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.

Background

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.

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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!

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