Most of you who have been reading my blogs about CLIL so far might be wondering what the CLIL concept means and which its rationale is.

Most of you who have been reading my blogs about CLIL so far might be wondering what the CLIL concept means and which its rationale is. Mehisto, Marsh and Frigols (2008:11) explain clearly CLIL´s dual focus and opposing points of view:

  • CLIL is a tool for the teaching and learning of content and language.
  • The essence of CLIL is integration, which has a dual focus:

• 1)- Language learning is included in content classes, eg. History or Geography, by means of repackaging information in a manner that facilitates understanding. Common CLIL strategies are: charts, diagrams, drawings, experiments, etc.

• 2)- Content from subjects is used in language-learning classes. The language teacher working together with teachers of other subjects incorporates the vocabulary, terminology and texts from those other subjects into his/her classes. Students learn the language and discourse patterns they need to understand and use the content.

• Each institution or teachers teams working together should decide which of the focus presented above better applies on their teaching environment.

Content Based Language Teaching Models

Previous to the worldwide apparition of the term CLIL, Content Based Teaching or Instruction had been exhaustively explained. A variety of models of programmes, some of them with different objectives and approaches had also been developed. Met (1999:15-17) explained the variation between the models distributed along a continuum. Although all the programmes integrate Language Learning and Contents, there is a considerable variation in the importance given to content and linguistic objectives.


From Content Oriented towards Language Oriented Programmes

Total Immersion

Parcial Immersion

Subject Based Course

Subject Based Course plus Language Classes

Language Classes based on Thematic Units

Language Classes with frequent use of content to practice the language

The application of the programmes shown in the diagrams depends on institutional policies and timetable demands in relation to Foreign Language Teaching (FLT).

Despite the importance of CLIL, the time limitation imposed by the institution in which we teach obliged us to balance both sides of the programmes shown in the diagrams and consequently we have adopted a more moderate model called Theme-based approach. Stryker and Beaver (1997:4) explain that Theme-based approaches have existed for a long time in FLT in the form of supplementary activities that interrupt the systematic study of grammar with activities on different topics. The choice of topics or themes for materials, thus intend to break free from traditional practices, departing from commonly used linguistic focused items, towards real life themes oriented to transmit original and engaging contents to students.

Through our experience, we have proved ourselves how beneficial it is to provide Theme-oriented activities to enable our students to use the language as a vehicle for content learning and at the same time, to offer them rich linguistic opportunities in a context different from the course textbook used daily.
On my next entry I will explain some of the activities devised in order to carry out in the practice some of these theoretical concepts. I would like colleagues from all over the world who might have been working with this approach to post any comments, questions or doubts on the topic, so that we can discuss about your different points of view.
Kind regards form Argentina,



Hi Paulo


The content based approach is introduced in my country, Kazakhstan. There's an idea of tri-lingua approach in school education. Meantime we have more questions and doubts rather than advantages. In our context there are two opposites ideas: whether the subject (biolgy, chemistry or any other) should be taught by English teacher, and in this case all th materials are translated in English according to our curriculum, or the subject should be taught by the subject teacher and English is given on the level of terms?

Luckily we have teachers whose major is Chemistry or Physics, and the 2d education is TESOL. But if there's no subject -teacher, then students are overloaded with terms. Any ideas on the problem?

Tatyana Let

Hello Tatyana!

Thanks for contacting me! It is very interesting to see that your school system has started to apply CLIL or Content Based Instruction so seriously. According to what you write, I feel English teachers in your school might need to clarify that they play a very important role within this approach, by emphasizing the teaching of the English Language itself, with the addition that they should support the specific contents from other subjects which are also being taught.  Mehisto, Marsh and Frigols (2008:11) explain that content teachers should concentrate on the teaching of their specific subjects, though in some cases they might be required to teach some language. They stress the fact that content teachers need to support the learning of the necessary language knowledge that students can be missing and that may be preventing them from mastering the content. On the other hand, language teachers have a very important role. They should continue teaching the standard curriculum, at the same time that they work to support content teachers by helping students to learn the language needed to manipulate content from other subjects.  Thus, each group of teachers has very specific tasks to accomplish always interconnected and supporting each other. We have found some interesting information as regards teachers working together at the following website.

I hope you find these explanations helpful, and please keep in contact so that we can continue sharing knowledge and experiences!

Kind regards from Argentina,

References: Mehisto, P, D. Marsh and M. Frigols (2008) Uncovering CLIL: Content and Language Integrated Learning in biligual and multilingual education. Macmillan Education. Oxford. UK

Dear Paulo,

Thanks for your links and very interesting resources. It's very helpful to get more information on world practices. 

I'd agree with the arguments that content-based teaching is time consuming. And this problem we've got in our schools as well. Together with subject teaching in L2 students have to have one class a week in L1.

And there's another true fact that is 'the content that becomes the vehicle for language learning' but not as 'the vehicle for content learning'. It's more dangerous since language teacher is unable to present material in comprehensible way and students are overloaded with terms. This problem was mentioned in my previous message.

 However, there're some good experiences with us. It was long ago, in Soviet Union times, when there were specialities at Unis when teachers in Phisics, Biology, History, and other subjects prepared to teach these subjects in English. And they were able to select material and present it in comprehensible way. But I remeber that the approach of teaching was topic based. There was a task to learn a topic for retelling.

Nowdays there's another experience. we have a teacher whose first degree is in Chemistry and another one is English FLT. She worked hard to develop a teaching manual which combines skill development approach but not knowledge based. With the help of examples from general life the material is given in interesting and comprehensible way that students have no problems with formula understanding and its further use. There's no need to explain this subject in L1, students demonstrate good understanding and knowledge. What is more, they demonstrate vivid interest in chemistry studying. So there would be good practice to prepare subject teachers who are able to teach in L2.



Tatyana Let

Dear Tatyana:

Thanks for sharing your experiences. I can see how your school system is taking innovation seriously and I think your students are going to profit enormously from it.

Our experience is a little bit different, since the beginners of the whole innovative project have been the teachers of English. We have asked our colleagues from other subjects about their programmes and looked for ways to continue working more deeply with the same contents but in English. The fact that students have already worked with the contents in their mother tongue has made our work easier and more comprehensible, and has not demanded a great ammount of specific knowledge from us.

I think we are all experimenting with CLIL in various ways so any other comment as regards CLIL implementation in world would be very beneficial and enriching. I hope many more colleagues are interested in sending their opinions and comments!

Kind regards!


Dear Paula,
I think you are doing an excellent job in explaining CLIL.
I am also based in Argentina and am currently the new Editor for development of an on-line Journal LACLIL.
We are trying to bring together CLIL researchers and practitioners around the world to share experiences and knowledge.
If you or any of your colleagues would like to share an article for our next issue please take a look at the journal and the guidelines for submissions.
Thank you,
Susan Hillyard, Argentina

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