Vocabulary development in a CLIL context: A comparison between French and English L2

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Kristof Baten
Silke Van Hiel
Ludovic De Cuypere


Content and language integrated learning (CLIL) has expanded in Europe, favored by the large body of research, often showing positive effects of CLIL on L2 development. However, critical voices have recently questioned whether these positive findings apply to any language, given that most research focuses on English. Taking into account this concern, the present study investigated the (productive and receptive) vocabulary development in L2 English and L2 French of the same group of learners within a CLIL context. The aim was not to evaluate the benefits of CLIL over non-CLIL, but, instead, to examine whether vocabulary gains in CLIL learning are language-dependent. More specifically, this study included 75 Flemish eight-grade pupils who had CLIL lessons in both English and French. The results show that although the pupils have a larger English vocabulary, the level of improvement (from pretest to posttest) is not different across the languages. The findings indicate that within CLIL vocabulary knowledge also develops in languages other than English.


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Author Biographies

Kristof Baten, Ghent University, Belgium

Kristof Baten is Coordinator of foreign language education at the University Language Centre of Ghent University, Belgium. He obtained a PhD in linguistics from Ghent University in 2011. His research interests include morpho-syntactic development, the bilingual mental lexicon and bilingual language education. He has also conducted research on the effectiveness of explicit instruction and on the role of individual learner differences in a study abroad context.

Contact details: UCT, Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 136, 9000 Gent, Belgium (kristof.baten@ugent.be)

Silke Van Hiel, Ghent University, Belgium

Silke Van Hiel is a research consultant at Ipsos, Belgium, a global company in market research. She received an MA in linguistics and literature (English – French) from Ghent University in 2016. Her master’s thesis examined CLIL in Belgium, with a focus on CLIL learners’ attitudes and motivations as well as productive and receptive vocabulary outcomes.

Contact details: UGENT, LW06, Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent, Belgium (silkevanhiel@gmail.com)

Ludovic De Cuypere, Ghent University, Belgium; Free University of Brussels, Belgium

Ludovic De Cuypere is a lecturer in English linguistics at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium and a research consultant at the Linguistics department of Ghent University, Belgium. He obtained a PhD in linguistics and literature from Ghent University in 2007. His research focusses on alternating morpho-syntactic constructions (e.g., English dative alternation), which he studies from multiple perspectives (different languages, synchrony and diachrony, foreign language learning).

Contact details: UGENT, LW06, Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent, Belgium (ludovic.decuypere@ugent.be)


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