Teaching of foreign languages has enormously changed over the last decade. In particular, English language teaching underwent a lot of changes and innovation during these years. The language teachers try to find new ways to the teaching of foreign languages in order to develop and increase students’ language knowledge and skills as much as possible. Such a new way they see in exposing students to the target foreign language (English) for a long period at school by using English medium to study subjects such as history, geography, science, arts, mathematics, etc. that are originally taught in the native language. Thus, the English medium instruction becomes common at the schools and universities around the globe. It is mainly dictated by the processes of globalisation and the strategies of internationalisation of many institutions not only in Europe but also throughout the other continents (Doiz, Lasagabaster, ; Sierra, 2013; Gustafsson ; Jacobs, 2013; Wilkinson, 2013). Factors such as the employment and job mobility, staff and student exchanges confirm the need of degree courses taught in English (Fortanet, 2008). Multilingual citizens are needed in many different social fields – the job market, research and education, social integration with the migrant movements, etc. Globalization requires learning of foreign languages and creates the context in which CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) is invented and developed as an effective way of improving students’ foreign language knowledge and skills (Lasagabaster, 2008).
CLIL is “being educated in a language other than one’s mother tongue” (Coyle, 2007). The CLIL main goal is learning content while simultaneously learning a foreign language. So CLIL is a dual-focused teaching and learning approach in which a foreign language is used for promotion of content and language command (Maljers, Marsh, Wolff, Genesee, Frigols- Martín, Mehisto, 2010).
It should be pointed out that the language used in CLIL as an instrument for teaching and learning given curricula discipline is not necessarily a foreign language – in some cases it can be the national language, where the schools are attended by ethnic linguistic groups for example. It is important to be noted that CLIL teachers and learners use a language that differs from the students’ mother tongue. And teaching and learning of this different language focuses both on content and language acquisition.
The European Union prioritizes CLIL introduction in the educational systems throughout its territory. The Guide for the Development of Language Education Policies in Europe indicates what kind of knowledge and skills should an undergone secondary education European adult gain: a national and a foreign language, or two or more foreign languages, or a modern and a classical language, or knowledge of a particular subject area in a foreign language taught through CLIL. The European Action Plan for Language Learning and Linguistic Diversity (2003: 8) states that CLIL plays a major role in meeting the Union’s language learning goals – to improve the quality of communication among Europeans of different language and cultural backgrounds; communication leads to freer mobility and more direct contact, which in turn leads to better understanding and closer co-operation; people to become more independent in thought and action, and also more responsible and cooperative in relation to other people; democratic citizens to be created. These aims are clearly stated in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment.
CLIL became a predominant method of language teaching and learning in Europe in the 1990’s. The term CLIL was established in 1994 and it was designed as an innovative type of education where teaching given educational content is done simultaneously with the teaching of the foreign language. Later on, CLIL was extended by teaching via any language different from the students’ mother language. It contained an advantageous impact on the quality of education. The European Union, giving priority to the multilingual education on its territory, predicted the significant benefits that the CLIL way of teaching and learning proved over the next few years. Gradually, many schools, universities, colleges, organizations adopted CLIL in their educational programs and implemented it as a part of the multilingual tendencies in education. Numerous teaching strategies were created in order to develop students’ skills and abilities, encourage their critical thinking and creativity and increase their learning motivation.
A main feature of the CLIL approach is the exposure of learners to understandable information – it makes use of the curriculum content to develop the foreign language. According to Skehan (1998) learners process first the useful and relevant information for them and only after that they activate their long-term memory. So CLIL methodology grants a real purpose for language use and natural acquisition of that foreign language. This approach allows developing learners’ thinking skills and generation of ideas, increases the motivation for learning as it presents the information in a consistent manner and in a real context of use (Grabe and Stoller, 1997). CLIL teaching is considered to be able to develop in students a more positive attitude towards the target language – therefore they are motivated to learn it better. (Hartiala, 2000) Many researchers have found advantages associated with CLIL on a language level, including an increase in students’ linguistic competences, grammatical awareness and vocabulary learning skills (Coyle, 2007; Ruiz de Zarobe et al. 2011). The benefits that can be enjoined on CLIL to the advantage of the learners are the positive effects on problem solving, self-confidence, risk taking and intercultural communication (Lasagabaster, 2008; Dalton-Puffer, 2008).
The CLIL methodology is based on the 4Cs (Coyle 1999):
• Content – specific elements of given curriculum
• Communication – use the language to learn and vice versa – learn to use the language
• Cognition – thinking skills which connect the language, understanding and concepts
• Culture – awareness of self and others
These elements should be considered as a whole – they should be regarded as integrated parts of this king of methodology in order to ensure successful, consistent and effective CLIL lesson. Learning takes place in a context of interaction and negotiation of content and this leads to increase in communication and language development.
The CLIL lesson includes different activities, which tend to ensure acquisition of the essential topic and develop learners’ communicative skills. These activities help students to acquire the the necessary terminology, to comprehend the texts and use them to promote discussion afterwards, to provoke thinking skills, to give the students chances for collaborating, for sharing experience and to increase the opportunities for enlarging their language learning potential.
CLIL implementation creates a good environment for natural language learning that focuses on meaning, not in form, by increased exposure to the target language with clearly defined purpose for learning and using the language (Dalton-Puffer, 2007; Dalton-Puffer & Schmit, 2007).
Hammond (2001) emphasizes on the cooperation among teachers and students that is essential for the CLIL lessons, which according to him create safe and enriching conditions in the classroom enhancing the autonomous active learning of the students focusing on language, learning and cognition. Thus, CLIL lessons create an atmosphere of tolerance and responsibility; they create global citizens in a world of linguistic diversity; they reflect our globalized perceptions of today’s world.
CLIL and the theories behind it
Piaget (1963) creates his constructivist theory that learning depends on prior knowledge. The material which students are willing to learn now is connected to the material, which is already of their knowledge. These connections are strong and they lead to better learning, to enhanced desire for acquiring knowledge. And it is corroborated when meaningful context is provided. This corresponds to the CLIL way of teaching and learning where students are provided with opportunities for participating in meaningful exposure and purposeful use of the foreign target language through content instruction of the academic subject (García, 2008; Naves, 2009).
Language acquisition is synergetic to the social environment (Vygotsky, 1978). He emphasizes the role of the language as a constructive mediator for students’ potential developmental level.
According to Cummins (1981) there are two different types of language knowledge: academic (formal – cognitive) and social (informal – less cognitive). The nature of CLIL incorporates both types of knowledge and promotes them simultaneously.
Content and language integrated learning is based on Krashen’s theory of foreign language acquisition (1982) – language is acquired unconditionally. Krashen assumes that language acquisition is developed in the same way native speakers acquire grammar features – not through formal instruction but through meaningful instruction, meaningful situations. The same idea lies within the lines of De Graaff, Koopman, Anikina & Westhoff (2007). They also stand up for the conclusion that the best way of learning a foreign language depends on the meaning-focused context. By using content-based tasks as a means for developing foreign language acquisition, academic concepts – subject knowledge and target language skills – foreign language proficiency simultaneously can be acquired and enhanced (Coonan, 2002; Wilkinson, 2004; Coyle, 2005; Stohler, 2006; Dalton-Puffer, 2007).
All of the ideas above underlie in the requirements of the European Council (2001) as written in the Common European Framework – “most important thing a teacher can do is to provide the richest possible linguistic environment in which learning can take place without formal teaching” (p. 139). In such a linguistic context, CLIL is the best way of providing contextualized and meaningful language acquisition. CLIL becomes a well-established pedagogical approach across the educational systems in Europe (Wolff, 2007) as well as in many regions in the world. The Eurydice survey (2005) finds out that “the initiatives in the field of CLIL have increased in recent years” (p. 55). CLIL is adopted in the school systems in many countries at primary and secondary levels.
The results of different studies suggest that CLIL can be an effective approach with positive results on learners’ foreign language knowledge development from primary school to university. Researchers such as Short (1994) and Stoller (2004) emphasize on improvement of content knowledge and language skills after involving in CLIL classes. Still, scientific studies regarding CLIL implementation in education need more research on the results and effects from CLIL teaching and learning (Gramkow 2001). Zimmerman (1997) and Wesche (1993) note that more investigation has to be done on vocabulary learning development, particularly through CLIL classes. The CLIL type learners’ attitudes, expectations and motivation need to be more deeply studied as well as learners’ improved communicative skills, language proficiency and competences both in content and language have to be proved, especially in regions with strong multilingual diversity.