Developing Intercultural Communicative Competence through CLIL (Contend and Language Integrated Learning)

Written by: Nikolina Tsvetkova, Teacher trainer,
Department of Information and In-service Training of Teachers, Sofia

CLIL (Contend and Language Integrated Learning)

Summary: The present piece of writing deals with the contemporary context of bilingual education and teachers’ in-service qualification in relation with it. The main tasks of intercultural education and the main groups of intercultural skills which students should acquire while learning a foreign language, their relation to the integrated learning of content and language is substantiated. Two practical activities aiming at the development of intercultural communicative competence and suitable for use in English, Geography and History lessons (9th and 10th grades) are also suggested.

Content and Language Integrated Learning in Bulgaria and the qualification of the teachers who perform it: Content and Language Integrated Learning (bilingual education) in Bulgaria has a long history of about 50 years. In its contemporary form it is connected with teaching subjects such as History, Geography, Biology, Philosophy, and so on in English, German, French, Spanish and some other foreign languages. This type of education, which is now implemented at the bilingual (language) schools does not merely aim at foreign language proficiency, the latter is the means of acquiring knowledge in other branches of science. Obviously, both teachers’ and students’ task is not an easy one as students, in John Clegg’s (1999) words have to do two things in the bilingual classroom: they learn a school subject and at the same time develop their competence in the language through which they arrive at this specialised knowledge. Drawing on EFL methodology he suggests various options for reducing their ‘learning load’ by means of tasks aimed at the development of the four traditional language skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

Teachers’ qualification is of primary importance for a fruitful process of learning any subject through any foreign language. Here I mean not only the qualification of subject teachers but that of the FL teachers who can ‘import’ content elements in their lessons as well and who can play the role of supporters, advisers and partners to colleagues and students alike.

To meet this need, in 2002 a project managed by Stefka Kitanova (Bulgarian Academy of Science, Institute of the Forest/ teacher of Biology at the Miguel de Servantes language school in Sofia) was initiated. Its partners were the Ministry of Education and Science, the British Council, Sofia, Department of Information and In-service Training of Teachers (Sofia), South Western University (Blagoevgrad), Veliko Tarnovo University.

The primary aim of the project was to create a CLIL course for in-service and pre-service qualification of subject teachers as well as to pilot it with both practicing and student teachers. At present, the course has been already trailed out at the Department of Information and In-service Training of Teachers with one group of teachers of various subjects (History, Geography, Chemistry, Biology) while at the South-Western University it is being carried out once a week with students of History who intend to teach the subject in English after graduating. In the autumn, it is going to be trialled out for the second time with a different group of teachers. The course content is in harmony with the contemporary trends in bilingual education, concentrating not subject specific topics, but rather addressing a wide range of problems, drawing on current methods and approaches typical not only of specialized subject fields but also of FL methodology. (Appendix 1)

The course writers have the ambition to start a rich collection of supplementary materials – from articles on the problems of bilingual education to lesson plans and additional materials tried out in practice and developed by teachers and students. Below are two of the tasks included in this collection, developed by me and piloted with two groups of teachers.

Teaching culture and teaching a specialized subject: Today it is hardly necessary to convince people that teaching a foreign language is inextricable from teaching the culture of its speakers and this should be done not simply through “teaching the facts” but developing certain skills, deepening students’ understanding of themselves, inspiring tolerance for otherness. Culture is no longer viewed as “high”, e.g. pieces of various arts, knowing the history of the respective country, but as a small-letter word – the total of views, attitudes, modes of behaviour, which determine a group of people as such. Consequently, it is not by chance that the ‘fifth skill’ – that of being able to communicate interculturally is being discussed together with the “classical” language ones – the skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. When discussing the problem of intercultural communicative competence (ICC), Michael Byram (1997) states that it is a complex of competences, which he terms with the French word ‘savoires’. According to his classification we can speak of ICC when the following skills (savoires) are developed: skills of interpretation and relation; skills of revealing and/or communicating; knowledge of self and other, of communication – in private and in public; an attitude of relativising ‘self’ and appreciating ‘others’.

In Bulgaria, as a result of the active work of a group of teachers of English and with the invaluable support of the British Council, in 1998, appeared the first cultural studies syllabus (Branching Out), whose aims and objectives are achieved in the English language lessons through the foreign language as well as, where necessary, through the mother tongue. It is based on four groups of skills: skills to read critically (implying an ability to distinguish fact from opinion, to decode the hidden message of a text or visual image, to deduce about their author, source, target audience and so on); skills to compare and contrast (own culture phenomena, foreign culture phenomena, own and other culture phenomena), research skills (giving students a chance to investigate on their own into own and/or other cultures and to draw relevant conclusions.

Is it possible that these basic intercultural education postulates occupy a significant place when teaching school subjects in a foreign language or even in the students’ mother tongue? A brief review of the content of arbitrarily chosen textbooks, let us take the 10th grade History textbook or the 9th grade Geography one, shows that to handle the subject matter successfully students have to be able to analyze a piece of literature as a kind of document of the respective epoch, to analyze critically a written historical text as well as statistical data, they have to be able to compare and contrast natural resources and demographic peculiarities of different geographical regions, to participate in discussions and so on. The relation with the above mentioned ‘culture skills’ is more than obvious. Moreover, in these textbooks, there are topics which involve deepening one’s knowledge of own culture as a basis for the better understanding of other cultures – for example, the topic of world demographic development is discussed in History, Geography and Biology.

In a nutshell, the goals of the cultural studies syllabus can be achieved in the CLIL lesson, too. What is needed, however, is to enrich these textbooks with additional tasks and to give an ‘intercultural’ focus of the already existing ones. One possible obstacle before bilingual teachers might be that not all textbooks which correspond to the new school syllabi, have come out in languages other than Bulgarian. Teachers often have to look for and even translate supplementary materials. The library started by us meets this need as well.

Below are two of the tasks included in the ‘practical library’ aimed at development of ICC in History (10th grade) and Geography (9th grade). They can be used to supplement the Earth – people’s planet chapter from the 9th grade Geography textbook (Dimov et al: 2001) or to the topic of Towards a new postindustrial and information society Chapter from the 10th grade History book (Markov et al: 2001)

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Task 1: Demographic structure of my neighbourhood

  1. In pairs read the example from the Chinese government’s advertising campaign.
  2. Discuss
    • Who is the advertisement aimed at? How does the advertisement achieve this aim?
    • Who is it produced by?
    • Why?
    • How does the choice of words influence the reader?
WHY HAVE ONLY ONE CHILD?
For you with one child:
Free education for only child.
Family allowances, priority housing and pension benefits
For those with two children:
No free education, no allowances and no pension benefits.
Payment of a fine to the state from earnings.
To help you:
Women must be 20 years old before they marry
Men must be 22 years before they marry.
Couples must have permission to marry and have a child.
Family planning help is available at work.

Bogoeva, A., Geography and Economics/ Supplementary book, Prosveta, 2003, p 77

3.  Find out how many

  • babies have been born in your neighbourhood in the past three years
  • are the teenagers
  • are the university students
  • are the pensioners
  • people have changed their jobs and why
  • people have lost their jobs and why

4. Discuss: What do your findings tell you about the culture?

Task 2: Help wanted

Based on Barry Tomalin & Susan Stempleski, Cultural Awareness, OUP 1993, pp 65 – 68

  1. In pairs, read the advertisements from the Job wanted columns of Bulgarian and/or British newspapers.
  2. Fill in the Task sheet.
  3. Change pairs and work with a partner who has read the other set of advertisements (Bulgarian or British). Compare your task sheets.
  4. As a ‘whole class’ discuss the following questions:
    • What did you learn about employment in the UK/ Bulgaria?\
    • How are the advertisements in your country similar to those in Britain?
    • How are they different?

Task sheet

Use the information in the advertisements to find out as much as you can about the various types of employment available in the respective culture. Write the information you find under the appropriate heading.

Jobs which pay an hourly wage

Jobs which pay a salary

Jobs with prestige

Facts about working hours

Benefits or ‘extras’ (health insurance, holidays with pay, etc.)

Labour organizations/trade unions

Qualifications required

Age constraints

Other information

Conclusion: The above tasks are based on 9th and 10th grade subject matter and are in a series of similar ones. They presuppose that some work on the development of the ‘fifth skill’ has already been done in the English lessons. They reveal just a small part of the possibilities for development of ICC skills offered by bilingual education in Bulgaria.

Bibliography

Branching Out: A Cultural Stuadies Syllabus (1998) Sofia, Bulgaria: British Council & Tilia
Byram M. Teaching and Assessing Intercultural Communicative Competence, Clevedon, UK, Multilingual Matters
Clegg J. Task Design in the Bilingual Secondary Classroom in Learning Through a Modern Language:models, methods and outcomes, Marsh J (ed.), Lancaster, UK, CILT
Tomalin B. & Stempleski S. (1993) Cultural Awareness OUP, UK
Intercultural Studies for language Teachers: A postgraduate distance learning course (2001) Sofia, Bulgaria, The British Council and Teacher Training Institute
Димов и съавтори (2001) История за 10. клас, София, Просвета
Марков Г. И съавтори (2001) География за 9. клас, София, Просвета

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