GRETA Granada (Spain): Victor Pavón on the use of mother tongue in CLIL

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Victor began by projecting articles from the press highlighting the benefits of multilingualism.  Articles quoting research showing that bilinguals are smarter, for example. He pointed out that the benefits can be classified into two kinds: a. social advantages, b. cognitive advantages. Victor went on to list 8 types/models of bilingual education, one of which was called “Transitional”. In this, the mother tongue is used alongside the target language, and this was the topic of the talk.

Victor contrasted immersion programmes from CLIL. In the former, the teaching is all in the target language. In the latter, L2 is promoted but L1 is “protected” too. In CLIL, it is paramount that the students can cope with the content, and if the L1 is necessary for this, then there’s no reason not to use it. Codeswitching and translanguaging is not only helpful, but also beneficial: it strengthens metalinguistic awareness.

Victor went on to mention a very interesting distinction from Cummings between Basic Interpersonal Communication Strategies (BICS) and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP). The latter benefits from a multilingual approach through the “cognate connection”: CALP-style lexis is often closer to a student’s L1, as the example speed – velocidad – velocity shows.

Victor pointed out that if a multilingual approach has turned in bad results, it is from poor methodology rather than the idea being bad. And crucial in this regard is coordination and teamwork, in particular, between content teachers, language teachers and language assistants. He suggested that this coordination could be structured. For example, a content teacher could focus on CALP and a language assistant could focus on BICS.  (Language assistants are typically native speakers of English working in Andalucía during their “gap year”, and consequently are not trained teachers).

Victor also outlined some example scenarios for differential use of L1 or L2:

-         Some topics in L1, others in L2

-         One teacher using L1, the other teacher using L2

-         Use L1 in room A and L2 in room B

-         Use L1 in one class period and L2 in another

-         Use L2 in instruction and L1 in subsequent pair work.

And scenarios for coordinated team teaching:

-         One teacher fronts the class, the other “drifts”

-         Divide the class in two and each teacher fronts a group

-         Teachers alternate between two groups

-         Two teachers front the class at the same time



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