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What’s new in language learning and teaching

My colleague Flavia recently attended a very interesting conference about multilingualism. Here she writes about what she learned in particular about CLIL as a method for increasing the receptive skills of language learners. With my past as a CLIL-teacher, I couldn’t agree more. Enjoy the reading!

Now, I take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


The CEL/ELC (Conseil Européen des Langues/European Language Council) held this year’s forum in Brussels on November 30th-December 1st. The European Language Council is a permanent and independent association open to all institutions of higher education and all national and international associations with a special interest in languages. Its main aim is the quantitative and qualitative improvement of knowledge of the languages and cultures of the European Union and beyond.

This year’s forum was devoted to “Rethinking Multilingualism: Challenges and Opportunities” and focussed on hot topics connected to the spreading of multilingualism like the increase of multilingualism in the classroom and a parallel decline in literacy, the reflection on new teaching strategies to help teachers to cope with this new situation, the recognition of informal and non-formal learning and the need to devise parameters to validate these forms of alternative learning.

Particularly stimulating was the debate on how to improve literacy, both in the mother tongue and in foreign languages. Among the specific issues brought up it is worth mentioning: a) the decline in literacy connected, at least partly, to the spreading of English, which is increasingly used as a communication language but often at a basic level; b) the need to concentrate more on receptive skills (rather than on oral skills as was the case with the communicative approach) and to develop methods more adapted to this end.

In this context, CLIL (Content and language integrated learning) – i.e. the use of foreign languages to teach specific subjects – was presented. Prof. Teresa Ting, from the University of Calabria (Italy), presented an extremely interesting experience carried out in a secondary school in her region where science lessons had to be delivered in English; the pupils (and to some extent even the teachers), however, had limited knowledge of this language. To do this, the teachers had to reconsider what and how they were teaching, concentrate on core concepts and devise tasks their pupils could perform. The experience was a great success and even disaffected students were brought back into the learning cycle and obtained good results.

If you are interested in knowing more about this experience and its quite unexpected results, see “CLIL Appeals to How the Brain Likes Its Information and “CLIL … not only not immersion but also more than the sum of its parts“.

No doubt, there is still much room for teachers to further experience and stimulate their creativity to adapt to today’s new reality, but also to share ideas and projects with other teachers and teaching experts, and build on them to provide pupils and students tools to better cope with the world they will have to live and work in.

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