Language skills are essential in a multilingual Europe


Content and Language Integrated Learning, known as CLIL, is the teaching of non-language subjects through a foreign language. It’s an educational approach where subjects are taught through a second or foreign language, rather than the language being taught as a subject itself. The focus is on both the content of the subject being taught such as science, history, or mathematics and the language used to convey that content.

Since its inception in the 1990s, it has become extremely popular in European countries and is now part of European mainstream education. According to the 2023 Eurydice report on teaching languages at schools in Europe, CLIL programs are available in 35 European countries, at all education levels.  

However, the practice of CLIL in primary and secondary schools presents many challenges, which negatively affect the realisation of CLIL’s full potential. If CLIL is implemented well, it will help students to use at least one foreign language confidently for professional and academic purposes. This competence goes beyond using the terminology of different subjects appropriately.  

This ability encompasses both competencies in doing the subject, including acquiring relevant knowledge and using the appropriate language, and is known as bi/multilingual disciplinary literacies.

Girl sat infront of a computer with the words "Hola; Bonjour; Ola; Hello" on a blackboard behind her

If young people attending CLIL programs can complement their first language disciplinary literacies with those in a foreign language, they will be more successful in employment and higher education, which would lead to increased competitiveness and inclusiveness on a European scale.   

The growing need for such bi/multilingual disciplinary literacies is clear from data from the business and higher education sectors across Europe. Most employers today expect that their employees are fluent in foreign languages at work. In addition, student mobility keeps growing providing opportunities for students to learn new languages.

Despite the presence of robust research and compelling models, the exploration in this field remains fragmented due to its concentration on isolated facets of interdisciplinary literacies. Moreover, CLIL research efforts are dispersed unevenly across Europe, resulting in only a handful of geographic and educational contexts being thoroughly examined. Consequently, empirical evidence supporting established models of multilingual disciplinary literacies within these contexts remains scarce.

Introducing CLILNetLE COST Action

Launched in October 2022, CLILNetLE COST Action, which stands for CLIL Network for Languages in Education: Towards bi- and multilingual disciplinary literacies, aims at connecting researchers across Europe to develop an impactful, shared research agenda and strategy, which targets the development of bi- and multilingual disciplinary literacies in CLIL. Since then, this collaborative network has gathered more than 180 researchers from 37 countries, including language education, non-language subject methodologies, and experts from the field of digital media and multilingual schools.

Black board with the words "Lean languages; adjectives; nouns; verbs; adverbs" written in chalk

Through dedicated Working Groups, this research network is forging a unified conceptual framework and research roadmap for delving into the realm of bilingual and multilingual disciplinary literacies within CLIL contexts. CLILNetLE will identify patterns of use, development, and existing good practices in terms of supporting bi/multilingual disciplinary literacies at school, focusing on grades 5-13. The collected data and information will be then shared with educational stakeholders and within academia, but also with post-secondary and industry stakeholders and the general public. Each Working Group is focusing on a particular aspect of CLIL and bi/multidisciplinary literacies.

“The educational approach CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) supports European school leavers to become ready for an increasingly multilingual professional and academic future, where foreign language proficiency beyond everyday uses is crucial. This COST Action brings together expertise in research and teaching practice from across Europe and beyond to better understand bi- and multilingual disciplinary literacies and ultimately improve the teaching practices in this area and I am excited to be chairing this CLILNetLE’s large team of great colleagues,”

Prof Julia Hüttner, Chair of CLILNetLE

The Action aims to provide a collection of standardised research instruments for the CLIL research community. Multimodal Teacher Resources will be created for practicing CLIL teachers, based on the good practices collected during the work of the Action. Language Policy Recommendations will be compiled for stakeholders to guarantee that CLIL’s full potential is reached in Europe to the benefit of students, teachers, and a broader community, contributing to better language skills that are indispensable in a multilingual Europe.

Additional information