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The abbreviation CLIL is becoming more prevalent in teachers' conversations. But what does it mean? And how can it influence the conduction of your ESL classes? This is something we are going to discuss in this article.
People noticed that they got the knowledge about the language rather than experienced a clear implication of it; and these are essentially two absolutely different things.
And this is where CLIL comes to life.
The abbreviation CLIL, or Content and Language Integrated Learning, refers to an instructional strategy that involves teaching students a new topic in a language that they do not speak.
Through CLIL, they not only acquire a second language but also information about a subject that is unfamiliar to them.
The method is considered to be not CLIL if the students already obtain some knowledge of the material.
It is crucial for CLIL to integrate the new language and the new learning material to make the strategy a success. The good news is that you can cover any topic that you want or find appropriate.
To sum up, CLIL refers to circumstances in which topics, or portions of subjects, are taught in a foreign language with dual-focused goals, namely the simultaneous acquisition of a foreign language and the learning of content.
Although CLIL is a more recent name, the method is as ancient as learning itself. Even if they weren't aware of it, everyone who studied and practiced a foreign language while learning or practicing something else – such as literature, cooking or science – was doing that with the help of CLIL.
The approach has also been popularized since the 1960s – the rise of various study-abroad programmes where foreigners were supposed to interact with certain unknown topics with the help of the foreign language.
In the middle of the 1990s, as people, institutions of higher learning, and governments began to recognize the value of multilingualism, David Marsh and Do Coyle coined the term CLIL. The movement, which grew globally in response to globalization, was particularly prominent in Europe.
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Both the subject content and the communication setting in which the target language is learnt are provided by CLIL.
Every word, phrase or collocation becomes immediately applicable and significant. The terms are always relevant and vibrant, as students get to know them as soon as they need them.
Of course, such a situation is a dream both for teachers and students because it is definitely incomparable with vague word lists that leave students uncertain about any possible scenarios where they will need it.
Why is it so?
David Mash states that students who think about learning the language tend to be more stressed about their achievements as they come to class with the complex system of their own beliefs, fears, hopes, expectations or even prejudices that they have formed throughout their life and their prior experience with the language.
However, if the teacher manages to switch students’ attention from learning about the language to learning through the language about something else, this is where we have a chance to get a freer, less tense and more productive working environment.
The way students learn the language with the help of CLIL has a lot of similarities with how children learn their first language.
We often forget that our first language hasn’t been learnt through extensive grammar instruction, for example. On the contrary, we have acquired it naturally somehow. And this is something CLIL tries to implement too. The ability to understand language comes before the proper application of rules here, and therefore there are hardly any grammar lessons in CLIL.
CLIL is also aware that making mistakes, making educated guesses, and negotiating meaning are all necessary parts of learning any language.
That is why a lot of attention is paid to preserving the natural flow of learning through the context rather than interrupting it every time the mistake occurs.
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CLIL is especially beneficial if you struggle with motivating your students.
CLIL effectively directs students’ interest to certain topics and ties it with the process of language learning.
This is how language learning doesn’t seem such a challenge anymore, as students’ focus doesn’t stay solely on the process of language acquisition but also naturally shifts to the new interesting information which is taught simultaneously.
However, such a duality of the learning process undoubtedly makes the task of teaching much more complicated: the teacher has to be proficient both in the language and the topic that is presented.
That is why it’s not rare to share the class with a fellow teacher who can assist with some specific knowledge. Still, it is not a must if you have mastered a number of course topics as well as English.
Now, as we know what CLIL is and what its principles are, we may look closer at how CLIL works:
There are even more principles to know about. For example:
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In general, all CLIL programs strive to expand students’ subject-area expertise while also enhancing their knowledge of and abilities in the target language, but various courses may have their own additional and unique aims.
Moreover, such classes usually bring together people with different backgrounds and experiences, so it’s a chance for students to develop their own learning skills and learn to respect other cultures and backgrounds.
However, during some special courses, they may also study with the people from their own field, so it will definitely be a great opportunity to practice speaking on topics related to your students’ work or studies.
For sure, there are a number of advantages that make CLIL an attractive option for the lesson. Here are some of them:
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When learning a new language, learners may first become confused since they must concentrate on both the subject matter and their foreign language abilities.
Through homework, group projects, and classroom discussions, students will ultimately settle into a rhythm where nothing will seem out of the ordinary or overly challenging.
The teacher should increase their understanding of the intended subject in order to provide appropriate teaching materials and deliver lessons effectively. Naturally, the CLIL instructor will need to devote a lot of time to this, especially if there aren't any ready-made educational materials.
That is why there are two main disadvantages of CLIL:
CLIL can be advantageous for almost every sort of learner.
It has been applied to people of various ages and skill levels. This does not imply that every student will succeed in a CLIL class, just as not every student succeeds in every class.
However, don’t be afraid of experimenting, as the reasons why CLIL class might not be someone’s cup of tea are a matter of taste, not the effectiveness of the strategy.
Preparing and conducting CLIL courses can be time- and energy-consuming.
A good CLIL teacher is someone who is dedicated to the methodology and who works hard, is enthusiastic about their students, and is committed to the approach.
A CLIL teacher should also have excellent communication skills and flexibility, since working with the subject-area teacher is crucial. A CLIL teacher is also supposed to have excellent research skills in case they are going to conduct the lessons on their own.
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Although practically any topic may be taught using a CLIL method, those that encourage student collaboration and contain a cultural component are the best options.
The social sciences, the arts, and certain sciences like biology and chemistry are a few examples. According to CLIL professionals, due to their technical character, Math and Physics, for instance, turned out to be much less suitable for a CLIL approach.
CLIL may only have its focus on language acquisition.
It’s much harder to conduct a CLIL lesson.
Accuracy VS Fluency: What is more important in a lesson?