What is CLIL?
Content and Language Integrated Learning is a method of foreign language instruction whereby other subjects, other than the language, are taught in that language. I am no expert, but I once participated in a conference on this subject. Any time you have students, whether in elementary school, or high school, or university, learning a subject in a second language, you have CLIL.
How widespread is this practice?
It appears to be quite widespread in Europe. Mostly it means teaching subjects in English, in countries were English is not the local language. French immersion in Canada would also be an example of CLIL.
What do you think of this approach to language learning?
I think it makes a lot of sense. As with all language learning, motivation is very important. If the students are not motivated, they may end up not learning the language and not learning the subject that is being taught. It also seems unfortunate that the major use of CLIL is in English language programs in Europe. But given the international importance of English, I guess this is inevitable.
Are there implications for the independent learner?
Certainly there are. Much of my language learning focuses on learning from interesting content. When I study grammar tables or other specific language instructional material, I feel that the effectiveness is quite low. It seems that these things don’t stick with me. When I encounter patterns of the language and vocabulary in contexts such as history books, political interviews, literature or movies, I have the impression that I retain more. The process is more enjoyable. Not only is it more entertaining, but I experience the joy of discovering new things.