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Profiling Lexical Features of Teacher Talk in CLIL Courses:
The Case of a Higher Education EAP Programme in Japan

Yoshinori Watanabe
Sophia University


The present article reports on research conducted to identify the lexical features of English for Academic Purposes (EAP) courses offered at the university level in Japan. Two of the courses, both of which were developed on the principles of CLIL yet with different orientations, were observed and analysed with respect to the words teachers were using during diverse forms of instruction. In-depth analyses of a total of three 90-minute lessons indicate that the type and frequency of vocabulary items were different between courses, and that significant differences were also present across teaching styles, resulting in idiosyncrasy in the use of vocabulary items. Based on these results, several suggestions are made on the creation of lexical sets serving as a common basic glossary for CLIL courses.


Keywords: English for Academic Purposes (EAP), subject-specific lexicon, subject literacy, classroom data, CLIL

1. Introduction

In any form of programme developed and administered on the principles of CLIL, the combination of content and language undoubtedly comprises its core. The importance of language has always been one of the focal points in CLIL programming (Dale and Tanner, 2012; Harmer, 2012), but in emphasising the importance of integrating content and language, it seems to be common that content receives greater emphasis than language. Thus, the importance of teaching language may be overshadowed by a greater focus on the teaching and learning of subject matter. Observations have been reported of cases where CLIL curricula are centred on the subject matter rather than language, perhaps ‘with the tacit assumption that there will be incidental language gains’ (Dalton-Puffer, 2007: 295). Given that CLIL is ultimately intended to help students improve their knowledge and skills in the target language, due attention needs to be paid to language as well as content. I fully concur with the view that ‘we should not isolate content-based knowledge and skills from the linguistic competences needed for learning’ (Llinares et al., 2012: 14).

It is crucial to weigh the relative importance of content and language so they may be suitably aligned with the expected programme learning outcomes and strike a balance between these elements to meet the needs and the demands of various levels of the learners. By doing so, it becomes possible to help students develop subject literacy, which refers to ‘the spoken and written language forms and texts through which content knowledge is accessed by CLIL learners’ (Llinares et al., 2012: 14). Amongst many linguistic features to be covered in CLIL courses, perhaps the most important is vocabulary (Alba, 2009). Thus there is a need to identify ‘content-obligatory’ terms, which include ‘technical vocabulary and other domain-specific expressions’ (Lyster, 2007: 28).

This article focuses on the lexical features of CLIL as part of a higher education EAP course in Japan. The course is implemented for students who have not yet developed appropriate proficiency in English enabling them to undertake academic studies in specific academic fields. Several evaluation and descriptive studies of CLIL programming in Japanese higher education have been reported elsewhere (e.g. Watanabe et al., 2011; Izumi et al., 2012). These studies were made on the basis of interviews, questionnaire responses, narrative descriptions of the teachers in charge and test scores. To complement these it was apparent that deeper-level systematic observation studies should be conducted to reveal if and how a CLIL programme does lead to added value if compared to regular mainstream courses. As one attempt to that end, this article reports on a study focusing on the lexical features of teacher discourse in two courses.

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The purpose of the present article is then two-fold. First, it is intended to compare and contrast two courses to examine whether the differences in purpose are reflected in actual teaching practices. The second purpose is to identify and collect vocabulary used in the course, particularly that of academic discourse with a view to contributing to future course design.

2. Literature review

A growing number of empirical studies have been conducted to examine the effectiveness of CLIL courses, though the results are often not comparable due to differences of context and methodology (Përez-Canado, 2012). Some studies report that CLIL courses are successful in enhancing students’ knowledge and skills of overall language competence (Zydatiß, 2007; Väzques, 2007) as well as subject area knowledge (Sylvën, 2004). Another set of studies, which examined the linguistic aspects of CLIL courses, involves observational study exploring the language used by teachers and students in CILL classrooms. These studies examine discourse patterns of teacher-student interaction in CLIL and non-CLIL courses (Dalton-Puffer and Smit, 2007). One of these is the Initiation-Response-Feedback (IRF) pattern, which is often criticised as characterising a transmission model of a teacher-centred class as it can engage ‘students only minimally’ and can maintain ‘unequal power relationships between teachers and students’ (Lyster, 2007: 89). However, other discourse patterns are reported which are particularly interesting with respect to greater understanding of the types of talk taking place in CLIL classrooms (Lochtman, 2007; Nikula, 2007). There are also a number of research studies reporting on the learning and teaching of vocabulary. Given that CLIL emphasises the learning of content knowledge, an increase in vocabulary knowledge may not be surprising (Sylvën, 2004; Wode, 1999; Jexenflicker and Dalton-Puffer, 2010).

There are also non-evaluative descriptive studies looking at lexical aspects of CLIL courses. For example, Espinosa (2009) produces a productive lexical profile by examining 130 Spanish learners of English as a foreign language at the end of primary education in two different learning contexts, CLIL with the dual-focused aims of the learning of content and the simultaneous learning of a foreign language versus non-CLIL regular mainstream courses where students learn English as a subject in the Spanish primary curriculum (Espinosa, 2009). A recent substantial contribution to understanding this field is by Llinares et al. (2012), which includes in-depth analyses of the language of teacher talk, as well as that of students through a systemic functional grammar framework.

Contributions from fields other than CLIL yet relevant include Horst (2010) and Tang (2011). Horst (2010) analysed a 121,000-word corpus of native English teacher’s speech recorded in Canada to examine whether teacher talk in the classroom served as an opportunity for the learner to acquire vocabulary. The result indicates that the overwhelming proportion of teacher talk consisted of very basic words, and that the teacher’s speech contained many words which were unfamiliar to the learners; far fewer being recycled than what research shows are needed for lasting retention. Tang (2011) analysed a total of six 200-minute lessons of teacher talk of non-native speakers of English in China. The findings indicated that teacher talk did not provide students with a lexically rich environment, nor did the teachers use the basic words as frequently as had been expected.

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Interestingly, although carried out in different contexts, these two studies concur that teacher talk may be inadequate as a source of input to the learners. Indeed, the effectiveness of incidental acquisition of vocabulary just by listening to teacher talk is called into question based on the empirical research. Thus, conscious attention needs to be paid to a specific word that the learner has to learn. The research studies conducted in the field of CLIL have also shown that incidental learning of vocabulary does not work well enough to enhance students’ acquisition. Admiraal et al. (2006) report that there was no statistical difference between CLIL and non-CLIL course students in terms of receptive vocabulary knowledge. It is also reported that the type of benefit that appears to be gained by CLIL courses may have actually been brought about by some other factors such as extracurricular reading (Ackerl, 2007). There is also an observation that calls into question the type as well as quantity of vocabulary that may not be appropriate for students (e.g. Alba, 2009). Research also indicates that it is not the quantity but the quality of teacher talk that is important in bringing about effective language learning in CLIL programmes (Dalton-Puffer, 2007).

In conclusion, it is argued that a subject-specific glossary could be a useful tool in enabling teachers to enrich their use of talk in the classroom. This article examines if there is a substantial difference in vocabulary that teachers use in two different types of CLIL courses at Sophia University, Tokyo. The major purpose of the study leading to this article was to gather data so as to create genre-based glossaries. In order to create a set of lexical items useful for CLIL it is helpful to examine authentic classroom discourse and identify words found in CLIL courses which are significantly different in use to those found in EAP contexts.

3. Background

The Academic English Programme at Sophia University is a course which was initially implemented experimentally, and as of 2009 as a fully-fledged university-wide programme. Academic English 1 (hereafter, AE1) and Academic English 2 (hereafter, AE2) are the two courses that comprise the programme. These courses have been developed based on the principles of CLIL, and aim to integrate language, content, and academic skills. In Japan the academic year begins on the first of April and ends on the last day of March the following year. At Sophia University, the spring semester starts in the middle of April and continues to the end of July, while the autumn semester starts on the first of October and continues to the end of January the following year. Each semester consists of 15-week sessions each consisting of 90-minute units.

AE1 is offered during the spring semester and is intended to prepare students for academic studies in English by teaching them some basic skills necessary to take AE2. The course aims to help students develop a range of study skills, including note-taking, critical thinking and reading of academic articles. Students are also provided opportunities to learn from various participatory classroom activities such as pair work, group work, group projects as well as individual tasks. Thereby, it was expected that students would learn to take on various roles in group work, learning effectively through pair work by interacting with the teacher and peers in the classroom. In addition, there were many opportunities to practice and develop the language and skills for communicating meaningfully in discussions, and producing written work.

AE2 is geared towards the content component of the principle of CLIL. The course is offered in the autumn semester to help students develop their English skills further and acquire language through a specific subject by using the skills that they have developed in AE1. In teaching AE2, the instructors are expected to encourage students to apply the academic skills covered in AE1 in the context of learning the academic content. In addition, practice and development of the necessary language and skills for communicating meaningfully in discussions takes place in the classroom and through written work. The AE1 and AE2 target students are those whose major is not English, including those majoring in a foreign language other than English, social sciences, natural sciences, and so forth. These students are confident in vocabulary and reading, which enables them to read a relatively long text written with complex sentence structures occasionally using a dictionary, but not yet proficient enough to communicate in English fluently for academic purposes.

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4. Method

Observation schedule, background and participants

In order to achieve the goal of the present research, observations were conducted on three lessons, which were taught by two different teachers as shown in Table 1. Teacher A in his 30s had been teaching EFL in Japan for two years at the time of the classroom observation. Teacher B is in his 50s and had been teaching EFL at university in Japan for more than ten years. Both are native speakers of British English. Teacher A was observed for his AE1 on 23 June and AE2 (i.e. content-oriented course) on November 10, 2011. Teacher B was observed for his AE1 (i.e. language/study-skills oriented course) on 22 June, 2012. There were approximately 20 students in each class. Native speakers of English having the potential to use a wide range of language were ideal for the present purpose of gathering data for creating a subject-specific lexicon.

Table 1. Diagrammatic representation of the three classes observed

  AE1 (Language/study skill) AE2 (Content-Oriented)
Teacher A 90 minutes; June 23, 2012 90 minutes; November 10, 2011
Teacher B 90 minutes; June 22, 2012  

During the observations, I was seated at the back of the classroom, taking field-notes on teacher talk, teacher’s instructional management, what he wrote on the chalkboard, students’ behaviours, and any other events that caught my attention as long as they were deemed to be related to the issue of language use in the course. Meanwhile, I used a DVD camera focused on the teacher to record the lesson. The recording was subsequently transcribed word for word, though the sound aspects of language use such as intonation patterns, word stress and the speed of delivery were not written up.

Note that AE1 is conducted according to the same syllabus by both teachers, with the topic of ‘understanding the importance of peer review to become a cooperative and independent learner’ on the day of observations. On the other hand, AE2 allows instructors to have greater freedom to teach according to their own initiative, but according to a set of requirements as noted above. The purpose of Teacher A’s AE2 course was to give students the opportunity to read, learn about and discuss literature written in English. Students were required to submit a written assignment of a thousand words, analysing a piece of literature or outlining a literary figure. There was also a written examination conducted in class, and two mini-presentations as well as participation in class discussions. The course also aimed to build on the students’ critical thinking skills and use a combination of these to understand the works being read.

5. Results and discussion

Narrative descriptions of the observed lessons

Before presenting and discussing the results of the analysis, those parts of the field-notes which are useful in characterising each lesson are summarised below, so the reader may have a general sense of what the lesson looked like. First, Teacher A seemed to be using different types of metalanguage in AE1 (i.e. language-/study-skills course) and AE2 (i.e. content-oriented course). He used words which are related to language and study skills such as ‘essay,’ ‘paragraph’ etc. in AE1 whereas he used literature-related words such as ‘metaphor,’ ‘literature’ etc. in AE2. During the observation of the AE2 course, I noted that the teacher rarely corrected student errors, nor did he explain the structure of language explicitly. It seems too obvious that the teacher used metalanguage more frequently in the language-oriented course. But what makes it substantive is the fact that the degree of frequency seemed to be far greater in language-oriented course than in content oriented-course. Reference to content is surprisingly infrequent.

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Second, there seemed to be differences in the way classrooms were managed. In AE1, Teachers A and B both appeared to be trying to raise students’ awareness of the importance of classroom management more frequently in AE1 than in AE2. This is surely understandable in light of the fact that the AE1 courses were offered during the spring term, which would necessitate teachers reminding students of the teaching procedures and requirements specific to the course. Accordingly, the words that the teachers used frequently appeared to include such words as ‘homework,’ ‘score,’ ‘grade,’ and so forth.

Third, there is a difference in the type of words that were used in AE1 by Teachers A and B on the one hand, and in AE2 by Teacher A. In the former classes, a number of words of encouragement were used more frequently than in the latter. Likewise, concerns for the affective state of students characterises AE1, which was typically expressed in the words: ‘pointing out partner’s mistake may embarrass him,’ and other adjectives such as ‘bored,’ ‘confident,’ and ‘shy,’ though the frequency is not so large as to make a substantial difference between the two courses.

There were many other observations which would merit further in-depth analyses, such as the type of questions teachers asked, the instructions the teachers gave to the students, the relative frequency of turn-taking and the teaching strategies (e.g. Teacher B repeated the same notion many times, perhaps because by doing so he was trying to help students better understand the notion. When explaining the word ‘posthumous’, Teacher A put it into context, and asked students to guess its meaning. Likewise, he spent time explaining the word ‘controversial.’)

Profiling vocabulary of CLIL courses

The texts consisting of three sets of transcriptions were analysed by using AntConc, a freeware tool for carrying out corpus linguistics research (Anthony, 2011). In the first stage of analyses, the list of vocabulary items was produced for each of the three courses. The frequency profile of the entire transcript in terms of vocabulary items is shown in Table 2.

Table 2. Type and token of teacher talk

  Token Type Type-token Lexical density
AE1 by Teacher A 5,212 689 0.13 0.46
AE1 by Teacher B 3,871 550 0.14 0.51
AE2 by Teacher A 4,650 694 0.15 0.46

This table shows that the difference between teachers were noticeable in terms of type, token and lexical density1. The results could be interpreted to indicate that Teacher A used a greater variety of words (689 types in AE1 and 694 types in AE2) than Teacher B (550 types in AE1). Teacher A also used a greater number of words (5,212 tokens in AE1 and 4,650 in AE2) than Teacher B (3,871 in AE1), though there was little difference in type-token ratio. The value in lexical density was slightly smaller for Teacher A’s classes (0.46 for both AE1 and AE2) than Teacher B’s class (0.51 for AE1), which implies that the students might have found it harder to follow Teacher B than Teacher A only in so far as the vocabulary feature indicates.

Further analyses were carried out to examine the results in greater detail by using VocabProfile ( (see Laufer and Nation, 1995). The results in Table 3 reveal yet another tendency in the use of vocabulary by the two teachers. That is, even Teacher A differed in terms of vocabulary use between two of his courses: AE1 (language- and study-skills-oriented) and AE2 (content-oriented). For example, there was very little difference in the use of K1 level words (1-1000) between the two courses (84.90 for AE1 and 84.65 for AE2), whereas there were substantial differences in K2 (1000-2000) level (4.13 for AE1 and 5.06 for AE2). There was also a difference in the use of off-list words from AWL (Coxhead, 2000)2: i.e. 6.44 in AE1 and 7.90 in AE2 with K1 and K2 levels in total. As we will see later in greater detail, the result indicates that in Teacher A’s AE2 course, he tended to use a greater number of proper nouns, which are not listed in AWL.

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Table 3. Type and tokens of AE1 (Teacher A), AE1 (Teacher B) and AE2 (Teacher A) analysed by VocabProfile

  Teacher B AE1 Teacher A AE1 Teacher A AE2
  Families Types Tokens Percent Families Types Tokens Percent Families Types Tokens Percent
K1 Words
280 381 3020 78.24 318 441 4404 84.90 312 456 3931 84.65
K2 Words
43 50 187 4.84 78 91 214 4.13 62 75 235 5.06
1k+2k 83.00 89.03 89.71
AWL Words (academic): 40 54 377 9.77 52 63 235 4.53 36 47 111 2.39
57 276 7.15 84 334 6.44 106 367 7.90
  363 542 3860 100 448 679 5187 100 410 684 4644 100

The vocabulary lists were further analysed to identify the characteristics of each course and to examine which words are unusually frequent or infrequent in the text in comparison with the words in a reference text. Because it did not make much sense to compare the function words (i.e. prepositions, conjunctions, articles) for the present purpose, only content words were chosen for comparison. Table 4 lists the most frequently used 30 words that Teacher A used uniquely in his AE2 course in comparison with his AE1 course. Table 5 shows the list of 30 words the same teacher most frequently used in his AE1 course in comparison with his AE2 course.

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Table 4. The most frequently used words in Teacher A’s content-oriented course (AE2) in comparison with his language/study skill-oriented course (AE1)

  Rank Frequency Keyness Target words
1 6 75 21.006 Poem
2 20 32 8.963 Sylvia Plath
3 26 37 5.185 Know
4 27 17 4.761 Background
5 30 32 4.070 Think
6 31 14 3.921 Cultural
7 32 14 3.921 Move
8 33 13 3.641 Life
9 35 12 3.361 Group
10 36 12 3.361 Poetry
11 38 11 3.081 Holocaust
12 39 11 3.081 Metaphors
13 40 27 3.004 Read
14 41 25 2.595 Right
15 42 9 2.521 Analysis
16 43 9 2.521 Father
17 44 9 2.521 Information
18 45 9 2.521 Shoe
19 48 8 2.241 Enjoy
20 49 8 2.241 Vampires
21 52 22 2.005 Good
22 55 7 1.961 Confusing
23 57 7 1.961 German
24 58 7 1.961 Historical
25 59 7 1.961 Literature
26 60 7 1.961 Metaphor
27 62 6 1.681 Criticism
28 63 6 1.681 Died
29 64 6 1.681 Reference
30 65 6 1.681 Rhythm

Note: The words are arranged in the order of keyness.

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Table 5. The most frequently used words in Teacher A’s language/study skill-oriented course (AE1) in comparison with his content-oriented course (AE2)

  Rank Frequency Keyness Target words
1 14 48 12.163 Draft
2 17 47 11.910 Essay
3 18 41 10.389 Presentation
4 20 59 9.036 Good
5 23 50 7.083 Think
6 25 44 5.816 Important
7 27 41 5.195 First
8 30 16 4.054 Presentations
9 31 34 3.791 Give
10 34 32 3.403 partner
11 35 13 3.294 peer
12 42 10 2.534 review
13 44 9 2.281 research
14 45 9 2.281 same
15 46 9 2.281 workshop
16 48 8 2.027 easy
17 49 8 2.027 mistakes
18 50 8 2.027 paragraph
19 51 8 2.027 pictures
20 55 7 1.774 email
21 56 7 1.774 fine
22 57 7 1.774 list
23 58 7 1.774 number
24 59 7 1.774 statement
25 60 7 1.774 thesis
26 61 7 1.774 visual
27 68 6 1.52 circle
28 69 6 1.52 confident
29 71 6 1.52 score
30 72 6 1.52 style

Note. The words are arranged in the order of keyness.

The differences between the words that Teacher A used in two different courses are obvious. In AE2, which focused on the teaching of literature as content, the teacher was teaching the reading of a poem by Sylvia Plath. Not surprisingly the most frequently used content word was ‘poem.’ The word was used 75 times during the 90-minute session with the keyness indicated by a loglikelihood ratio3 of 21.006. The second most frequently used word was ‘Sylvia Plath’, the author of the target poem of the lesson. The other words which are unique in comparison with the teacher talk of the lesson which was used as a comparison source includes ‘background,’ ‘cultural,’ ‘life,’ and so forth. ‘Poetry,’ the word related to poem, was also used frequently (36th among the total number of words used in the lesson). It should also be noted that Teacher A was frequently using metalanguage, such as ‘metaphors,’ ‘literature,’ ‘rhythm’ and other words which are all related to poetry rather than language studies. The other set of words, which should be noted in passing but still important in relation to CLIL courses, included words related to cognitive skills, such as ‘know,’ ‘think,’ ‘read,’ ‘analysis,’ and so forth.

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The words that were commonly used in both Teacher A’s and Teacher B’s AE1 (i.e. language skill-based course) are listed in Tables 5 and 6. It is clear that there are a substantial number of words that are related to the purpose of the particular courses: e.g. ‘draft,’ ‘presentation,’ ‘essay’ in the case of Teacher A’s lesson, and ‘topic,’ ‘paragraph,’ ‘sentence,’ ‘transitional’ in Teacher B’s lesson. In contrast to these general academic terms, the words which are related to a specific topic are not found with only one exception in each of the teacher’s lessons (i.e. ‘Thomas Jefferson’). One other type of word that seems to be unique to the discourse of AE1 includes those words which have bearing to socio-affective factors, particularly in Teacher A’s discourse, there were such words as ‘good,’ ‘important,’ ‘feel,’ ‘interesting,’ and so forth.

Table 6. The most frequently used words in Teacher A’s language/study skill-oriented course (AE1) in comparison with Teacher B’s language/study skill-oriented course (AE1)

  Rank Frequency Keyness Target words
1 14 48 9.797 draft
2 17 41 8.369 presentation
3 19 59 6.536 good
4 22 50 5.027 think
5 24 47 4.537 essay
6 25 44 4.056 important
7 27 41 3.583 first
8 30 13 2.653 peer
9 32 34 2.524 give
10 33 12 2.449 feel
11 39 32 2.235 partner
12 40 10 2.041 interesting
13 41 10 2.041 review
14 43 9 1.837 guys
15 44 9 1.837 workshop
16 49 8 1.633 mistakes
17 50 8 1.633 pictures
18 51 8 1.633 things
19 53 7 1.429 fine
20 54 7 1.429 hand
21 55 7 1.429 visual
22 57 7 1.429 way
23 59 6 1.225 book
24 60 6 1.225 circle
25 61 6 1.225 confident
26 62 6 1.225 kind
27 63 6 1.225 language
28 65 6 1.225 score
29 66 6 1.225 style
30 69 24 1.167 people

Note: The words are arranged in the order of keyness.

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Table 7. The most frequently used words in Teacher B’s language/study skill-oriented course (AE1) in comparison with Teacher A’s language/study skill-oriented course (AE1)

  Rank Frequency Keyness Target words
1 7 75 18.007 topic
2 9 67 15.575 paragraph
3 12 56 12.279 sentence
4 22 22 7.304 transitional
5 24 36 6.513 essay
6 26 15 4.98 aspect
7 27 15 4.98 phrases
8 28 27 4.091 structure
9 29 12 3.984 signals
10 30 26 3.833 body
11 31 26 3.833 one
12 32 26 3.833 read
13 33 25 3.578 statement
14 36 24 3.326 thesis
15 38 9 2.988 introductory
16 40 22 2.832 look
17 42 8 2.656 information
18 45 20 2.355 main
19 46 20 2.355 sentences
20 47 7 2.324 best
21 48 7 2.324 building
22 49 7 2.324 second
23 50 19 2.123 ideas
24 52 6 1.992 indicate
25 53 6 1.992 Thomas Jefferson
26 54 6 1.992 material
27 55 1 1.315 academic
28 56 1 1.315 agree
29 57 1 1.315 answer
30 58 1 1.315 ask

Note: The words are arranged in the order of keyness.

In order to further examine the vocabulary items listed in the AWL, VocabProfile was run again on the same set of corpus data. The output yielded the list of words as shown in Table 8. These words could usefully be added to the list of basic vocabulary not only for this particular programme, but also for the programme that is implemented for a similar level of students elsewhere. What is well worth noting is that there are quite a few proper nouns in the list of AE2. This is particularly the case because the course was on literature. But given that generally a list of vocabulary of this sort tended not to include proper nouns, it could be said that these types of words need to be characteristically included in a CLIL glossary.

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Table 8. The words that are not listed in AWL but were used in the observed lessons

Teacher B AE1
African_[1] ambassador_[2] America/n_[2] atomic_[1] banned_[2] Hillary Clinton_[1] colon_[5] desserts_[1] diagrams_[1] divorce_[3] efficiently_[4] email_[6] emotions_[1] essay_[36] European_[1] feedback_[1] France_[2] Germany_[1] handout_[3] hint_[1] homework_[6] importing_[1] Japan_[1] Japanese_[1] Thomas Jefferson_[6] laundry_[1] number_[1] paraphrase_[1] phrase/s_[20] practiced_[1] punctuation_[1] restate_[1] restatement_[1] shy_[1] standup_[1] television_[3] video_[1] Virginia_[1] vocabulary_[2]
Teacher B AE2
beach_[1] bibliography_[1] bored/boring_[3] classroom_[1] crazy_[1] damn_[1] deadlines_[1] email_[7] embarrassing_[3] England_[1] essay/s_[50] facebook_[1] feedback_[4] guys_[9] handouts_[2] handsome_[1] homework_[2] hopefully_[1] Japan_[1] Japanese_[4] Jurassic_[2] karaoke_[1] microphone_[4] mirror_[1] moodle_[1] movie_[1] nervous_[1] peer/s_[14] portfolio_[1] presentations_[16] presenter_[2] professors_[1] rebuild_[1] references_[5] rehearse_[1] sandals_[1] scared_[1] score_[6] shy_[5] sigh_[1] silly_[1] spider/s_[6] Steve_[5] tick_[2] underline_[5] update_[1] usage_[1] video_[1] visuals_[2] vocabulary_[3] walrus_[7] workshop_[9]
Teacher A AE2
adjective_[2] American/s_[4] Ariel_[2] auto-_[1] autobio_[1] autobiographical_[3] bio-_[1] Boston_[1] boyfriend_[1] British_[1] brutal/ly_[6] bull_[1] career_[1] considerate_[1] controverse_[1] criticisms_[7] daddy_[7] divorce_[2] electronic_[1] England_[2] feminism/ist_[5] Sigmund Freud_[5] genres_[2] German_[7] girlfriend_[1] googled_[2] graph_[1] handsome_[1] holocaust_[11] homework_[1] horrible_[2] Hughes_[5] -ical_[1] impressions_[1] innocence_[2] James_[1] jar_[2] Jew_[1] Jewish_[4] linguistics_[1] metaphor/s_[18] movies_[1] nationality_[1] novel_[2] Oedipus_[1] Paltrow_[1] Sylvia Plath_[32] posthumous/ly_[6] professor_[2] psychoanalysis_[2] quiz_[1] reference/s_[10] rhyme/s_[5] rhythm_[6] Russian_[1] skip_[1] stake_[1] stance_[3] stanza_[3] suicide_[3] summarizer_[1] tragic_[2] trailer_[1] twilight_[2] underline_[2] unpacked_[2] vampire/s_[13] video_[4] vocabulary_[3] Wikipedia_[1]

Note: Proper nouns are in bold type.

Lastly, a sample list of basic vocabulary items for the CLIL courses is summarised in Table 9. This is still a very small tentative list consisting of the words that were identified in the present research. This is a type of lexicon that could be used for CLIL programmes in different subject areas.

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Table 9. The vocabulary items typifying the four components of CLIL (selected examples)

Sub-goals of CLIL course Examples of words to be listed
Subject specific (literature) background, historical, holocaust, life, literature, metaphor(s), poem, poetry, rhythm
Language skills body, building, draft, essay, first, second, third, [i.e. enumerators] , introductory, main ideas, paragraph, phrases, sentence, statement, structure, style, thesis, transitional
Study skills analysis, aspect, confusing, criticism, information, indicate, know, list, peer, presentation, read, reference, research, review, same, signals, topic, visual, workshop
Course management confident, hand in, material, score, study
Socio-affective aspects of language learning confident, feel, fine, interesting, kind

6. Conclusion

This article reports on the outcomes of a study investigating lexical features of CLIL courses that are implemented at tertiary level education in Japan. The results show that there are differences in words used in different CLIL courses. In the course where the greater emphasis is placed on language and study skills, a range of academic words were used. On the other hand, in the course which was geared towards the content element of CLIL, literature in this case, a number of words that are related to literary studies are reported.

It is also common to view the language classroom as the environment for learning a language with the expectation of providing students with the opportunities of being exposed to the target language (e.g. Ellis, 2005; vanPatten, 2003). In this sense, CLIL supports the attainement of such a goal, because in order for the students to learn vocabulary, they need to be interested in the content of the text and activated in guessing the meaning of unfamiliar words from context (Nation, 2001). As previous studies show, however, simply exposing students to an environment where the target vocabulary is used is not sufficient for the students to acquire words, but rather deliberate strategies have to be employed to facilitate learning (e.g. Yamamoto, 2012). In order to create such a circumstance in the language-rich classroom, we need to identify the type of words that are unique to a course and systematically employ them in CLIL classrooms (Dalton-Puffer, 2007).

Indeed, in the classroom that I observed in this study the teachers were using various strategies for teaching vocabulary, such as word analysis, guessing from context, and so forth. As Laufer and Hulstijn’s involvement load hypothesis (2001) suggests, vocabulary learning could presumably be enhanced to the extent to which students are engaged in effortful cognitive processing. Nation (2001) asserts that intentional and incidental learning are complementary activities, recommending that ‘a well-designed language learning programme has an appropriate balance of opportunities to learn from message-focused activities and from direct study of language items, with direct study of language items occupying no more than 25% of the total learning programme’ (Nation, 2001: 232). It may be important to take a counterbalanced approach to learning a language in content instruction (Lyster, 2007), ‘a form of instruction which pushes their attention towards features of the target language that they may not otherwise notice’ (Llinares, et al., 2012: 12).

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This article suggests that the construction of a glossary for specific genre or specific areas would be useful in supporting both students and teachers engaged with CLIL. However, it is also indicated that the provision of a range of useful linguistically-enhanced teaching and learning strategies is needed. There are a number of good resource books and materials to that end (e.g. Nation, 2001), but the usefulness of deliberate teaching using the lexicon has to be examined empirically as an important part of evaluation. The task is beyond the scope of the present research, but has to be undertaken as a routine component of any CLIL programme.


My thanks are due to Mr. Gilder Devila, who transcribed the recordings, and two teachers, referred to as Teacher A and Teacher B in this paper, who allowed me to observe their lessons, without whom the present study could not have even been initiated.


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1 ‘Type’ is a class of a word unit, whereas ‘token’ is the instance of a type. For example, in the sentence ‘CLIL teachers can be subject teachers or language teachers’, there are nine tokens but seven types. Lexical density or often referred to as type-token ratio is a measure of the ratio of different words (type) to the total number of words (token) in a given text. It is interpreted to indicate the difficulty of a text.
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2 ‘The Academic Word List (AWL) was developed by Averil Coxhead as her MA thesis at the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. The list contains 570 word families which were selected according to principles. The list does not include words that are in the most frequent 2000 words of English. The AWL was primarily made so that it could be used by teachers as part of a programme preparing learners for tertiary level study or used by students working alone to learn the words most needed to study at tertiary institutions.’ (
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3 The keyness indicates the degree of uniqueness of the given text in comparison with another text (i.e. reference text). The loglikelihood ratio is the measure that is used to assess the fit of the model to the data, represented as the following formula: formula (Field, 2009: 267). The larger figure indicates the degree of uniqueness of the word in the text in comparison with the list produced by the comparison text.
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