A study of Chinese engineering students’ communication strategies in a mobile-assisted professional development course


  • Li Cheng Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications




English education, communication strategies, mobile-assisted language learning, academic performance


The development of students’ professional skills is an important issue in higher education in China. This research reports a 3-month study investigating engineering students’ communication strategies (CS) while they were interacting to do a 12-week mobile-assisted learning project, i.e., “Organizing and Attending a Model International Conference”. This learning project was a major teaching module of the English course of Professional Applications, which used a blended mode of face-to-face instruction and mobile learning. The two theoretical constructs guiding the current study are Communication Strategies and Linguistic Interdependence. Fifty-seven students volunteered to participate in the study. The instruments included eight oral communication sessions, a questionnaire, stimulated recall interviews, the participants’ WeChat exchanges, etc. Results showed that the participants used a variety of CSs when completing the academic tasks. Moreover, these CSs were closely related to the students’ involvement in meaning negotiation and social interaction. Furthermore, the use of strategies to solve communication problems revealed that the participants employed different strategies at different times when doing different tasks. It is suggested that instructors have CS training tailored to their students’ professional needs. Future research should focus on a longitudinal investigation of the amount of scaffolding that helps students transfer their communication strategies across tasks.



Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Li Cheng, Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications

Dr. Li Cheng is Associate Professor of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications. Her research interests are computer-assisted language learning, second language acquisition and intercultural communication.


Beatty K. & Nunan, D. (2004). Computer- mediated collaborative learning, System 32, pp. 165-183. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2003.11.006

Bialystok, E. (1990). Communication strategies. Oxford: Blackwell.

Blake, R., (2000). Computer mediated communication: a window on L2 Spanish interlanguage. Language Learning and Technology 4(1), 120-136.

Blin, F. (2004). CALL and the development of learner autonomy: Towards an activitytheoretical perspective. ReCALL, 16, 377-395. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0958344004000928

Cummins, J. (1979). Linguistic interdependence and the educational development of bilingual children. Review of Educational Research, 49, 222-251. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543049002222

Cummins, J. (1991). Interdependence of first and second language proficiency in bilingual children. In E. Bialystok (Ed.), Language proficiency in bilingual children (pp. 70-89). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511620652.006

Cummins, J., & Swain, M. (1986). Linguistic interdependence: A central principle of bilingual education. In J. Cummins and M. Swain (Eds.), Bilingualism in education: Aspects of theory, research, and practice (pp. 80-95). New York: Longman.

Dörnyei, Z., & Scott, M. L. (1997). Communication strategies in a second language: Definitions and Taxonomies. Language Learning 47(1), 173-210. https://doi.org/10.1111/0023-8333.51997005

Duff, P. A. (2000). Repetition in foreign language classroom interaction. In J. K. Hall & L. Verplaetse (Eds.), Second and foreign language learning through classroom interaction (pp. 109-138). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Faerch, C., & Kasper, G. (1983). Plans and strategies in foreign language communication. In C. Faerch & G. Kasper (Eds.), Strategies in interlanguage communication (pp. 20-60). Harlow: Longman.

Gass, S., & Mackey, A. (2000). Stimulated recall methodology in second language research, Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Godwin-Jones, R. (2008). Emerging technologies mobile-computing trends: Lighter, Faster, Smarter. Language Learning & Technology, 12(2), 7-13.

Godwin-Jones, R. (2011). Mobile apps for language learning. Language Learning & Technology, 15(2), 2-11.

Jones, J. F. (2001). CALL and the responsibilities of teachers and administrators. ELT Journal, 55, 360-367. https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/55.4.360

Kasper, G., & Kellerman, E. (Eds.) (1997). Communication strategies: Psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic perspectives. London: Longman.

Lafford, B. A. (2004). The effect of the context of learning on the use of communication strategies by learners of Spanish as a second language. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 26(2), 201–225. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0272263104262039

Lam, W. Y. K. (2006). Gauging the effects of ESL oral communication strategy teaching: a multi-method approach. Electronic Journal of Foreign Language Teaching 3 (2), 142–157.

Nunan, D. (2004). Task-based Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511667336

Omar, H., Embi, M. A., & Yunus, M. M. (2012). Learners' use of communication strategies in an online discussion via Facebook. Social and Behavioral Sciences 64, 535-544. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.11.063

Selinker, L. (1972). Interlanguage. International Review of Applied Linguistics, 10, 209-230. https://doi.org/10.1515/iral.1972.10.1-4.209

Smith, B. (2003). The use of communication strategies in computer-mediated communication. System 31, 29–53. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0346-251X(02)00072-6

Stockwell, G. (2007). A review of technology choice for teaching language skills and areas in the CALL literature. ReCALL, 19 (2), 105-120. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0958344007000225

Tarone, E. (1980). Communication strategies, foreigner talk and repair in interlanguage. Language Learning, 30, 417-431. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-1770.1980.tb00326.x

Varadi, T. (1980). Strategies of target language learner communication: Message adjustment. International Review of Applied Linguistics, 18, 59-71.






Research papers