CLIL – Consolidating Integration

The title of this conference could not be more pertinent to a practitioner of CLIL (content and language integrated learning). CLIL arose in the mid’ 1990s as a support mechanism for subject teachers and their learners working in a language other than their mother tongues, a fact which immediately marked it as a movement independent of standard language teaching practice but nevertheless dependent on much of the methodological canon that ELT had developed up to that point. CLIL borrowed from the world of language education and yet its principal objective was not to teach language but rather to make use of it.

In CLIL, the interdependency between content and language is much healthier because language is being used at the service of conceptual and procedural knowledge, whereas in traditional ELT the content was the slave to the language objectives. It was probably never meant to be thus, and CLIL has gradually steered language teaching into the general educational fold, giving it new life and providing it with a role as the purveyor of subject-based discourse. Language teachers, who in the past were often independent but isolated in their schools are now more interdependent in their roles as language consultants and helpers. In an interesting counterpoint to the 1990s, when subject teachers were exhorted to borrow from language-teaching practice, now language teachers are paying more attention to the very different world of subject teaching, with its own set of methods and its varied discourse fields.

Content and language were always closely related. Any speech act requires their integration by default. Nevertheless, several educational approaches have done their best to keep them apart, by perpetuating the myth that language is an object of study in itself, and that content needs no focus on the particular language that sustains it. CLIL makes sense of the integration, then maintains and develops it.

This talk will try to illustrate both the independent parameters of CLIL and the features that characterise the connectivity that it promotes, drawing on an award-winning project in the Basque Country.

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Posted by IAFOR