Content and Language Integrated Learning. The Role of English Lessons in Preparation for Bilingual Courses

Term Paper, 2014

10 Pages, Grade: 2,7


Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 The Linguistic Challenge of CLIL

3 The Preparation of CLIL in English Classes
3.1 The Theoretical Base of Scaffolding
3.2 Arrangement of Preparation Courses
3.2.1 The Content-Related Arrangement of a Preparation Course
3.2.2 The Temporal Arrangement of a Preparation Course

5 Conclusion


1 Introduction

Bilingual education in Germany exists meanwhile for more than 40 years since it is a product of the Élysée Treaty from 1963. Its aim was to stop the ‘hereditary enmity’, that had determined the relations between France and Germany for many years, through the increased teaching in French, especially in history classes (Schmid-Schönbein & Siegismund 1998: 201). Nowadays, things have changed. At the conceptual level the German term ‘bilingualer Unterricht’ is more and more replaced by the European term ‘CLIL’, which stands for Content and Language Integrated Learning. At the level of content as well, changes have taken place. It is no longer the political idea of international friendship that dominates bilingual approaches. The aim of CLIL is to convey cognitive-conceptual, discursive and methodical competences. That means the ability to understand and describe subject specific issues in the target language and to reflect and use subject specific procedures and problem solving strategies (Hallet 2005: 4f.). This involved that not only French but also other languages like English or Spanish can be used as a communication medium and that is exactly what a foreign language in CLIL classes is supposed to be: a bare medium. It is not about learning English, it is about learning in English (Otten & Wildhage 2003:18). The foreign language is not in the foreground but it is used to talk about subject specific topics in an appropriate way. Hence, principles, aims and contents of the CLIL lesson are defined by the subject and not by the foreign language. The same counts for the didactic. Study und working techniques in CLIL classes are those of the subject and not of English lessons. This means that CLIL teachers must not try to solve grammar or language problems during the CLIL course (Schmid-Schönbein & Siegismund 1998: 205). However, it is obvious that not all learners meet the requirements to talk about subject specific matters in their second language. This requests a high language register that learners in grade seven normally have not accomplished yet. In consideration of the fact that such language problems are not to be solved in CLIL classes, the question arises how general English teachers can prepare their students for future CLIL classes in their English lessons appropriately. To answer this question it is necessary to analyse firstly the reasons for the linguistic problems in CLIL and the obstacles that hinder the students to participate in bilingual lessons. After that it is possible to provide approaches to solving these problems in form of CLIL preparation courses.

2 The Linguistic Challenge of CLIL

Generally speaking, the term CLIL suggests an equal coexistence between language and content, and thus a frictionless class schedule. But as mentioned above, the reality is far different. According to Thürmann, it is the subject that sets the agenda for the didactical aim of the bilingual teaching-practice (Thürmann 2010: 138). As a result, the intended organized matching between the different development statuses of the foreign language and the intellectual and linguistic requests of the subject can only be made up to limited extend. The crux of this matter lies, inter alia, in the different aims of communication in the early phase of foreign language acquisition on the one hand and those of the subject on the other hand. Whereas the foreign language training in the early years is supposed to convey colloquial use of language to the pupil, language in the subject is used to gain, structure and handle knowledge. Furthermore, subject specific language is used to communicate working and learning results to classmates and people outside the school. So to speak, the social function of language and the heuristic, epistemic function oppose each other (Thürmann 2010: 138). This difference was already pointed out by the Canadian pedagogue Jim Cummins in 1979. He describes the social language function as basic interpersonal communicative skills (BICS) and the heuristic one as cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP) (Thürmann 2010: 139). However, the different purpose of language in foreign language classes and in the subject on its own does not cause the main problem of CLIL. It is rather the gap between these two language functions that leads to complications. As a result of the intensified concentration on BICS in the early years of foreign language acquisition, students are not able to express themselves in the bilingual subject appropriately. Although they dispose over the cognitive knowledge that is required by the subject, they cannot express it since they do not possess the relevant vocabulary or grammar. Due to the primacy of the subject mentioned above, this gulf between subject and language knowledge leads to auxiliary strategies which may help in the initial phase of CLIL but not at long sight. Such a strategy may be the linguistic simplification of texts in matters of length and syntactical complexity, which leads to shorter texts mainly written in colloquial language. Another strategy is the recurrent inclusion of L1. This method reliefs the students by providing explanations, descriptions and new facts in German or by giving them the opportunity to produce their output in their mother tongue. Although the so called code switching represents an essential element on CLIL, such an inordinate switching should be avoided by the teacher. A further favoured approach to cope with the problem of diverging language-subject knowledge is the restriction of speech to short formats like the use of multiple-choice tasks, fill-in-the-blank texts or other closed respectively semi-open tasks which require short one-word-answers. All these techniques may be useful at the beginning of a CLIL course but they miss the real problem in fact. The reduction of the linguistic level goes along with the reduction of the cognitive performance concerning the subject issues. Even though the students may work better with simpler texts and tasks, they are still not able to express their knowledge adequately or to deliver sophisticated cognitive performances since they do not have the appropriate language tools (i.e. the CALP) that are necessary for the professional discourse (Thürmann 2010: 142 f.). Thus, the aim of CLIL is missed and bilingual education degenerates to the learning of facts on a low linguistic level. In order to avoid such a tendency, students must be prepared before CLIL starts in class seven. This preparation is entitled to the English classes.

3 The Preparation of CLIL in English Classes

Due to the high linguistic and cognitive requirements mentioned above, the actual CLIL course starts not until class seven. Although, the general English lessons in class five and six are supposed to prepare the students for those special requirements in form of two additional hours per week. These preparation courses differ from school to school. First, there is a difference in the target subject the preparation courses are used for. Some schools prepare their students for geography; others prepare them for history, biology or politics. Second, the way how the courses are arranged is variable. While some schools add the additional hours to the general English lessons, others establish special bilingual courses with separate teachers. Despite this, the aim of the preparation courses is always the same: the students shall be prepared for the future subject in a methodical and linguistic way. In order to reach this goal, the CLIL preparation courses adopt the approach of scaffolding.

3.1 The Theoretical Base of Scaffolding

The term scaffolding was coined by the American psychologist Jerome Bruner in 1983, who studied the communication between parents and their children. He emphasises the child’s environment and especially the parental support systems for the child’s first language acquisition. According to Bruner, the child’s first language acquisition and its cognitive development take place simultaneously in instructing cooperative formats with its parents. By means of dialogic interaction, the parents build up a support system that deals as a scaffold for the child’s further development. This scaffold enables the child to effect successively higher cognitive performances in a verbal and non-verbal manner. This also applies to older learners. They can solve linguistic and cognitive tasks better in cooperation with or under the instructions of experts.


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Content and Language Integrated Learning. The Role of English Lessons in Preparation for Bilingual Courses
College  (Institut für Anglistik/Amerikanistik)
Teaching Grammar and Vocabulary
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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content, language, integrated, learning, role, english, lessons, preparation, bilingual, courses
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Sebastian Flock (Author), 2014, Content and Language Integrated Learning. The Role of English Lessons in Preparation for Bilingual Courses, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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