The more the merrier – revisiting CLIL-based vocabulary growth in secondary education

Erwin Maria Gierlinger, Thomas Arno Wagner


One crucial aspect of CLIL-based foreign language learning in instructional settingsis vocabulary growth. As a consequence, research should be interested inhow CLIL fosters vocabulary learning. Noticing an apparent shortage of data-drivenquantitative research on vocabulary growth in this field of CLIL is, therefore,problematic. The present paper reports findings from a mixed-methods studyof vocabulary growth in an Austrian lower secondary school CLIL setting, withEnglish as the language of instruction and learning. The aim of the study was toanalyse how the use of CLIL in the English classroom could benefit learners in theiracquisition of vocabulary in the target language. First, a repeated-measure-designwith experimental and control groups assessed receptive vocabulary growth bymeans of a standardized vocabulary size test. Second, students’ questionnaire dataas well as vocabulary profiling of the CLIL teachers’ linguistic input explored possiblecovariates for the vocabulary test scores. We found that CLIL-related effectswere only co-determined by input frequency, while extra-mural factors did notplay any role in this study. As a consequence, overly optimistic expectations regardingthe linguistic impact of CLIL in a mixed-ability setting guided by a predominantlyimplicit language teaching approach need to be re-evaluated critically.



CLIL; receptive vocabulary growth; vocabulary size test; frequency effects; extra-mural factors.

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