Strategic Competence (Michael Canale & Merrill Swain)
Explanation of Main Features


Strategic competence is one of four components of communicative competence. This component is made up of verbal and nonverbal communication strategies (Canale, Michael & Merrill, Swain, 2002). Strategic competence consists of recognizing and repairing communication breakdowns, working around gaps in the speaker’s knowledge of the language, and learning more about the language in context. A speaker may use strategic competence to compensate by using, for example, paraphrasing or gestures to get ideas across (Díaz-Rico & Weed, 2010, p. 59).


Canale, Michael & Merrill, Swain. (2002). Theoretical Bases of Communicative Approaches to Second Language Teaching and Testing. Retrieved May 10, 2011, from https://segue.atlas.uiuc.edu/uploads/nppm/CanaleSwain.80.pdf.


Díaz-Rico, L.T. & Weed, K. Z. (2010). The Cross-Cultural, Language, and Academic Development Handbook, Fourth Edition. Boston, MA: Pearson

Classroom Implications

Strategic competence is used by all people, often without even knowing it. It is not something that is taught, necessarily, but more a natural reaction to a loss of words. Anything a person does to “compensate for breakdowns in communication due to performance variables or to insufficient competence” falls under strategic competence (Canale, Michael & Merrill, Swain, 2002).

In a classroom, this is used not only by students of all types, including English language learners (ELL), but teachers as well. Teachers, especially those of ELL students, use strategic competence to help get meanings or concepts across to their students. This includes using gestures, simplifying complex vocabulary, or using visuals such as pictures just to name a few. Students also use strategic competence to help get their meaning across to teachers and others. Students can use gestures in place of words they don’t know or can’t think of or replace these unknown words with similar words they do know to still get their meaning across to others. Speakers will also use strategic competence to “enhance the effectiveness of communication (as when a speaker raises or lowers the voice for effect)”, which can be heard during times such as asking a question (Díaz-Rico & Weed, 2010, p. 59).

Works Cited


Canale, Michael & Merrill, Swain. (2002). Theoretical Bases of Communicative Approaches to Second Language Teaching and Testing. Retrieved May 10, 2011, from https://segue.atlas.uiuc.edu/uploads/nppm/CanaleSwain.80.pdf

Díaz-Rico, L.T. & Weed, K. Z. (2010). The Cross-Cultural, Language, and Academic Development Handbook, Fourth Edition. Boston, MA: Pearson