Diversity in CLIL in Plurilingual Communities of Practice CLILの多様性と複言語コミュニティー

Reported by Graham MacKenzie

On January 26, 2019, the above symposium took place at Sophia University. Celebrating the presence of honorable speakers, Professors Henry Widdowson and Barbara Seidlhoffer of the University of Vienna, Professor Kumiko Murata of Waseda University, Professors Kensaku Yoshida and Makoto Ikeda of Sophia University, 226 researchers and teachers attended the event.

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Introductory Talk: Makoto Ikeda: CLIL in General and CLIL in Japan. Principles, types and implementations.

Professor Ikeda began proceedings with a brief talk on CLIL in general, which set the scene very well for the day.  He started by defining CLIL, emphasising that CLIL is about more than just an integration of content and language and reminding us of the significance of the 4 Cs, i.e. Content, Communication, Cognition and Culture. Less well known is the significance of the 4 Ts in CLIL, which Professor Ikeda introduced us to, these being Text (content and language input in spoken or written form, Task (an activity that requires cognition in the form of lower or higher order skills), Talk (dialogic interaction) and Teamwork (co-constructed learning). Professor Ikeda then argued that of the 4 stages of innovation that exist when a new approach is implemented, CLIL is now at the second stage in Japan, which is that “the early adopters, which have notes that the innovation has no harmful effects, take on the innovation” (White 1998, 139-140).

Plenary Talks

Both plenary talks set CLIL within wide linguistic perspectives and raised interesting and important questions about content and language teaching today.

Henry Widdowson: Context and Language Integrated Learning? CLIL in Historical Perspective.

In his talk Professor Widdowson discussed CLIL from a historical perspective by looking critically at what we mean by the elements of CLIL that make up the acronym itself. He had a number of very interesting points and questions for the audience on this as summarised below.

  • What do we mean by content? This may not be the same as the subject being taught, as the subject refers not only to topics (content) but also to modes of instruction.
  • How are elements of the 4 Cs of CLIL integrated historically?(Professor Widdowson suggested using context rather than culture as part of this). In both the Grammar Translation Method and Structural Language Teaching content and context were subordinated to language cognition. In contrast, in Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), the objective is communication and context and content are related within communication in L2.
  • What makes CLIL different? CLIL is different from CLT or Task Based Language Teaching in that context and content does not need to be contrived, instead it is borrowed from the subject to be taught. The advantage of CLIL is that it “engages the reality of learner experience” as most of the student’s life experience takes place in the classroom. Linking this with language learning makes language learning more meaningful, although the question is raised as to how far it is effective for cognitive learning.
  • What does the second L in CLIL represent in terms of learning? Is it the learning of the language or the learning of the content or subject? Is CLIL an approach to language teaching or subject teaching?
  • Finally, the first L in CLIL, language, refers to the second language to be learned which is often English, but what kind of English are we talking about? And, to further enhance the advantage of CLIL as related to the learners’ own reality, should the L not indeed be understood as language in general, and so also include the linguistic resources available in the learners’ own L1

Professor Widdowson’s talk provided a great opportunity for us to consider CLIL within the historical context of language teaching as a whole, as well as to think deeply about what we mean by terms like “content”, “English” and “learning” and make sure we do not take them for granted.

Barbara Seidlhofer: EMI and CLIL and ELF: How do they relate?

In Professor Seidlhofer’s talk, the context in which CLIL and English Medium Instruction (EMI) was examined was that of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF).  Professor Seidlhofer began the main part of her talk by giving some background on the status of English as a Global Language today while problematising issues around this. As Professor Widdowson also did, she argued we need to consider what we mean by “English” as well as critically question how much SLA research and language education policy is helping us to rethink the global linguistic landscape. Even though English has emerged as the global language, many people in linguistics still fail to recognize the plurality of English in an ELF context or an English that belongs to everyone and not only native speakers. Another aspect that should be considered is the question of “what is a native speaker of a Lingua Franca?” Professor Seidlhofer argued that really there is no such thing and that everyone is a learner of a Lingua Franca, just as there are no native speakers. Another aspect that should be considered is that there are no native speakers of academic English as a Lingua Franca, both “native speakers” of English and “non-native speakers of English” have to learn it.

Professor Seidlhofer then went on to reference the work of McNamara (2011), who argues that as most communication in the globalized workplace is conducted in ELF this needs to be reflected better in English language teaching and testing. As Professor Seidlhofer explained, if “proficiency” is taken to mean communicative effectiveness then this is something that learners at all levels of English display, as observed in research into ELF interactions. What she suggested is a genuinely communicative approach which recognises that ELF users (e.g. EMI students and staff) already have communicative ability and are therefore accomplished language users (Seidlhofer and Widdowson, 2018). Overall, we need to begin to question what we mean by terms such as “speech community”, “competence” and “legitimate speakers of a “language”, especially in high stakes encounters in which the medium of communication is ELF. ELF communication shows us that in order to be communicatively effective language does not have to be what we conceive of as “correct” or well-formed.

Professor Seidlhofer concluded her talk by sharing five implications from ELF research that could be significant for EMI and CLIL;

  1. Function has to be considered as being more important than form. We should consider appropriateness to the subject and context, i.e. effectiveness rather than correctness.
  2. It is important to “adapt, not adopt”, and we should consider the local context and the subject itself before adopting methodology like CLIL wholesale.
  3. There is no such thing as a native speaker of academic English. Students whose first language is English may also struggle to learn it.
  4. “Language expectations” and methods of teaching subjects will differ in different contexts, e.g. medicine in the UK is different in nature from medicine in China.
  5. We should make the most of “the potential of a plurilingual staff and student body” as the whole community can work towards and benefit from a “better understanding of transcultural communication in academic settings”.

It was very thought provoking for the audience to see EMI and CLIL contextualised by Professor Seidlhofer in the global linguistic landscape in this way, and we were also given an important reminder as to why for our students a focus on communication is likely to be more effective than a focus on form.

Round Table Talk:

Kensaku Yoshida: The Meaning of “Standard English” in Japan’s English Education and its Role in Teaching Content.

In his talk Professor Yoshida gave a fascinating overview of the current status of English language teaching in Japan. Firstly, he shared a wealth of research data from different sources which gave us insight in to this, with some of the key points being as follows (see slides for more details and references).

  • Junior and senior high school students tend to recognize the importance of learning English, yet they do not tend to envisage themselves as individuals having a personal need to use English in the future.
  • In junior and senior high schools most classroom activities are still structural and focused on accuracy (e.g. reading aloud or grammar practice)
  • High school students view non-native varieties of English (including Japanese) more positively the more they are exposed to them in class. Inversely, they have more negative attitudes to these varieties the less they are exposed to them and the more they are exposed to native English.
  • The greater the variety of the four skills teachers employ in class and the more that teachers teach English in English, the greater school students’ motivation tends to be.

Professor Yoshida then explained that the Ministry of Education in Japan now defines standard English as an English that is not biased towards a particular variety nor too colloquial in style, i.e. a definition which is compatible with the concept of English as a Lingua Franca. Finally, Professor Yoshida finished with the very positive and inspiring message that in Japan there should be a move away from thinking of American English or Indian English as “their English” and Japanese English as “my English”. Rather, English as a Lingua Franca should be thought of as “our English”, with the emphasis on working together towards mutual understanding with English speakers from other backgrounds.

Kumiko Murata. CLIL and EMI in the Japanese Context – is a Clear Demarcation Possible?: an ELF perspective.

In her talk Professor Murata drew on her own extensive research to help us understand the differences that exist between CLIL and EMI, and indeed between different forms of EMI in the contexts of Japan and ELF. Within EMI, Professor Murata explained that according to her research, there seems to be a significant difference between students’ perceptions of EMI programmes, which tend to require a higher level of English on entry, and EMI courses, which tend to be regarded by students not only in terms of content but also as an opportunity to improve their language ability (thus closer in approach to CLIL).  On the the main theme of demarcation between CLIL and EMI, Professor Murata posed the question of whether EMI has a dual focus on content and language, as CLIL does. She continued by pointing out that as terms in some contexts they are often used interchangeably.

Moving on to the context of English as a Lingua Franca, Professor Murata argued that the English used in EMI in Europe can be characterised as ELF due to the high level of diversity and mobility in educational settings. However, she explained that the conceptualisation of the English of EMI, particularly in terms of policy, is often still one that refers to inner circle native varieties. There is therefore a gap between policy and the reality of the classroom in which ELF is used. In East Asian contexts, this gap clearly exists as EMI is still very much orientated to native speaker norms, which is often a struggle for students. Despite this, after some time in EMI contexts, the attitudes of students in Japan grow more positive as they become able to communicate with people from different linguistic backgrounds (Murata et al., 2017). Also, students tend to regard EMI as an opportunity to improve their language ability and inseparable from the learning of content. Because of this, Professor Murata suggested that a gradual transition from CLIL to EMI, perhaps as introductory courses with more of a focus on language, may be most beneficial. To wrap up, Professor Murata recommended that diversity of students and faculty is necessary in EMI settings and that students should be encouraged to understand and use English as a Lingua Franca.

Makoto Ikeda: The maximisation of learning in CLIL by transregister and translanguaging

In the final talk of the day Professor Ikeda showed the audience how CLIL can work effectively on more of a micro level in the classroom.  He began by showing a video of a Maths lesson conducted in English at a private elementary school in Sendai which demonstrated clear examples of the two key concepts in his talk: translanguaging and transregister. Transregister refers to the deliberate planning of activities that mean that students will use and learn both the language of the subject as well as everyday English in class. Translanguaging, on the other hand, usually simply refers to the use of two languages in class, although Professor Ikeda stressed that he finds it useful to think of this as it is defined by Lewis, Jones and Baker (2012: 643); “planned and systematic use of two languages for teaching and learning in the same lesson”. Translanguaging is effective as it allows students to draw on all their linguistic resources rather than the constraints of being forced to be multilingual (Hornberger, 2005). To pictorially explain what happens in CLIL classes in terms of translanguaging and transregister, Professor Ikeda showed a diagram based on the outline of the Union Flag, with the points of the horizontal part of the cross representing academic and general discourse, that of the vertical representing spoken and written production, and the points of the diagonal cross being the domains between these elements (see slide 10). CLIL teachers can use this diagram to consider how much translanguaging could be happening in class depending on the domain (e.g. spoken production of academic discourse). Professor Ikeda concluded by proposing that learning in CLIL can be maximised by both deliberately allowing for transregister and translanguging, as well as of course the integration of content and language.


All five speakers placed CLIL and EMI in specific contexts, both macro and micro as well as both global and local, to stimulate discussion and raise important questions about the place of these approaches in our diverse contexts. As participants commented, it was wonderful so see such renowned speakers gather together and discuss the topic in a way that teachers, and indeed those with an interest in language education in general, could easily relate to.


Hornberger, N. H. (2005). Opening and filling up implementational and ideological spaces in heritage language education. Modern Language Journal89(4), 605.

Lewis, G., Jones, B., & Baker, C. (2012). Translanguaging: Developing its conceptualisation and contextualisation. Educational Research and Evaluation18(7), 655-670.

McNamara, T. (2011). Managing learning: Authority and language assessment. Language Teaching44(4), 500-515.

Murata, K. Iino, M. & Konakahara, M. (2017). An investigation into attitudes towards ELF in EMI and business settings and its implication for English language pedagogy. Waseda Review of Education 31, 21-38.

Seidlhofer, B., & Widdowson, H. (2018). ELF for EFL: A Change of Subject? In Sikakis, N. & Tsantila, N. (eds) English as a Lingua Franca for EFL Contexts. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

White, R. (1998). The ELT Curriculum: Design, Innovation and Mangement. Wiley-Blackwell.

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