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6179 Views 4 Replies Latest reply: 06-May-2013 03:20 by Guest661354 RSS
Susana Randulfe Novice 53 posts since
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15-Jun-2010 19:14

CLIL, CBI, Immersion or Bilingual Education?

I've been finding these terms around for a while. Everything sounds really interesting but I am a bit confused. Could anybody highlight the differences?

Thanks in advance.


  • Nick Dawson Pearson ELT 202 posts since

    Hi Susanna,

    Let's start with CLIL. First we must recognise that our students are intelligent and educated individuals, but at the moment, they can only demonstrate their intelligence and education when working in their mother tongue [L1]. When working in English, they do not know the language of fashion, science, geography, engineering, literature, business, mathematics, music, sport science, etc. Because they do not know the English language of these specialities, they cannot talk about them. But, more importantly, they cannot use the huge resources available in English to LEARN more about these specialities.


    The aim of CLIL is to extend the students' range of topics in which they can operate in English. Before CLIL, learning English was about buying ice creams, renting hotel rooms, talking about the weather and so on, - tourist activities. For this reason, while students were intelligent, educated people in their L1, when they shifted into English, they appeared to be individuals with no knowledge, no ideas, and no opinions. This was clearly a false impression, but it was created by their inability to display their intelligence and education in the medium of English.


    Bilingual Education is like CLIL ++. In its crudest form, students study the same lessons TWICE. Once in their L1 and again in their second language [L2]. To take a real example, a Tunisian friend told me that when he was at school, morning lessons were in Arabic and afternoon lessons in French. So, in the morning he would study the chemistry of sodium in Arabic, and in the afternoon he would study the chemistry of sodium in French. Learning in this way, he said that he was able to be a good student during afternoon lessons, even though French was not his home language.


    Today, bilingual education is much more sophisticated, but the basic principle still operates. Both languages are given equal priority. If he took a test on the chemistry of sodium in Arabic he might score 87%. If he took a test on the chemistry of sodium in French, he might score 75%. Operation in both languages will never be exactly equal, but will approach equality.


    Immersion methodology is a much more cruel approach, because it intends to separate the learners from their L1 and immerse them totally in the L2 or target language.  When the British Army realised that Britain needed fluent Russian speakers to spy on the Soviet Union, they set up an army camp which was totally in Russian. All the loudspeaker instructions were in Russian, the only newspapers and books in the camp were in Russian. If the soldiers wanted to write letters to their girlfriends, they had to write them in Russian and then an English translation would be sent to the girlfriend. If they received letters in English, the letters would be translated into Russian before being given to the soldier.

    As you can see the methodology (in the hands of the British army) was very cruel, but it was also very successful. The soldiers who did not go mad became very fluent speakers of Russian. (My Russian teacher at school had learnt Russian in this way. As far as I know, he did not become a spy, but who knows?)

    In the hands of ordinary teachers, immersion methodology is less severe, but you can see the way in which English language teachers try to make their classrooms into little "islands of English" within the ocean of L1 - which is the rest of the school. On these "islands of English" students are punished for using their mother tongue and praised when they use English successfully.

    CLIL and Bilingual Education represent a much more mature attitude to the relationship between L1 and English. Immersion methodology sometimes seems like an attempt to make the students monolingual in English!

    Lastly, CBI. This stands for Computer Based Instruction. This is a useful tool but is only effective in the context of "Blended Learning" which combines computer based learning with face to face instruction and interaction.

    Sorry for the long answer, but you asked a very big question!


  • katherine Pearson ELT 1 posts since

    How do you differentiate cross-curricular or interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary within these terms?

  • Guest661354 Newbie 2 posts since

    I am pretty confused about the difference between CLIL in EFL and cross-curicular approach.

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