The Influence of CLIL on Receptive Vocabulary: A Preliminary Study
In the last two or three decades, being able to communicate in a foreign language has become an essential trait of any European citizen due to globalisation and migration, resulting in a multi-ethnic and multilingual society. With this in mind, the European Union has been promoting the implementation of a new type of instruction that seeks to improve people’s ability to communicate, namely Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL). Previous studies have shown that CLIL seems to be beneficial to receptive vocabulary, which in turn correlates with a higher level of general competence. However, these studies have mainly compared CLIL and Non-CLIL groups matching in the year of instruction, which means that other factors could explain the variation found. The present study, even though exploratory in nature, sets out to fill this gap by comparing groups with the same onset age as well as controlling for other variables, such as the number of hours of exposure. This way, any improvement, or lack thereof, can be traced to the type of instruction. The sample consisted in students from 1st and 3rd year of Compulsory Secondary Education (known as ESO for its Spanish name) who had started learning English at the age of 3. They were divided into groups depending on whether they were taught any subject through English (in addition to English lessons) and what grade they were in. Other sources of exposure to English have been carefully controlled for. To test general proficiency, the Quick Placement Test (QPT) was used, and the 1,000 and 2,000 frequency bands of the Vocabulary Levels Test (VLT) were delivered to measure functional vocabulary size. Results show that vocabulary forms an integral part of general proficiency and suggest that its relevance increases as level of mastery in the target language improves. Moreover, CLIL students in 1st and 3rd ESO have outstripped their respective Non-CLIL counterparts in both general proficiency and receptive lexical knowledge, which means they have attained a better ability to understand a foreign language with the same years of instruction. In addition, CLIL learners in 1st ESO have been found to perform as well as a Non-CLIL sample in 3rd ESO with 57 more hours of exposure in general proficiency and functional vocabulary size. Considering the level of English language lessons, differences in cognitive maturity and lower amount of exposure, it is argued that CLIL instruction has benefits beyond allowing more hours of English instruction in the same number of academic years of study. The present paper suggests that CLIL implementation should be further encouraged.