The Effect of Working Memory on EFL Learners’ Oral Fluency

  •  Mohammad Rezai    
  •  Bahareh Okhovat    


Speaking is the primary objective of most L2 instructional programs and stands as one of the major factors in the evaluation of L2 learners’ competence. The present study sought to investigate how preparation and task complexity can affect L2 learners’ oral fluency in speech production with respect to individual differences in working memory capacity. The participants of the study consisted of 61 advanced L2 learners. The data collection consisted of two phases: a working memory test (reading span test) and a picture description task. Speaking was elicited through speech generation task in which the individuals were asked to discuss four topics emerging in two pairs. Also, each topic was accompanied by several relevant pictures. L2 fluency was assessed based on task complexity and preparation. The data were then analyzed in terms of the number of syllables, the number of silent pauses, and the mean length of pauses produced per minute. The statistical findings revealed that working memory, as a cognitive factor, played a significant role in L2 oral fluency accounting for variation in L2 performance. In addition, the variables Complexity and Preparation turned out to have a significant effect on the span groups’ L2 oral performance. The study offers implications on strategies to improve learners’ both fluency and working memory.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.