Document Type : Original Article


1 Department of English Language Teaching, Shahr-e-Qods Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran

2 Department of English, East Tehran Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran


This study explored the relationship among working memory (WM), speaking accuracy and length of utterance of Iranian Intermediate EFL learners. The data were collected from 38 female EFL learners whose age range was between 12 and 15 studying English at a language institute in Tehran. First, an Oxford Placement Test (OPT) was administrated to ensure the homogeneity of the participants and based on the results of the test thirty homogenous learners were selected as the main participants of the study. Next, a working memory capacity test developed by Daneman and Carpenter (1980) was administered to the participants. Later, the researcher administered a speaking test on a topic appropriate to the level of the participants which was taken from Top Notch 1 (Saslow & Ascher, 2011). Then, the researcher recorded their voices and transcribed them in order to calculate the number of lexical words the students could articulate based on a formula developed by Gilmore (2004). Speaking accuracy was also measured using a formula developed by Gilabert (2004); In fact, the students' performance was rated by two experienced teachers.  Then, the Pearson correlation formula was utilized to analyze the obtained data. The results revealed a significant correlation between working memory capacity and speaking accuracy. Based on the findings, no significant correlation was shown between working memory and length of utterance. And finally, no significant correlation was depicted between length of utterance and speaking accuracy.


Abu-Rabia, S., & Siegel, L. S. (2002). Reading, syntactic, orthographic, and working memory skills of bilingual Arabic-English speaking Canadian children. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 31(6), 661-678.
Adams, A. M., & Gathercole, S. E. (1996). Phonological working memory and spoken language development in young children. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 49, 216-233.
Allen, S. E., & Dench, C. (2015). Calculating mean length of utterance for eastern Canadian Institute, First language, 35, 378- 406.
Alptekin, C., & G. Ercetin (2010). The role of L1 and L2 working memory in literal and inferential comprehension in L2 reading. Journal of Research in Reading 33, 206–219.
Babayigit, S. (2015). The relations between word reading, oral language, and reading comprehension in children who speak English as a first (L1) and second (L2) language: A multi-group structural analysis. Reading and Writing, 28(4),527-544.
Baddeley, A. D. (1983). Working memory. Retrieved April, 2018 from http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing. org/content/302/1110/311
Baddeley, A. D. (1999). Essentials of human memory. East Sussex: Psychology Press.
Baddeley, A. D. (2000). The episodic buffer: A new component of working memory? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 4, 417-423.
Baddeley, A. D., & Hitch, G. J. (1974). Working memory. In G. H. Bower (Ed.). The psychology of learning and motivation: Advances in research and theory (pp. 47–89).NY: Academic Press.
Brumfit, C. J. (1979). Notional syllabuses —a reassessment. System, 7(1), 1–6.
Burns, A., & Joyce, H. (1997). Focus on speaking. Sydney: National Center for English Language Teaching and Research.
Case, R. (1995). Capacity based explanations of working memory growth: A brief history and reevaluation, Memory performance and competencies: Issues in growth and development. NJ: Erlbaum.
Celce-murcia, M., Brinton, D., & Snow, M. (1991). Teaching English as a second or foreign language (4th Edition). NY: Sherrise Roehr.
Chamberline, L. (2016). Mean length of utterance and developmental sentence scoring in the analysis of children's language samples. An Unpublished M.A thesis, Brigham Young University, Utah.
Colom, R., Shih, P., Flores-Mendoza, C., & Quiroga, M. (2006). The real relationship between short-term memory and working memory. Memory, 14, 804–813.
Daneman, M., & Carpenter, P. A. (1980). Individual differences in working memory and reading. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 19, 450–466.
Daneman, M., & Tardif, T. (1987). Working memory and reading skill reexamined. In M. Coltheart (Ed.), Attention and performance XII: The psychology of reading (pp. 491–508). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Edge, J., & Garton, S. (2009). From experience to knowledge in ELT. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Field, A. (2013). Discovering statistics using IBM SPSS Statistics (4th ed.). London: Sage.
Gathercole, S., & Baddeley, A. (1993). Verbal working memory: A view with a room. American Journal of Psychology, 108, 123-155.
Gholomain, M., & Geva, E. (1999). Orthographic and cognitive factors in the concurrent development of basic reading skills in English and Persian. Language Learning, 49(2), 183-217.
Gilabert, R. (2004). Task complexity and L2 Narrative Oral Production. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation. University de Barcelona, Barcelona.
Gilmore, A. (2004). A comparison of textbook and authentic interactions. ELT journal58(4), 363-374.
Halford, G. S., Cowan, N., & Andrews, G. (2007). Separating cognitive capacity from knowledge: A new hypothesis. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 11, 236–242.
Harmer, J. (2007). The practice of English language teaching (4th ed). London: Longman.
Hunter, J. (2011). Small talk:Developing fluency, accuracy, and complexity in speaking. ELT Journal Advance Access,66(1),1-12.
Ingvalsona, E. M., Dhar, S., Wong, P., & Liu, H. (2015). Working memory training to improve speech perception in noise across languages, J Acoust Soc Am, 137(6), 3477–3486.
Juffs, A., & Harrington, M. (2011). Aspects of working memory in L2 learning. Language Teaching, 44, 14-21.
Karimy, S. (2017). The relationship among ELT students' speaking accuracy and fluency and teachers' oral skill class presentation. Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language, 4 (2), 47-56.
Lee, O., & Redford, M. A. (2015).  Verbal and spatial working memory load have similarity minimal effects on speech production. Retrieved May, 2018 from
Lesaux, N. K., Lipka, O., & Siegel, L.S. (2006). Investigating cognitive and linguistic abilities that influence the reading comprehension skills of children from diverse linguistic backgrounds. Reading and Writing, 19, 99-131.
Lesaux, N. K., & Siegel, L. S. (2003). The development of reading in children who speak English as a second language. Developmental Psychology, 39(6),1005-1019.
Linck, A., Osthus, P., Koeth, J. T., & Bunting, M. F. (2014).  Working memory and second language comprehension and production: A meta-analysis. Psychon Bull Rev, 21(4), 861-863.
Lipka, O., & Siegel, L. S. (2011). The development of reading comprehension skills in children   learning English as a second language. Reading and Writing, 25(8), 1873-1898.
Low, P. B., & Siegel, L. S. (2005). A comparison of the cognitive processes underlying reading comprehension in native English and ESL speakers. Written Language and Literacy, 8(2), 207-231.
May, C.P., & Einstein, G.O. (2013). Memory: a five-day unit lesson plan for high school psychology teachers. Washington, DC: Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS) of the American Psychology Association.
Mehrang, Z., & Rahimpour, M. (2010). The impact of task structure and planning conditions on oral performance of EFL learners. Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2, 3678-3686.
Mizera, G. J. (2006). Working memory and L2 oral fluency. Doctoral dissertation, University of Pittsburgh, Russia.
Mota, M. B. (2003). Working memory capacity and fluency, accuracy, complexity and lexical density in L2 speech production. Fragmentos, 24, 69-80.
Nice, M. M. (1925). Length of sentences as a criterion of a child’s progress in speech. Journal of Educational Psychology, 16, 370–379.
Pascual-Leone, J. (1970). A mathematical model for the transition rule in Piaget’s developmental stages. Acta Psychologica, 32, 301–345.
Ranti, A. (2015). Mean length utterance of children morphological development, Proceedings of the 1st National Conference on English Language Teaching, 96-109.
Rezai, M., & Okhovat, B. (2016). The effect of working memory on EFL learners’ oral fluency. International Journal of English Linguistics, 6, 1923-8703.
Rice, M., Thompson, T., & Smolik, F. (2010). Mean length of utterance levels in 6-month intervals for children 3 to 9 Years with and without language impairments. J Speech Lang Hear Res, 53(2), 333–349.
Saslow, J., & Ascher, A. (2011). Top Notch 1 (2nd Ed.). Tehran: Ghazal Javan.
Scarbrough, H., Rescorla, L., Flusberg, H., Fowler, A., & Sudhalter, V. (1991). The relation of utterance length to grammatical complexity in normal and language-disordered groups. Cambridge: Cambridge university press.
Suelly, C., & Limongi, O. (2011). Mean length utterance (MLU) as a measure of language development of children with Down syndrome, Soc Bras Fonoaudiol, 23(2), 152-157.
Wen, Z. (2012). Working memory and second language learning. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 22, 1- 22.
Yavuz, A. (2017). Some suggested practices to develop speaking skills and communicative competence of B1 level EFL learners at tertiary level. Rereived May, 2018 from 8080/xmlui/handle/11655/3480.
Zanjani, M., Karmi, M., & Vahab, L. (2014). Comparing mean length of utterance and mean length of five phrasal utterances between 2-to-5 year-old normal Farsi-speaking children. Journal of Rehabilitation Sciences and Research, 1(4), 52-55.