What is CLIL?

The acronym CLIL has got many different definitions. In his “What  is CLIL?” article, Phil Ball analyzes some approved definitions so as to establish the basic characteristics of CLIL. From the 5th definitions exposed on this reading, we can conclude the following:

  1. As the European Commission mentions, “with CLIL pupils learn a subject through the medium of a foreign language”
  2. Marsh, D. (2002) suggests that CLIL “kills two birds with one stone” as subjects, or parts of subjects, are taught through a foreign language with dual focused aims, content and learning of a foreign language at the same time.
  3. The European Commission says that CLIL has also an administrative objective, which is to increase the contact time with foreign language without having to add extra time in the curriculum.
  4. David Graddol states that the strong element of CLIL is that students are not required to have an English proficiency level to acquire the subject content, as CLIL classes are more focused on skill-based learning and adopt appropriate methodologies to teach the subject content through more contextualized, clear and useful language.
  5. Marsh, Marsland and Stenberg (2001) conclude that through CLIL we can install a “hunger to learn” in the student. David Graddol also concurs that CLIL is viewed as a vehicle, as a core skill, that provides reasons for learning and improving the foreign language level due to real motivations, as content is important in itself, therefore students will learn and use new language to apply the learned content and express their opinion about it.

I hope these definitions help you understand what CLIL is. See my PowToon vídeo too!

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SOME QUESTIONS (and answers) ON LANGUAGE LEARNING

After reading and investigating about different widespread beliefs and theories on language learning, I’ve arrived to the conclusion that society is concerned about foreign language education and is aware of the need to have good commands on those foreign languages, basically English, for good job opportunities and communicating effectively among others. During the last 10 years approximately, new educational trends have been spread all over the Country, promoting early language courses and introducing new methodologies both for adults and young children. Bilingualism in Catalonia is also in the spotlight, due to the recent Catalan-Spanish politics crisis. Therefore, some contradictory and confusing beliefs regarding foreign language and bilingual education had been widespread. I’m going to analyse some of the beliefs and contrast them to what experts in the field state, so as to arrive to a clear conclusion among the effects of bilingualism and foreign language learning.

Is it better to learn a foreign language at an early age?

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MULTILINGUALISM IN A CONTEXT (part II)

After more analysis on the data and information extracted from my research on Multilingualism in the Abrera public school Francesc Platón i Sartí, I reflected on some more questions regarding Language Education.

How are the different languages taught in this school?

Ccatalan and spanish flag.jpgatalan is the common language spoken at Francesc Platón i Sartí, therefore they foster Catalan language at all levels. This means Primary students have 122’5 hours of Catalan per year.

105 hours of Spanish lessons are taught per year in Primary Education. This means that students are bilinguals; they know and are able to speak both Catalan and Spanish.

Being taught in Catalan is very important for those immigrants who’s mother tongue is different, because it is the only moment where they would listen to and use it. Nevertheless, Spanish is the common language used within students. If you walk around the school at lunch time, for instance, you would notice Spanish is used among students and even with the monitors too. Translanguaging occurs too in those student-student conversations, changing from Spanish to Catalan in some cases, or from immigrants minority languages to common language spoken at school in other cases (see this Psychology Today interview for further information about Translanguaging).

englishEnglish is taught as a subject, starting at the age of 6. Students at Cicle Inicial attend no more than 52,5 hours a school year. English language input increases as they move forward to Cicle Mitjà, attending to 70 hours per year and Cicle Superior, having a total of 87,5 hours.

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MULTILINGUALISM IN A CONTEXT (part I)

Establishing a scenario for a multicultural context

Abrera is a small municipality in Baix Llobregat with no more than 12.000 habitants and about 6.27% are immigrants. The number of foreign people has been considerably increasing during the last years due to the lower flat rentals Abrera offers to the citizens. Living next to Llobregat is cheaper rather than living in Barcelona, this is why the majority of immigrants try to find a place to live in the suburbs. Morocco has been the most important source of migrants coming to Spain in search of work. They live together in neighbourhoods and communities, sharing flats and socio-cultural activities. Living in community also helps them to carry through their kids education, providing advice and accompany for the new arrivals.

I focus my research on the public school Francesc Platón i Sartí, which offers public education from 3 to 12 years old in Abrera. A high number of students are immigrants from Morocco, a lower number come from China and a minority come from other European countries, such as Bulgaria or Polonia. It is crystal water that the school needs to have sort of language project to deal with these different and plural languages and cultures. The school headmaster kindly explained me that this is the first year they don’t have a welcome centre or reception room due to the state cutbacks. Therefore, they have no specific plan for attending diversity; they analyze each case individually and, depending on the specific needs of the student, they organize somehow an individual plan with their limited resources. It is the case, for instance, of a Bulgarian kid who started the course last September, without knowing a word in Catalan or Spanish. A teacher would follow and walk with him during the first months, guiding and teaching him individually basic concepts about the new language, school and culture. By now, this student doesn’t need individual support any more because he is showing remarkable progress, being able to follow a conversation and produce short well structured sentences. Nevertheless, he stills have some extra Catalan and Spanish classes, separately from the rest of the class, to achieve a become independent by the end of the present course.

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Age effects on foreign language learning

Since Penfield (1953) settled an optimum age for language learning within the first decade of life, the idea that children have an advantage over adults in foreign language acquisition has been widespread until present days. Further researches, as Lenneberg’s critical period concept (1967), stated that language capacity was determined by neurological basis situated at puberty. Krasen (1979) stated that adults and older children carry on through early stages of syntactic and morphological development faster than young children, while students who are naturally exposed to a second language during childhood generally achieve higher proficiency on that language, rather than those beginning as adults. It is clear then the relationship between three main factors: age, amount of exposure and eventual accomplishment in second language acquisition.

As mentioned in the Teaching English as a Third Language Cenoz paper, early introduction of English at schools has no negative effects on the acquisition of other languages (referring to L1 or L2) or overall cognitive development. I’m going to develop the arguments deeply in the following paragraphs as well as refute some myths widespread about age influence on foreign language learning.

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