An Investigation into English Vocabulary Learning Strategies of Chinese EFL Learners at a Secondary Vocational School

  • Ruiqi Qiao
  • Anchalee Chayanuvat
Keywords: Vocabulary learning strategies, Chinese EFL learners, Secondary vocational school, Opinions on the vocabulary learning strategies use.


This study aimed to 1) identify the vocabulary learning strategies the secondary vocational school students use; and 2) identify the opinions of the secondary vocational school students on their useful strategies to learn vocabulary. A mixed methods approach was adopted to collect both quantitative and qualitative data through the use of the 49-item questionnaire and semi-structured interviews. A secondary vocational school in Gansu province, China, was purposively selected as a case study. The questionnaire respondents were 69 students out of the population of 105 in this school, while three students in each proficiency level from low to intermediate and high, totaling nine, selected from a standardized vocabulary size level test, were invited to the interviews. The questionnaire data analysis indicated that students utilized vocabulary learning determination strategies most (x̅=4.808/SD=0.304), followed by metacognitive strategies (x̅=4.343/SD=0.578), cognitive strategies (x̅=3.838/SD=0.678), memory strategies (x̅=3.314/SD=0.698) and social strategies (x̅=2.955/SD=0.694) respectively. The analysis of the semi-structured interview data revealed that the students' vocabulary proficiency level affected their choice of learning strategies. Students with low English proficiency preferred dictation, revision and mobile applications. The intermediate students focused on patience and persistence. The high-level students put more emphasis on reading and listening, variety of learning, and daily learning with a strong belief that interest, enthusiasm, trial and acceptance of mistakes were essential for their vocabulary learning. Given the results of this study, English teachers should be mindful of the fact that students with different proficiency levels use different vocabulary learning strategies.