Authentic Language Use in Primary CLIL – a brief summary of our IATEFL talk

Together with my colleague Georg Hellmayr I gave a talk at IATEFL 2019 on Authentic Language Use in Primary CLIL. This post informally summarizes the main points of our talk. References to any secondary literature have been omitted for the sake of easier legibility. For a more detailed account, we want to refer you to our upcoming article whose publication will also be announced here.


At the beginning of our talk we touched upon various notions of authenticity in language teaching, making the case for the use of real language in foreign language classrooms, particularly in the context of CLIL. However, this is not a given in many primary schools. We focused on the Austrian situation.

Primary teachers in Austria are generalist teachers who must teach English as a foreign language to young learners. However, many teachers are frequently overwhelmed with the task of providing high-quality language lessons, let alone CLIL lessons. This is mainly due to the circumstance that ELT plays a comparatively minor role in primary teacher education programs in Austria. When faced with the challenge of teaching CLIL lessons, many teachers therefore resort to quick-fix strategies which typically involve online translation services as well as ready-made materials from various sources. However, the language which is used in such materials is not always authentic or even incorrect in some cases. This situation demonstrates the need for an orientation guide in order to help primary teachers identify and select authentic materials for their learners. In addition, native as well as non-native CLIL materials writers would equally profit from such support measures.

The study

Our research focuses on Keystage 2 Science textbooks from England. We compiled a mini-corpus of 52,900 tokens which was coded at the sentence level. We created a total of 6,286 coded segments, identifying 27 language functions across 29 topic areas. This way, we are now able to extract and explore subject-specific, topic-specific as well as function-specific concordances which reveal clusters of authentic linguistic patterns. Moreover, we can retrieve specific vocabulary lists at each of these levels. The data provides valuable insights into authentic language use and can serve as a blueprint for the development of CLIL materials. Other than that, our findings are also suitable for integration into CLIL teaching as well as teacher education.


ELAPSE partner meeting in Santiago de Compostela

CAFI – The venue of our transnational partner meeting

Our second transnational partner meeting in the course of the ELAPSE project took place in Santiago de Compostela at the Centro Autonómico de Formación e Innovación (CAFI). We had some important discussions on the nature of CLIL, on its potential as well as on its limitations and shortcomings. The process yielded particularly constructive insights regarding different perceptions of the 4Cs framework which is frequently used to plan CLIL lessons. In particular, the notion of culture in the context of CLIL as well as its integration into practical activities turned out to be a moot point in our discussions. Laura Pons Seguí kindly enlightened us with valuable insights from her extensive work on CLIL in this regard suggesting a broader and also more palpable conception of culture which also includes aspects of community and citizenship. In this meeting we furthermore continued our work on the specific contents of the online course (Intellectual Output 1).

I’m already looking forward to our next meeting in London!


Upcoming conference talk @ UK-CLC5

I am delighted and honored to say that my paper “Teaching polysemous nous in the EFL classroom – a CL-based approach” got accepted at the 5th UK Cognitive Linguistics Conference at the University of Lancaster. The confirmed plenary speakers are all authorities in the field such as Daniel Casasanto (University of Chicago), Alan Cienki (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), William Croft (University of New Mexico), Adele Goldberg (Princeton University), Stefan Gries (University of California, Santa Barbara), and Elena Semino (Lancaster University).

I will be giving a talk on the progress of my current research focusing on how insights from cognitive semantics are beneficial to ELT, especially with regard to teaching polysemous nouns. For more details click here.


Who owns ELT?

Nick Michelioudakis touches upon some really interesting thinking points when it comes to TEFL. Especially when you teach English to NNSs and the NNST is part of their language community, who will presumably be more capable of spotting the difficulties and pitfalls for the NNS learners? The NST or the NNST who speaks the language of their learners? Still, the TEFL/ELT world seems to be dominated by NSTs. Against this background, shouldn’t it actually be more balanced than that? Well worth reading!


Austrian teacher trainees at the University of East Anglia

Currently I am on a study trip in Norwich (UK) together with a group of aspiring elementary school teacher trainees  who I am happy to be teaching in the facilities of the University of East Anglia together with my colleague. Apart from the very warm welcome, the people of the INTO UEA program have prepared a highly stimulating schedule for our students that will complement their professionalization in the teaching field focusing on various methodological strands such as individual language improvement, storytelling in the FL classroom, CLIL, drama pedagogy, words & music, PE, and even mathematics. Our students will be given the unique opportunity of trying out various techniques and methods in local primary schools, teaching elementary German to English children as guest teachers. This way our students will be capable of broadening their perspective as to what teaching a foreign language in the primary classroom entails, especially with regard to their learners’ behavior in such an educational setting. Insights gained from this experience are of inestimable value for aspiring language teachers and I can only recommend this offer to younger teacher trainees at our institution.