Content and Language Integrated Learning – CLIL


Content and Language Integrated Learning – CLIL


The cross-curricular program CLIL is currently growing in popularity throughout the world. Its four central claims are: CLIL leads to greater linguistic proficiency; it boosts motivation; it is suitable for learners of all abilities and that it leads to greater intercultural awareness.  In this article I shall discuss these four claims and their benefits to education and also some of the possible limitations within the learning approach both theoretically and methodolically and some possible solutions to an approach that offers great possibilities.

What is CLIL?

The acroymn CLIL was coined in Europe in 1994 by David Marsh to describe any language approach in which a second language is used for the teaching and learning of a non-language subject matter, with language and content having an equal and benefical role. (Marsh 2002). The methodology of CLIL is distintive from immersion teaching and content-based instruction. CLIL aims to integrate language and content, rather than isolate language from content such as EAL*. Both language and content are given equal importance and the student is able to gain proficency in both (Eurydice 2005: 7) because the student learns the language through the content. Another benefical factor of this learning approach is that  it offers a cross-cultural education and the student is enabled to gain access to a foreign or second langauge within a more meaningful context.

CLIL’s theoretical approach is referred to as the 4C model. It is an holistic approach where content, communication, cognition and culture are interconnected  and explictable only by the reference to the whole. For CLIL to be fully effective, it needs to work on five skills simultaneously: progression in knowledge, skills and understanding of content, engagement in higher order cognitive processing, interaction in the communicative context, development of appropriate communication skills and acquisition of a deepening intercultural awareness (Coyle et al 2010)

EAL can often have a lack of relevance and therefore this can demotivate the learner and twart progression. Conversely, CLIL, by rejoining language and cognitive development can motivate the learner and enable a more meaningful progression. (Lasagabaster 2009). CLIL provides learners with a more substantial and relevant learning environment which in turn enriches their learning and produces better results. (Lyster 2007, Krashen 1985, Lightbown and Spada 2006). CLIL revitalizes content teaching by promoting with a constructivist approach which proposes that knowledge is constructed through personal experience and hyothesis of the environment and by also recognising language as a fundamental part of the learning process.

* EAL – English as an additional language (refers to the teaching of English in schools to children whose first language is not English, in the UK and Ireland)

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