1.1. Language policy
From the onset of the European Union in 1992, language teaching has figured prominently in Community recommendations regarding education. The promotion of linguistic diversity in education and training has always been an important consideration in planning the successful construction of Europe. Back in 1995, the European Council Resolution for development and promotion of language learning (March 31, 1995) stated clearly that linguistic policy in Europe should be based on pluriligualism. It stated that all EU citizens, by the time they leave compulsory schooling, should be able to speak two languages other than the mother tongue. We will look more closely in subsequent sections at what is meant by 'speak', but for now, the policy statement is all that concerns us. By making this policy official, the European Union was in effect committing itself to the administrative and financial implications of establishing this very plurilingualism. Efficient plurilingualism cannot happen automatically, of course. It requires policy. During the same Council Resolution there arose a debate as to whether the current practices of language teaching were sufficient/appropriate for realising this stated ambition. The conclusion was 'no'. This was hardly a novel conclusion. The Lingua Programme, set up in 1990, had already declared the importance of 'promoting innovation in methods of foreign language training' (Eurydice, 2006), and the 1995 Resolution itself spoke of; '...encouraging exchange with Member States of higher education students working as language assistants in schools, endeavouring to give priority to prospective language teachers or those called upon to teach their subjects in a language other than their own' (Ibid page 8) In the same year, the European Commission, in its White Paper on education and training (Teaching and Learning - Towards the Learning Society) wrote that; '...it could even be argued that secondary school pupils should study certain subjects in the first foreign language learned...' In many countries, as we shall see, pupils were already doing this. But the acronym CLIL had not yet been born, and the nature of this 'content-based' te 1.2. A little bit of history
Content-based learning, as it used to be called, has a long history. Parents in Ancient Rome, at least those who belonged to the middle and upper classes, tended to educate their children in Greek, seeing it as a more prestigious, more academic language. It is not known whether this caused the teachers to re-think their classroom management, but you never know! In more recent times, children of the British upper and middle-classes would send their children (usually girls) to 'Finishing School', where they would invariably complete their education exclusively through the medium of French. Switzerland was famous for this type of school, whose heyday was the late 19th century, up to the late 1950's. In Britain, as in Tsarist Russia, French was considered to be the superior living language for academic study, and the perfect complement to a thorough knowledge of Latin. When the social class aspect began to decline (or when state schools began to improve post-war) this type of language provision became more public and more extensive, but mainly in regions that were linguistically distinctive (close to several borders, or naturally plurilingual like Luxembourg). The aim was to turn the children into bilinguals by enabling them to acquire proficiency comparable to native speakers. The term often used was 'bilingual teaching'. During the 1970s and 1980s, this type of provision was best characterised by the enormously important Canadian experiment with immersion learning. This began as a result of English-speaking parents living in the province of Quebec who considered that proficiency in French was vital in a French-speaking environment. This project has given rise to a great deal of interesting research,...
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