Strategic Competence based on Celce- Murcia et al. (2008) Theory

5 Types of Strategic Competence based on Celce- Murcia et al. (2008) Theory

In today’s interconnected and communication-driven world, communicative competence takes center stage. It encompasses language proficiency and the ability to navigate various communicative situations effectively.

One integral component that plays a pivotal role in achieving communicative excellence is strategic competence. In this article, We will delve into its definition and explore the five distinct types of strategic competence based on Celce- Murcia et al. (2008) theory.

Read also: Development of Communicative Competence

Definition of Strategic Competence

Strategic competence is the term which is first defined by Canale and Swain (1980). Canale and Swain define strategic competence as:

“Verbal and non-verbal communication strategies that may be called into action to compensate for breakdowns in communication due to performance variables or insufficient competence”

(Canale & Swain, 1980, p. 30).

It means strategic competence is used to overcome difficult situations or limited conditions in actual communication because of a lack of communicative competence. Strategic competence has a huge role in communication. Knowing strategic competence, the speakers might handle the problems they face during communication to achieve their communication goals.

Concerning teaching, Bialystok (1990) mentioned using communication strategies; learners could resolve their linguistic problems and talk more comprehensibly. Dӧrnyei and Thurrell (1991) suggest that training this type of competence, in particular, helps develop the learner’s confidence when getting into a conversation.

5 Categories of Strategic Competence

Celce-Murcia et al. (1995) describe five strategic competence categories in a pedagogically oriented framework: avoidance, achievement, stealing, repair, and interactional. Then, the newest classification of strategic competence was proposed by Celce-Murcia et al. in 2008, where there are five types of strategies as follows:

The Achievement Strategy

It consists of approximation strategy, circumlocution or paraphrase, code-switching, and non-linguistic means. 

  • Approximation, i.e., using a term that expresses the meaning of the target lexical item as closely as possible (e.g., ship for sailing boat or fish for carp).
  • Circumlocution or paraphrase, i.e., describing or exemplifying the target object or action (e.g., a small and fast military plane for fighters or the thing you open wine bottles with for corkscrew)
  • Code-switching (hereafter CS) is “an individual’s use of two or more language varieties in the same speech event or exchange.” For example, non-native speakers of English may switch to their first language because they forget the English words or do not know the English expression they want to use.
  • Non-linguistics means it refers to mime, gesture, or imitation (e.g., clapping one’s hands to illustrate applause)

Time Gaining strategy

Time-gaining is also known as the stalling strategy (Dörnyei & Scott, 1997); it enables the speaker to gain time and keep the communication channel open at times of difficulty. This strategy involves fillers.

According to Bygate (1987), fillers are “expressions like well, erm, you see, used in speech to fill in pauses.”

The most typical types of pauses are:

  • Silent pauses, that is to say, silent breaks between words and
  • Filled pauses are gaps filled by such expressions as um, er, mm, well, ehm, uhm, how to say …

The Self-Monitoring Strategy

It is concerned with language users being able to identify and self-correct mistakes. In other words, the strategy to use phrases that allow for self-repair as I mean….

Interacting strategy

These are strategies that include appeals for help/clarification, that involve meaning negotiation, or that involve comprehension and confirmation checks.

  • Appeal for help: I do not understand, I do not follow you; what does it mean? What do you call …?
  • Asking for clarification: What did you say? What do you mean? Could you explain that again?
  • Asking for confirmation: Do you mean this section?
  • Comprehension check: Do you understand? Do you know what I mean? Is it OK? …

Social Strategy

These strategies involve seeking out native speakers to practice actively looking for opportunities to use the target language.


  • Bialystok, E. (1990). Communication strategies: A psychological analysis of second-language use. Basil Blackwell.
  • Bygate, M. (1987). Speaking. Oxford University Press.
  • Canale, M., & Swain, M. (1980). Theoretical bases of communicative approaches to second language teaching and testing. Applied Linguistics, 1, 1-47.
  • Celce-Murcia, M. (2008). Rethinking the role of communicative competence in language teaching. In Intercultural language use and language learning (pp. 41-57). Springer, Dordrecht.
  • Dörnyei, Z & Scott, M. (1997). Communication strategies in second language definitions and taxonomies. Language Learning, 47(1), 173-209.
  • Dörnyei, Z., & Thurrell, S. (1991). Strategic competence and how to teach it. ELT Journal, 45, 16-23.
Tenry Colle
Tenry Colle

Hi! My name is A. Tenry Lawangen Aspat Colle. I am a motivated and resourceful English educator. In addition, as the owner of @rymari.translation17 has shaped me to be a punctual and dependable translator of Indonesian to English and vice versa.

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