Academic journal article International Journal of English Studies

Lexical Transfer in the Written Production of a CLIL Group and a Non-CLIL Group

Academic journal article International Journal of English Studies

Lexical Transfer in the Written Production of a CLIL Group and a Non-CLIL Group

Article excerpt


Research in the field of second language acquisition (SLA) is currently experiencing a renewed interest in language transfer due to the increasing implementation of CLIL programmes in educational contexts. This revival is mainly caused by recent findings which have proved a decreased influence of lexical transfer in those students who are immersed in CLIL programmes (Agustín LI ach, 2009; Celaya, 2008; Cel aya & Ruiz de Zarobe, 2010), that is, programmes in which the curricular content is taught and learned through the medium of a foreign language (Dalton-Puffer, 2011), in this particular case, English.

The main purpose of this study is to contribute to previous research on lexical transfer by comparing the written production of a CLIL and non-CLIL group of students in Andalusia1 (Spain), where CLIL has been used for several years. In doing so, we will also address the debate created in this region about the benefits of CLIL between Lorenzo, Casal and Moore (2010, 2011) and Bruton (2011a, 2011b). While Lorenzo and his colleagues highlight the significant foreign language score differences between CLIL and non-CLIL groups, Bruton claims that the outstanding reported benefits of CLIL methodology are rooted in various factors favouring CLIL students such as their higher language proficiency. In this sense we want to determine whether language proficiency is a crucial factor in the possible differences in lexical transfer we could find between the CLIL and non-CLIL students of our study.


2.1. CLIL

Nowadays CLIL methodology is gaining more and more ground in European educational systems as a direct response to the recognized need for plurilingual competence in our present-day society (European Commission, 1995), but what are the pedagogic implications of CLIL in foreign language learning?

2.1.1. What is CLIL? Rationale and benefits of CLIL

Since its coinage in 1994 at the University of Jyväskylä (Finland), the term CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) has been increasingly taking on greater relevance in the field of foreign language education (Dalton-Puffer & Nikula, 2006; Deller, 2005; Marsh, 2002; Pérez Cañado, 2012) and has been widely used to refer to "situations where subjects, or parts of subjects, are taught through a foreign language with dual-focused aims, namely the learning of content and the simultaneous learning of a foreign language" (Marsh, 2002:2).

Most of the definitions provided on CLIL remark the fact that CLIL is a dual-focused educational approach since its major focus is on a continuum of both language and content, without an implied preference for either (Coyle, 2007). CLIL has its roots in bilingual education, that is to say, immersion programmes in Canada and content-based instruction (CBI) in USA, which have been in operation for decades. According to Coyle, Hood and Marsh (2010: 6), however, "what separates CLIL from some established approaches such as content-based language learning, or forms of bilingual education, is the planned pedagogic integration of contextualized content, cognition, communication, and culture into teaching and learning practice".

Thus CLIL contexts are described in the literature as "significant learning environments" (Lorenzo et al., 2010: 427) or "immersion-like, input-rich environments for language acquisition" (Dalton-Puffer, 2009: 198). The main rationale behind the implementation of CLIL methodology has been summarised in these following four points (Navés, 2009: 25):

1. CLIL creates conditions for naturalistic language learning by reproducing the way in which first languages are acquired.

2. CLIL provides a purpose for language use in classroom.

3. CLIL has a positive effect on language learning by putting the emphasis on meaning rather than form.

4. CLIL increases the amount of exposure to the target language.

The growing relevance of CLIL lies in the positive results yielded in the studies carried out measuring its impact on students' foreign language learning. …

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