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Planning & Supporting Strong English Programs (Part 2)

By Elaine Gallagher, Ph.D.    SECTION 2: «BACKGROUND OF SUCCESSFUL BILINGUAL PLANS: CEFR and CLIL»      =============================================== CEFR: Common European Framework Reference                In the late 1980’s, more than twenty European countries began to research and document what skills and abilities needed to be exhibited to demonstrate language knowledge, in reading, writing, speaking, and listening, under […]

Autor: UNOi

Fecha: 11 de julio de 2013

Elaine Gallagher 05 cegBy Elaine Gallagher, Ph.D.   




  • CEFR: Common European Framework Reference   

            In the late 1980’s, more than twenty European countries began to research and document what skills and abilities needed to be exhibited to demonstrate language knowledge, in reading, writing, speaking, and listening, under various situations: social, professional, family, academic, and professional, etc. 

            After much work, in 1991, in Switzerland, the consortium of language educators and linguistic specialists,  presented their findings and recommendations in a 265 page document, named: «Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment».

             What they succeeded to do was to specifically list observable actions, which would exhibit language ability under a variety of circumstances, and at various levels.

They divided language abilities, for any language, into six classifications: A-1, A-2, B-1, B-2, C-1, C-2, with A-1 being the basic level, and C-2 the most proficient level.

See the following two charts to obtain a clearer picture of the CEFR.    

A summary of the six levels of the CEFR

Chart 1 – A summary of the six levels of the CEFR



Global View: Common Levels of Reference for Language Acquisition

If you want to see a narrative summary of the six levels, here is a very brief summary of the 265 pages so you can get a general idea of the CEFR .

  All of the qualifiers listed in the levels below, PLUS:





C 2

Can understand practically everything, reading, writing, listening, and speaking, almost as a native speaker. Can express spontaneously, with great fluency, and can present, with a great degree of precision, with an ample vocabulary, in a very coherent manner.


C 1

Is able to use the language in a fluent and flexible form. Can produce clear writing and speaking. Is able to use the language in social, academic, and professional situations. The language use is well-structured, fluid, and spontaneous. Uses the mechanics of a language with precision and fluency.





B 2

Can understand the principal ideas of texts, and can work with concrete and abstract ideas within their age range or their area of specialization. They can write clearly and detailed and can defend themselves in the language, giving pros and cons of their opinion.



Can understand in some work or school situations. Can use the language to survive when traveling where language is utilized. Can describe experiences, and can briefly give an opinion or express future plans.






Can understand phrases and expressions if used frequently, especially if they are relevant and useful in school, home, work, shopping, or restaurants.  Can describe things in their environment in simple terms, using present or past references. Can ask about things that are of basic necessities: food, sleep, bathroom, etc.



Can understand and use expressions of daily habits, such as «Hello. How are you?». Can ask basic questions about home, preferences, personal belongings, to persons they know.  Can understand others if they speak slowly and clearly and have an attitude of helping the new language learner. Can give their name and address to friends, and use simple phrases to meet personal needs. Is fluent, speaking smoothly.


  • CLIL: Content and Language Integrated Learning

              Once the Common European Framework Reference was established and accepted, and publishers were required to eliminate the traditional designations of «Advanced», «Intermediate», and «Beginning» levels, language learning and teaching began to change.

            Publishers now had to indicate on the front cover of their language teaching books, a small circle of yellow stars (representing the European Union).  Within the circle, the language level of the text had to be indicted, such as «A-1» or «B-2», etc.

            Once this was in effect, schools and teacher-preparation programs had a dilemma. They asked, «How do we teach languages to students so they will reach the levels of  the CEFR?»

            This was a serious problem, because since the CEFR emphasized oral fluency, bi-cultural knowledge, projects, small group activities, life-long learning, among other things, schools were not prepared. Most language courses were very traditional, with memorization, translations, workbooks to complete, grammar emphasis, phonics, fill-in-the-blanks, copying, language patterns to complete, all of which presented fake, artificial communication styles.

          » I am… are…..he is…….she is……we are….you are…they are…..»

  does not lead anyone to language fluency.

  Nor does:   » I go.» ….»He goes.» …..»I went.»  …»They went.»…etc.

            No one talks that way, so it was obvious that the traditional way of language teaching would not obtain the desired results of oral fluency, the kind of ability needed in the 21st Century.

            In 1991, linguistic experts and language educators began to meet in Finland at the University of Jyvaskyla, in Helsinki, Finland. The diverse group of educators, from 20 + countries, headed by David Marsh, investigated many language teaching programs in order to plan what they would recommend to the European Union in keeping with CEFR goals. The linguists looked at what worked and what was not so successful. Their goal was to implement a teaching philosophy for the acquisition of a second language.

            After looking at the positives and negatives of  30+ programs, the educators from 20 countries meeting in Finland to streamline,  simplify, and enhance language teaching, decided that they wanted to establish a PHILOSOPHY  based on the best practices of how languages are learned.

They named this philosophy:

                         «Content and Language Integrated Learning» (CLIL). 

           Dr. David Marsh, originally from Australia, currently living in Finland, was Chairman of the committee that forged CLIL. His work with the integration of subjects in order to better learn a language, became part of the basic CLIL philosophy..

          Much of the research on the «Natural Approach to Language Learning», by Dr. Stephen Krashen, from the USA, was also incorporated into the framework of CLIL philosophy. Information of Krashen’s work follows this section on CLIL. .

How should CLIL philosophy affect your teaching? What are its basic premises? 

  • CLIL is a philosophy on how we best learn languages. It is not a program.
  • CLIL is the umbrella term describing BOTH learning a content subject (such as biology, world geography, music, physical education, etc.) through a foreign language, AND learning a foreign language by studying  content-based subjects.
  • Knowledge of the language becomes the means of learning content.
  • Language is integrated into the broad curriculum.
  • This broad, complete, curriculum is taught, using 100% in English.
  • Long-term learning is planned for nearly native-like English.
  • Fluency is the prime goal, with students using English to communicate.
  • Errors are accepted as a natural part of language learning.
  • Accuracy will come after fluency.
  • Fluency is emphasized, not grammatical structures.
  • More focus is on on the process of learning, and less on the final product.
  • Reading is the essential skill.
  • Use content to expand vocabulary and fluency in speaking and reading.



Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) has become the umbrella term describing both learning another (content) subject such as physics or geography through the medium of a foreign language and learning a foreign language by studying a content-based subject.        


            Vary materials            .                                    Use visuals.

            Team & pair activities                                     Much oral production

             Use critical thinking.                                       Music, arts, crafts, physical activities

              Recognition precedes production.               Errors are O.K. Accuracy comes later.

Why is CLIL important?

                With the expansion of the European Union, diversity of language and the need for communication are seen as central issues. Even with English as the main language, other languages are unlikely to disappear. Some countries have strong views regarding the use of other languages within their borders. With increased contact between countries, there will be an increase in the need for communicative skills in a second or third language.

                Languages will play a key role in curricula across Europe,  and North, South, & Central America. Attention needs to be given to the training of teachers and the development of frameworks and methods  which will improve the quality of language education.

            The European Commission and various American countries have been looking into the state of  bilingualism and language education since the 1990s, and have a clear vision of a multilingual Europe in which people can function in two or three languages.

How does CLIL work??

            The basis of CLIL is that content subjects are taught and learnt in a language       which is not the mother tongue of the learners. Knowledge of the language becomes the means of learning content. Language is integrated into the broad curriculum. Learning is improved through increased motivation and the study of natural language seen in context. When learners are interested in a topic they are motivated to acquire language to communicate.

The advantages of CLIL                                 

  • Introduces the wider cultural context
  • Prepares for internationalization
  • Accesses International Certification and enhances the school profile
  • Improves overall and specific language competence
  • Prepares for future studies and/or working life
  • Develops multilingual interests and attitudes
  • Diversifies methods & forms of classroom teaching and learning
  • Increases learner motivation
  • Gets results! Students with oral fluency!

CLIL in the classroom

CLIL assumes that subject teachers are able to exploit opportunities for language learning. The best and most common opportunities arise through reading texts. CLIL draws on the lexical approach, encouraging learners to notice language while reading. «Texts can be actual paper books, or in digital format, which is becoming more common and popular with learners because (1) Teachers can project the text for all to see. (2) It’s easier and faster to turn pages (3) They can use ear-plugs to listen to music as they read. (4) An i-pad is easier to carry than several textbooks,      

The future of CLIL

CLIL is here to stay. It’s not a fad. There is no doubt that learning a language and learning through a language are concurrent processes, but implementing CLIL requires a rethink of the traditional concepts of the language classroom and the language teacher.

The immediate obstacles seem to be:

  • Subject teachers may be unwilling to take on the responsibility to teach a subject in English, unless they are strong in English themselves.
  • The lack of CLIL teacher-training program suggests that the majority of teachers working on bilingual programs may be ill-equipped to do the job adequately.

            Until more and better CLIL training for teachers and materials issues are resolved, the immediate future remains with parallel rather than integrated content and language learning. The need for language teaching reform will make CLIL a common philosophy by many education systems in the the near future.

            Even though we may associate CLIL with oral fluency, which, yes, is an important component of CLIl, we cannot forget that writing, too, has to be practiced using authentic topics, not simply copying sentences or listing past tense verbs. Using content areas, encouraging students to work in pairs, helps with the creative process. Here are some ideas for writing experiences.



Charts                         Cartoons

Letters                        Short stories                         

Postcards                    Biographies

Conversations             Autobiography

Want ads                    Poems

Brochures                   How to do something…

Newsletters                Describing someone

Yearbooks                  Sketch of a famous person

Book blurbs (Mini-review)        Favorite movie

Thank you notes         Create a math problem

Greeting cards                        A class newspaper

Summaries                  A time line

Recipes                       A map of an imaginary place

Calendars                   A science fiction story

Lists (for shopping, gifts, parties, trips, things to do)


Studies are now beginning to prove that CLIL philosophy applied in the classroom is effective, not only in language acquisition, but also in the acquisition of academic knowledge in various subjects.                   (Vienna Working Papers)



One of the foundation ideas of CLIL


Dr. Stephen Krashen, as previously mentioned, was pivotal           in the development of the framework of CLIL philosophy. Following are some of his ideas, based on more than 30 years of linguistic research concerning the importance of language «acquisition» as opposed to «language learning».

                                         STEPHEN KRASHEN:
«Acquisition requires meaningful interaction in the target language – natural communication – in which speakers are concerned not with the form of their utterances but with the messages they are conveying and understanding.»

                                           STEPHEN KRASHEN:
«The best methods are therefore those that supply ‘comprehensible input’ in low anxiety situations, containing messages that students really want to hear. These methods do not force early production in the second language, but allow students to produce when they are ‘ready’, recognizing that improvement comes from supplying communicative and comprehensible input, and not from forcing and correcting production.»

                                             STEPHEN KRASHEN:
«In the real world, conversations with sympathetic native speakers who are willing to help the acquirer understand are very helpful.»

                                            STEPHEN KRASHEN:
«Language acquisition does not require extensive use of conscious grammatical rules, and does not require tedious drill.»






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