April 18, 2024

Effective Communication Strategies for Language Learners

by Mateusz Wiącek

Communication strategies are essential tools for language learners to achieve their goals in understanding and expressing themselves in a new language. In this article, we’ll explore what communication strategies are and how they contribute to second and foreign language learning.

Understanding Communication Strategies

Communication strategies can be narrowly or broadly defined. Narrowly, they refer to techniques that help learners continue communicating despite gaps in their vocabulary knowledge. These strategies include paraphrasing, borrowing words from other languages, and using avoidance techniques to substitute unfamiliar words with easier ones.

Examples of Communication Strategies

Paraphrasing involves expressing an idea using different words, while borrowing entails using words from another language temporarily. Avoidance, often misunderstood, actually refers to substituting difficult topics with easier ones to maintain communication flow. These strategies, collectively termed as communication strategies, enable learners to overcome language barriers effectively.

Research Insights

Studies by scholars like Bialystok and Poulisse have delved into communication strategies, highlighting their significance in language learning. Additionally, research by Dörnyei and Cohen emphasizes the role of communication strategies in enhancing language use and learning.

A Broader Perspective

A broader definition of communication strategies considers them as tools for negotiating meaning in various situations. This perspective, advocated by Nakatani and Goh, views communication strategies not only as aids for overcoming communication breakdowns but also as enhancers of communication effectiveness.

Speech Act Strategies

Speech act strategies, as explored by Olshtain and Cohen, focus on how learners use language to perform specific speech acts like apologies or requests. These strategies involve planning, thinking in multiple languages, and adapting to different cultural norms.

Learning and Communication

Contrary to the belief that communication strategies don’t aid learning, research suggests otherwise. Communication enhances vocabulary acquisition, grammatical knowledge, and fluency development. Moreover, active use of language fosters long-term memory retention and deepens understanding.


In conclusion, communication strategies play a crucial role in language learning by facilitating effective communication and enhancing learning outcomes. Whether narrowly or broadly defined, these strategies empower learners to navigate linguistic challenges and develop their communicative competence in diverse sociocultural contexts. By understanding and utilizing communication strategies, language learners can optimize their learning experiences and achieve proficiency in their target language.

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