R. Halir, S. Yelamos-Guerra

Universidad de Málaga (SPAIN)
Foreign language skills, particularly in English, are becoming increasingly important for the employability of university students, and are fostered through mobility programs such as Erasmus [1]. However, Spanish students that do not opt for such a mobility experience find few opportunities to improve their language skills in the framework of their degrees, because lectures are delivered almost exclusively in Spanish. Content language integrated learning (CLIL), i.e. acquiring knowledge in a specific subject through a second language, could provide such an opportunity and is attracting considerable attention university level [2-4]. From the lecturer’s point of view, implementing a CLIL course poses three mayor challenges:
i) ensuring that he or she is fluent in English,
ii) receiving proper training on CLIL methodology, and
iii) gauging students’ expectations and capabilities for such a course.

While the first two aspects can be addressed by the lecturer alone, the third aspect is highly dependent on the students’ attitude and previous knowledge. To gain some insight into this aspect we carried out a small-scale survey among a total of 200 students in different semesters of 3 different disciplines (electrical engineering, biology and medicine) at the University of Málaga (UMA), the results of which are reported here.

We focused on four key questions:
a) What should the main goal of the course be: teaching solely content, or a combination of language and content (the CLIL approach).
b) What should be in English: the lecture notes, the classroom interaction, the exams.
c) What should be the degree of fluency of the lecturer: a C1 certificate, a native speaker, or being able to explain clearly and with grammatically correct English.
d) Would the student take a course in English.

While we found notable differences among disciplines, and even between degrees within each discipline, there a several clear trends. a) On average about 50% of students think that teaching should be focused solely on content, and only 30% clearly prefer the CLIL approach. b) Most students (70%) think lecture notes should be in English, but less than half (42%) would like to have English classroom interactions, and even fewer (20%) would take exams in English. c) Regarding the degree of fluency of the teacher a clear majority (65%) prefer a lecturer that can explain clearly in grammatically correct English over a native speaker or a lecturer with a C1 certificate. d) Finally, about 50% would take a compulsory subject in English, and about 65% would take an optional subject in English.
There is, thus, a clear potential for CLIL courses at UMA, albeit with specific challenges related to conveying the advantages of the CLIL approach and preparing students for exams in English.

We would like to thank our colleagues at UMA their help and contributions to the survey, and acknowledge funding from the Universidad de Málaga.

[1] U. Brandenburg, S. Berghoff, and O.T. Álvarez, “The Erasmus Impact Study”, European Commission, Section 3.4, 2014
[2] D. Coyle, “Content and language integrated learning: Motivating learners and teachers”, Scottish Languages Review 13, 2006.
[3] U. Smit and E. Dafouz, “Integrating content and language in higher education”, AILA Review 25, 2012
[4] David Lasagabaster and Aintzane Doiz, “CLIL students' perceptions of their language learning process”, Language Awareness 25, 2016