The social language strategies of Saudi students in an ESL context

Mr Ahmed Alharbi1

1Institute of Public Administration, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

This study was designed to better understand the language-learning strategies that Saudi students employ in their English learning in Australia, as an English as a Second Language (ESL) context. Recognising the unique nature of Saudi society and the needs of Saudi students, sociocultural theory has been used as a theoretical frame to guide this research. However, the research of language-learning strategies originated from a cognitive theory that explored second language acquisition. The research therefore adopted a mixed-method approach and the Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (Oxford, 1989) questionnaire was conducted to compare the Saudi students’ cohort use of language-learning strategies with previous research. The SILL results of this study indicated that the most common language-learning strategies used by the Saudi ESL students in this context were metacognitive, social, compensation, cognitive, affective and memory strategies. The qualitative results generated from the semi-structured interviews informed the quantitative findings, contextualised them and explained why some strategies are preferred to others. The interviews emphasised the role of the social strategies in this context and how they assisted the learners to adapt to the academic and social life in an Australian context. Implications arising include the role of gender for Saudi students, the classroom discourse and its importance for international students increasing the presence of digital technology in the student language-learning experience.


I am a Ph.D. student in my last year of research. I have a Bachelor degree in English and Translation and a Master of Applied Linguistics for La Trobe University. I am interested in intercrural experiences of international students in their new contexts and how they manage living there. My passion in this area is driven by the personal experiences that I went through and my Saudi fellow. I saw that enriching the literature of these students will be important for the students and the staff as well.


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ISANA International Education Association is the representative body for professionals in Australia and New Zealand who work in international student services, advocacy, teaching and policy development in international education.

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