, A., & Nathalang, S. (2010). Use of communication strategies by Chinese EFL learners. Chinese Journal of Applied Linguistics, 33 (3), 110-125.
Nakatani, Y. (2005). The effects of awareness-raising training on oral communication strategy use. Modern Language Journal, 89 (1), 76-91.
Nunan, D. (2004). Task-based language teaching. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Paribakht, T. (1985). Strategic competence and language proficiency. Applied Linguistic, 6 (2), 132-146.
Phothongsunan, S. (2010). Communication strategies by Thai university students in English language learning. Proceeding of The 2nd International Conference on Language and Communication Dynamism of Language and Communication in Society  (pp. 217-228). Retrieved from
Puffer, Ch. D. (2006). Questions as strategies to encourage speaking in content and language integrated classrooms. In E. Uso-Juan & A. Martinez- Flor (Eds.), Current trends in the development and teaching of the four language skills (pp. 187-214). Berlin, New York: Mount de Gruyter.
Selinker, L. (1972). Interlangauge. IRAL, 10 (3), 219-231.
Si-Qing, Ch. (1990). A study of communication strategies in interlanguage production by Chinese EFL learners [Abstract]. Language Learning, 40 (2), 155–187.
Tajjedin, Z., & Alemi, M. (2010). Less proficient vs. more proficient L2 learners’ preferences for compensation strategies: L1- based, L2- based, and nonlinguistic.  Linguistic and Literary Broad Research and Innovation, 1 (2), 48-55.
Varadi, T. (1973). Strategies of target language learner communication: Message adjustment. Paper presented at the 6th Conference of the Rumanian-English Linguistics Project, Timisoara. Published in IRAL, 18, 1980, 59-71. 
Wannaruk, A. (2003). Communication strategies employed by EST students.  SLLT (Studies in Languages and Language Teaching), 12, 1-18.
Warschauer, M.  (1996). Comparing face-to-face and electronic discussion in the second language classroom. CALICO Journal, 13 (2), 7-26.
Yarmohammadi, L., & Seif, S. (1992). More on communicative strategies: Classification, resources, frequency and underlying processes.IRAL, 30 (3), 223-232.
Zhao, Y. (2010).Communication strategy use and negotiation of meaning in text chat and videoconferencing  (Doctoral dissertation).  Cleveland State University. Retrieved from
Volume 2, Issue 1
April 2013
Pages 21-38
  • Receive Date: 23 November 2018
  • Accept Date: 23 November 2018