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Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) refers to any educational approach in
which a second/foreign language is used as a means of teaching the contents of a
syllabus subject in the classroom. The use of an additional language is intended to
develop the necessary ability to be proficient in that language itself, while contents are
being learned alongside.
As Marsh (1994:27) defined it: "CLIL refers to a situation in which the subject matter or
part of the subject matter is taught via a foreign language with a two-fold objective: the
learning of those contents and the simultaneous learning of a foreign language."
The fundamental idea behind this type of content-based teaching is that giving priority
to a subjects content, as well as the opportunity it offers the students to speak and think
in an authentic, significant and relevant way in a second language (Ellis, 2004), not only
improves the competence of the students in this language but also enriches their
cognitive development and cultural growth, given that it helps them become integrated
into a multilingual and multicultural context.
In a CLIL lesson, content subjects are taught and learnt in a language which is not the
mother tongue of the learners. Their knowledge of the language becomes the means of
learning content and the study of language is seen in context, in real-life situations.
Language learning in CLIL is seen as based on the principles of language acquisition
rather than on enforced language learning.
A successful CLIL lesson should combine elements of the 4 Cs framework (Coyle
2005) which connects Content, Cognition, Communication and Culture.
Content lies at the heart of the learning process. The main objective of a CLIL lesson is
to learn the contents offered to students. Alongside with the learning of content lies the
learning of the target language. Language becomes the means of learning content and a
conduit for communication. For CLIL to become effective students must cognitively
engage in higher order thinking skills. CLIL encourages and challenges students to
build their own understanding.
Studying content subjects through another language requires and develops intercultural
awareness which is fundamental in CLIL.
In order to plan a successful CLIL lesson, the 3As framework provides useful guidance.
This framework is based on three fundamental principles:
Analyse, Add and Apply.
In the first place the contents of a lesson need to be clearly defined. Once the content
has been defined, it has to be analysed for specific language needs (specific vocabulary
and grammar structures). This is known as the language of learning. The next step is of
crucial importance if the content and the language have to be fully integrated into a
successful lesson: this step includes what is known as scaffolding. It is fundamental that
the language difficulties do not interfere in the process of understanding content. In this
aspect the role of the teacher is crucial: the teacher needs to add and provide the
necessary strategies to make the most of a CLIL lesson. This stage includes
metalanguage, language strategies, classroom talk and an analysis of task demands. All
of them form the language for learning. The third stage is the application stage: the
thinking skills need to be incorporated into the lesson through different tasks to ensure
that the language which emerges through learning is built on and that there is
progression in the emergent knowledge. This is called the language through learning.
Cummins developed a matrix which explores the relationship between language and
content. One of the greatest challenges in CLIL is to provide cognitively demanding
lesson frameworks presented in the form of tasks that are linguistically accessible to
High Cognitive Demands

3 4

Low Linguistic High Linguistic
Demands Demands

2 1

Low Cognitive Demands