CLIL: Challenge or
Belluno, September 9th, 2011
Gianfranco Porcelli
What exactly is CLIL?
• Content and Language Integrated
• It means learning new subject matter via
the second or foreign language (from now
on: L2)
• Corollary: if the learners already know the
contents, then it is not CLIL
– “not CLIL” does not mean “bad” but simply
• “Languages for Special/Specific Purposes”
(LSP) have been part of our school system
for decades
– I taught Business English in Istituto Tecnico
Commerciale in the 1960s!
• The students were already familiar with
the topics covered during my English
classes – so, that was ESP, not CLIL!
• The basic principle is
• Use as you learn and learn as you use
– not
• Learn now and (maybe) use later
• We start mastering a language when it
stops being a school subject and begins to
be used for “real-life” purposes – tourism,
entertainment (songs, comics, etc.),
reading for general information…
Why CLIL? (2)
• CLIL brings out-of-school life and
experience into the classroom
• It compels learners to focus on what is
said, not on how it is phrased
• Terminologies (not just words but also
complex expressions) are presented in
meaningful contexts, which facilitates
Who can benefit from CLIL?
• In principle, anyone – whenever
something new is acquired in a language
that is not one’s mother tongue
• Technically, we can speak of CLIL proper
only in secondary and tertiary education
• Can baby-CLIL be considered CLIL
– The example of arithmetic
Who teaches CLIL classes?
• Not the language teacher (this is another
difference from LSP) but the teacher of the
specific subject matter (n-LT, non-Language
Teacher). Why?
• Teaching a subject is not just having the learners
read a textbook (adding perhaps a few
explanations and clarifications) but organising a
course with its labs and workshops, assigning
homework, marking papers, evaluating the
acquisition of the “logic” of the subject, and a lot
Who teaches CLIL classes? (2)
• In the countries that have included CLIL
modules in the school syllabus (including
Italy) the n-LT – in the Italian jargon,
“insegnante disciplinare” - has been the
– What are the problems?
• The main problem in Italy is that few n-LTs
know another language well enough to
use it professionally
The language problem in Italian
• Bi- or tri-lingual immigrants find that they
cannot communicate with most school
principals and teachers in any language of
wider circulation, e.g. English, French or
• English is now required in competitions for
posts of School Manager but many
candidates try to avoid learning it, in
various ways
The language problem in Italian
schools (2)
• At the origin is the absence of a foreign
language in some State examinations at
the end of secondary school, notably
Maturità Classica and Maturità Magistrale
• As a consequence, several top people
(politicians, leaders of all kinds, teachers,
etc.) boast they know Ancient Greek and
are not ashamed they cannot
communicate in any modern language
except Italian
The language problem in Italian
schools: towards a solution? (1)
• The Italian Ministry of Education has
launched a plan for the language training
of n-LTs. The primary choice is English but
Associations like ANILS are urging
policymakers to adopt a plurilingual and
multicultural perspective
• The immediate target is preparing n-LTs
for CLIL modules but positive side-effects
can be expected
The language problem in Italian
schools: towards a solution? (2)
• The side-effects will hopefully include:
1. Better communication with foreign
learners and their families
2. A wider, less provincial perspective in the
teachers’ personal education, sources of
information, etc.
3. More and better tools for their
professional training (most up-to-date
sources are not in Italian and some are
never translated)
CLIL, CLIL, wherefore art thou
not CLIL?
This is the cry of despair
from a colleague who,
during an ANILS seminar,
discovered that what she
was doing in her English
classes was not CLIL –
nor it could be, by
Preconditions for CLIL modules
• A) “Disciplinary” (i.e. n-LT) teachers who are
also competent in L2
– They know their subject and how to teach it; they
are being trained to do so in English
• B) Classes that have been prepared to
– follow oral presentations in L2 with an adequate
degree of understanding;
– Write texts (notes, homework, reports, etc.) in
– etc.
Point (B) is our job!
• Ministry programmes or “Indicazioni” no
longer prescribe “literature” but “culture” –
which may mean just about anything, but
in particular:
nature and structure of argumentative
general scientific/technical terminology.
[NOT specific terminologies]
The teacher of “lingua straniera”
• One of the oddities in our “licei scientifici”
is that, as far as L2 is concerned,
“scientific” means “literary”
• Or better, it used to mean: now there are
no specific rules prescribing (the history
of) literature; the culture of the foreign
country/ies also includes much else and a
lot of this “else” will be of much more use
than the study of an anthology
How do we prepare for CLIL?
• Our duty is to hand over to n-LTs pupils
who can follow classes, labs and
workshops, do their homework and
perform any other assignments in L2
• We are qualified as experts in textuality
and are in a position to provide the clues
and tools to process texts and discourses
even when they are non-literary
Textual Genres
• An example: the English of Industrial
Chemistry is basically found in:
• a) Catalogues: new products, their
qualities and advantages
• b) Instructions for use, transportation and
storage; what to do in case of accidental
contacts and/or dispersal in the
Keys to text analysis
• Catalogues often include comparatives, both
overt (better, more efficient, safer, etc.) and
covert (improved, preferable…)
• Instructions provide wonderful opportunities to
develop the “deontic modality”, i.e. how to
express obligations, permissions, prohibitions
and the like – in English, mostly with imperatives
and modals but there are other important and
interesting linguistic devices that can be found in
texts of that kind
LSP Texts
Problems of oracy
chlorine vs chloride
silicon vs silicone
Pronunciations and voices
• All languages show several variations regional, social, topic-related and
depending on the channel of
• It is imperative to train learners to
understand different voices – male or
female and from different areas (for
example, at least UK and USA for English)
– by means of suitable video and audio
aids, plenty of which can be found on the
Examples of English lessons
A short video on the concept of isotope
The reaction of caesium with water
Saturday Morning Science: a set of
experiments in a microgravity environment
(on the International Space Station)
Towards “pre-CLIL” ?
• There is no clear divide between
everyday language and
specialist/specific languages
• Instead there is a wide area of overlapping
where the language teacher can find quite
a lot to do with effectivevess
• Let’s see how
Language abilities common to all
• Notice in particular logico-grammatical
• time: as long as, until , once (something has
occurred), as soon as, whenever, on or before,
since (something has occurred)…
• concession: although, however,…
• finality: for the purpose of, in order to, so that,…
• condition: if, if... then..., only (e.g. only if...),
unless, suppose... then..., as if,…
• Cause and effect: because, as a result of,
therefore, …
If (but not “only if”…)
Cause and effect
I didn’t leave
If trains hadn’t been on
I’d have left
The train strike
Caused the
postponement of my
I wasn’t able to leave
Because of the train
because of the train
“Scientific concepts” may refer to…
1. certain characteristics of the habits of thought
of the individual scientist;
2. a number of concepts prerequisite to science
but not unique to it;
3. certain linguistic skills common to all advanced
academic or scholastic study;
4. one special prerequisite, that of practical
5. those concepts which are unique and proper to
a science, or at least inseparable from it.
Certain characteristics of the
habits of thought of the
individual scientist
• Reference here is to the effort towards
objectivity, rationality and methodologic
rigour that must characterise anyone doing
scientific research
– This is none of our business
• Similarly, we can ignore the ability in
calculation processes
Concepts prerequisite to science
• These include being able to deliberately
generalise from observations, to talk abstractly
about the generalisations, and to discern and
describe relationships, influences and patterns.
These abilities seem to relate to aspects of
intelligence in the individual, as well as to a fairly
late stage of mental development.
• Therefore we must make sure that we do not
expect levels of abstraction that are not
compatible with the age of our pupils
– e.g., no algebra in primary schools
Affixes (prefixes and suffixes) in
• Prefissi: a- non- anti- pre- ante- post- cocon- de- sotto- infra- iper- ri- contra- subextra- trans- ultra- ecc.
• Suffissi: -ismo –zione –azione –ico –ale
-etico –izzare –abile/ibile ecc.
• solfato solfito solfuro solforoso solforico
solfidrato solfidrico
• perborato iposodico transgenico
• neutroni e neutrini – fermioni, bosoni e…
Affixes (prefixes and suffixes)
• Prefixes: a- non- anti- pre- ante- post- cocon- de- under- infra- hyper- re- contrasub- extra- trans- ultra- etc.
• Suffixes: -ism –tion –ation –ic –al
-etic –ise –able/ible etc.
• sulphate sulphite sulphide sulphurous
sulphuric sulphuretted
• perborate hyposodic transgenic
• Neutrons and neutrinos
• fermions and bosons
Some conceptual processes
involved in learning science
space-time relations
extrapolating etc.
Some basic scientific concepts
Some “experimental” notions
• crystallise, evaporate, volume, pressure,
flow, vacuum, electrode, hydrolysis,
distillate, residue
Some “theoretical” concepts
• evidence, support, model, postulate,
prefer, reject, axiom, law, principle,
hypothesis, pre-supposition, corollary…
• interesting, trivial, irrelevant, important,
valid, invalid , tenable, untenable…
• infer, suppose, assume, validate,
stand/fall, confirm, etc.,
Some “mathematical” concepts
• alike, different, greater, less, sequential,
simultaneous, subsequent, infinite,
indefinite, random…
• include, exclude, increase, decrease,
reduce, add, subtract, take away,
combine, separate, precede, follow…
• class, unit, set, member, order, sequence,
Intercultural differences
• We cannot take any notions, even basic
ones like time and cause, for granted
• For example, in Islamic cultures there are
difficulties about foreseeing and
hypothesising about the future, which is
in the hands of God
– “I’m seeing friends tonight, inshAllah”
– The several medicines (homeopathic,
Chinese, Tuareg,…)
• Are they in the correct order?
– Friday
– Monday
– Saturday
– Sunday
– Thursday
– Tuesday
– Wednesday
• It is a very simple test of the ability to
make abstractions
The odd-man-out
• simultaneous different greater smaller
same equal
• evidence proof axiom hypothesis postulate
• measure observe predict verify evaluate
An important tool: NVRs
Collaborative teaching
• The n-LT and the learners are EXPERTS
• Is co-teaching in the classroom an optimal
• The essential condition is very close
collaboration in total agreement
CLIL: Challenge or opportunity?
• Introducing CLIL proper into Italian schools
poses a number of problems, considering the
low level of bilingualism in most teachers;
• The Ministry is doing something but all the
stakeholders are required to prepare
themselves for the new modules;
• As we have seen, this also applies to LTs,
who are to hand over students who can
follow non-linguistic classes in L2.
This means we are facing a CHALLENGE
CLIL: Challenge or opportunity?
• Non-literary texts often show a high degree of
multi-modality (words, pictures, graphs, tables,
diagrams…) that is interesting in itself, beside
being an aid to learning;
• A well-defined teaching objective favours
motivation (ours, even before the students’);
• It will be gratifying to see that what the students
have learned will be fruitfully used immediately,
before leaving the school.
CLIL offers plenty of OPPORTUNITIES
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CLIL: Challenge or opportunity?