Exploring the Use of Oral Communication Strategies by High and Low Proficiency learners of English: Tunisian EFL students as a case study

Tesnim Ounis


EFL learners tend to use different communication strategies (CS) in the course of speaking in order to cope with communication breakdowns. This study aims at discovering CS use among EFL learners following the Oral Communication Strategy Inventory (OCSI) developed by Nakatani (2006). The OCSI is 58 items self-reporting questionnaire. It includes eight categories of strategies for coping with speaking problems and seven categories of strategies for coping with listening problems. It is used to gather data regarding CS use from 100 2nd year undergraduate students at the Higher Institute of Languages in Gabes, Tunisia. Additional data is gathered regarding general English proficiency of the participants in order to identify which CSs are commonly used by Tunisian students and to examine the relationship between strategy use and proficiency levels. The results of this study shows that “achievement strategies” such as negotiation of meaning, non-verbal strategies and message reduction and alteration are, respectively, the most frequently reported strategies while speaking. On the other hand “message abandonment strategies” are the least frequently reported strategies. For the listening part, the results reveal that non-verbal strategies, negotiation for meaning whilst listening and getting the gist are the most frequently reported strategies where as scanning strategies are the least frequently reported strategies. Additionally, the analysis of the students’ responses to the OCSI reveals that meaning-negotiation strategies ,social affective, fluency-oriented for coping with speaking problems are characteristically associated with high proficiency students; whereas message abandonment and less active listener strategies are frequently reported by low proficiency students. Thus a notable distinction is confirmed in the distribution of CSs between HP and LP learners. The findings suggest that low proficiency speakers should be familiarized and made aware of the importance of effective OCSs through strategy instruction in the classroom setting.


communication strategy, OCSI, taxonomy of CS, high proficiency and low proficiency students.

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