CLIL Courses

What is CLIL?

CLIL is Content and Language Integrated Learning. What this means is that a student in a CLIL classroom will learn new content in another language. In effect, they would dually learn content and language. For example, a native Spanish speaker could learn the history of Northern America in the English language.

Why CLIL works

We believe in the CLIL methodology as it combines two worlds. Students learn content through a second language, so learning the second language comes automatically. Furthermore, it is a more authentic way to learn the language as it is learned in context. As a result, students of a CLIL classroom have the opportunity to learn the language faster. 

The impact of CLIL on students

By learning a second language through a CLIL approach, students are given a strong foundation to build upon for their future life.

  • Preparation for the world of work. Through CLIL, Students are prepared for a future international work environment. In the world of work, more and more are expected to speak a second language and to use that second language within the workplace.
  • Become a global citizen. With practical language experience, students will be better able to communicate in an international setting. This will help them to travel, make friends and communicate with members of the global community.
  • Breaks down cultural barriers. Having a second language enables us to communicate across cultures, bringing us together, increasing our understanding of each other.

What happens on an LSI/IH Portsmouth CLIL Course?

An LSI/IH Portsmouth CLIL course equips teachers with the tools they need to teach their subject with confidence.

On our course, you will:

  • Explore the theory and background of CLIL – In order to gain a deeper understanding of what CLIL is and how it works, you will look at CLIL theory before applying it in a practical way.
  • Learn a variety of practical techniques – You will spend time practicing the practical side of CLIL. Looking at how to modify and adapt materials, and what activities work in classes.
  • Look at types of CLIL activities tailored to your subject – Different teachers teach different subjects. Our CLIL teachers are responsive to your needs and will adjust the course to suit your context.

The history of CLIL

In the beginning

CLIL has a long history which stretches right up to modern day Europe. Our CLIL story begins 5,000 years ago. When the Akkadian empire of Mesopotamia conquered the Sumerians, the Akkadians made the decision to learn the Sumerian language and used CLIL to do this. Akkadians studied various subjects through Sumerian such as theology, botany, and zoology. This was the first recorded instance of CLIL in practice. [1]

Matthias Bel

Matthias Bel lived between 1684 and 1749. He was the headmaster of two multilingual grammar schools (German/Hungarian/Slovak/Czech). Bel believed that language was a means to an end, learning the curriculum content. He lived by the words:

“Teach the words by getting to know the reality – the world around us.” [2]

The 1800s

In the 1800s, amongst the more wealthy, there were two common ways of learning a language:

  • Sending children abroad to study the second language within that country (a more immersive approach).
  • Hiring a tutor or governess to teach children in the home. The tutor or governess would speak the target language to the child (an early form of CLIL).

The creation of the term ‘CLIL’

It was in the early 90s that CLIL was finally given a name. David Marsh, a Finnish education expert, differentiated the CLIL methodology from language immersion. He was later involved in the launching of CLIL in Europe.

The cyber generation

Many would agree that the world is becoming increasingly interconnected. Technological innovations such as the Internet have enabled us to exchange knowledge and information at an unprecedented rate. The newer generations, Gen Y (born between 1980 and 1994) and Gen Z (born between 1995 and 2015) [3], were born into this new world. As a result, a greater importance has been placed on ‘immediacy’ by these generations.[4] This has led to a ‘learn as you use, use as you learn’ approach.[5]

The CLIL methodology, which utilizes a second language to complete tasks and learn content, would seem to suit the newer generations’ style of learning. It has therefore re-emerged as one of the most relevant approaches to teaching in modern times.

CLIL and the European Union

Due to the integrated nature of Europe with more and more countries working closer together, freedom of movement increasing etc. It became clear that European citizens would need to be able to communicate in more than their country’s native language.

As a result, in 2002, it was announced by the European Council in Barcelona that a heavy emphasis should be placed on teaching foreign languages at school.[6]

The dilemma facing the European community was the ambition of wanting citizens to learn a second and third language from school age combined with the ever-increasing amount of information that students must absorb at school. There was a danger that it would all be too much. This is when CLIL stepped in. The methodology presented a viable solution for students to learn both another language and the essential subjects of school.

In 2003, the European Commission published their action plan for language learning. This document states that CLIL “has a major contribution to make to the Union’s language learning goals.”[7] Furthermore, the European Commission proposed, as an action to be reviewed in 2007, that CLIL be promoted and CLIL teachers trained.

In 2009, Lecturer DR Anna Czura stated in her research ‘CLIL – the European and the Polish perspective’:

‘CLIL is not solely an interesting alternative to language learning. It has a broader educational dimension; it contributes to the development of multilingualism, promotes European integration and helps the learners to enhance academic skills necessary in the educational and professional careers in the future.’[8]

In 2011, the ‘European Framework for CLIL teacher education’ was published, setting up the principles and ideas for curricula in Europe.

Fast forward to today, and CLIL is fully endorsed by the European Centre for Modern Languages. The ECML not only endorses CLIL as a methodology, but also promotes it and contributes to its development.

CLIL versus Immersion

The terms CLIL and Immersion Programme are often used interchangeably, which is a common mistake. Although the two approaches have much in common, there are several important differences between them. Lasagabaster & Sierra[9] layout 7 key differences.

  • Location: CLIL is not the local language of the district where lessons take place. By this I mean that a different language to the one used in CLIL is used at home, work, or society at large. While during an immersion course, students would have the opportunity to use the second language outside of the classroom in informal and formal settings.
  • Teachers: Typically on an immersion course, teachers would be native speakers of the language they teach. However, CLIL course teachers are typically non-native speakers.
  • Starting age: CLIL tends to focus on secondary school-aged students, while immersion programmes often aim at early age learners.
  • Teaching materials: Immersion programme materials for teachers tend to be designed for native speakers of the language, whereas CLIL teacher materials often feature textbooks which have been edited for non-native teachers.
  • Language objective: On a CLIL programme, the learning of content is always the primary goal, in terms of language development, there is no clearly defined goal. However, immersion programmes aim for their participants to reach an L2 level.
  • Immigrant students: Immigrants often join immersion programmes rather than CLIL courses as they may not be able to pass the necessary regional language exams in the country they have migrated to, in order to be placed on a CLIL course.
  • Research: It was research and tangible data from immersion programmes which really paved the way for CLIL. Immersion programmes were much more common place before CLIL and so CLIL has followed on the heels of its success.

CLIL versus Immersion

Some would say that if you learn the content in a language which is not your own (using CLIL) then your knowledge of the content will suffer. Furthermore, because of this, student and teacher motivation will suffer too.

However, it is important to remember that in a CLIL classroom content always takes priority. On the LSI/IH Portsmouth CLIL course, we will address any concerns and ensure that both teachers and students find CLIL classroom environments engaging and reach their potential.

  1. Mehisto, P., Marsh, D. & Frigols, M.J. (2008). Uncovering CLIL: Content and Language Integrated Learning and Multilingual Education. Oxford: Macmillan Education
  2. Pokrivčáková, S. et al. (2015). CLIL in Foreign Language Education: e-textbook for foreign language teachers. Nitra: Constantine the Philosopher University. 282 s.
  3. Kasasa (2019). Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z explained. Retrieved from
  4. Cavignac, B. (2015). Millennial Career Killer: The Mindset of Immediacy. Retrieved from:
  5. Mehisto, P., Marsh, D. & Frigols, M.J. (2008). Uncovering CLIL: Content and Language Integrated Learning and Multilingual Education. Oxford: Macmillan Education
  6. UNSPECIFIED (2002) Barcelona European Council 15-16 March 2002. Presidency conclusions. [EU European Council] Retrieved from:
  7. UNSPECIFIED (2003) European Commission Action Plan 2004-2006. [Commission of the European Communities] Retrieved from:
  8. Czura, Anna. (2009). CLIL – the European and the Polish perspective. Anglica Wratislaviensia. 46. 105-114. Retrieved from:
  9. Lasagabaster, David & Sierra, Juan. (2009). Immersion and CLIL in English: More differences than similarities. Elt Journal. 63. 10.1093/elt/ccp082.
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