Challenging assumptions in language learning and teaching: a CLIL experience at WIT

Furlong, Áine, Fraioli, Paola, Molloy, Rosanna, Cisneros, Angelica, Cummins, Una and O’Neill, Don (2008) Challenging assumptions in language learning and teaching: a CLIL experience at WIT. [Conference Proceedings]


The interdisciplinary approach of Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) promotes the teaching and learning of content, e.g. the subject of Science, or Geography, etc. through a language other than the main language of the school or college. This concept, in the context of growing plurilingual socio-economical and cultural realities, while gaining increasing recognition and support in Europe (European Council Conclusions on Multilingualism, May 2008), has not yet become part of mainstream education in Ireland – apart from Irish in Gaelscoileanna.One of the assumptions often made with regard to content-based teaching is that language teachers are not in a position to teach a subject for which they have no training and conversely, subject teachers cannot teach language/s without a thorough knowledge of the target language. While the integrated nature of the curriculum enables the merging of languages with subjects at primary level (see the work conducted by the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative or the NCCA), the compartmentalization of subjects remains unchallenged at second and third level. This paper will show how a group of language lecturers at WIT are tackling the issue through cooperation with subject specialists,alignment of the language syllabus with relevant content and careful adaptation of subject materials. The languages are French, German, Italian, Spanish and English as a second language. The subjects include marketing, art and design, communications, environmental science and literary criticism. For this purpose, models of CLIL programmes (Clegg, forthcomning) accompanied by a brief introduction to the structure of a typical CLIL class (Coyle 2005) at third level (Furlong 2005) will be presented. In this context, language learning and teaching strategies will highlight the foreign language specialist’s contribution to the teaching of specialized material in core subject areas. The presentation will be supported by empirical evidence from third level students’ reactions to a CLIL experience at WIT.

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