Communication Strategy Use in Performing Informal Debate Tasks by Chinese English-as-an-Additional-Language Graduate Students in Electrical Engineering and Education




Zhou, Ci-Hang

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In the field of second language acquisition, there are few studies focusing on Chinese English-as-an-additional-language (EAL) graduate students’ communication strategy use, strategy use across different disciplines, and the relationships between communication strategy use and learners’ speaking performance. To fill the gap identified in the literature reviewed, this study examined the communication strategies used by 11 Chinese EAL graduate students from the Departments of Electrical Engineering and Education in the completion of two informal debate tasks with a questionnaire adapted from Nakatani’s (2006) Oral Communication Strategy Inventory and two post-task communication strategy recall questionnaires. Results from the study indicate that participants used eight categories of communication strategies, with fluency-oriented strategies the most frequently used strategy category and translation the least frequently used strategy category. Advanced English-language proficiency level learners used more social affective, message reduction and alteration, and negotiation of meaning strategies than learners at high-intermediate proficiency levels, to a degree that was statistically significant. No significant difference was identified in the overall communication strategy use but in one instance of individual strategy use (i.e., clarifying stance) across two disciplines. Significantly positive relationships were identified among certain categories of communication strategies (i.e., social affective, negotiation of meaning, accuracy-oriented strategies, and message reduction and alteration strategies), individual strategies (i.e., turn yielding, exemplifying, clarifying meaning, correcting others, referring to notes for accuracy/fluency, message reduction and alteration), and participants’ speaking performance. In addition, the retrospective results from the post-task strategy recall questionnaires suggest that participants in this study are not fully aware of their communication strategy use. The findings in this study can inform language practitioners’ of communication strategies used by Chinese graduate students majoring in Electrical Engineering and Education. Implications and future research directions are discussed in light of the findings derived from the present study that can further contribute to research about EAL learners’ communication strategies used at the graduate level.



Communication strategies, Informal debate tasks, Electrical Engineering, Education, Advanced level learners, High-intermediate level learners