Content and Language Integrated Learning
CLIL, FüDaF, DFU, CLILiG – you what?

CLIL combines foreign language learning with specific subject content.
CLIL combines foreign language learning with specific subject content. | © Goethe-Institut

CLIL is an abbreviation referring to an educational approach in which language and subject content are learnt together. The different ways in which it is applied illustrate how diverse this approach is and therefore explain why there is such great European interest in it.

Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) describes an educational approach in which learning of a foreign language is blended with learning of subject-specific content. In the case of Content and Language Integrated Learning in German (CLILiG), German language learning is combined with content from other subjects such as biology, geography or art. In contrast to German as a Foreign Language (GFL) lessons, students not only learn German but also acquire subject-specific knowledge in and through the foreign language. CLILiG has become an established pedagogical concept, especially in Europe. The opening of borders, the region’s economic development and indeed globalization have contributed to the increased use of CLILiG in classrooms throughout Europe. However, the approach is now attracting attention outside Europe, too. As a generic term, CLILiG can refer to different variants that are relevant to interdisciplinary and immersive learning (Haataja/Wicke 2015). On the one hand, there is a variant that focuses on language learning, with the teacher incorporating content-related aspects at the same time. On the other, there are three variants in which content teaching is the primary objective and the proportion of German-language content varies. 

Interdisciplinary German as a foreign language lessons (FüDaF)

FüDaF, a German acronym referring to the interdisciplinary teaching of German as a foreign language, is the only one of the four variants of CLILiG that embraces the influences of content learning. In FüDaF the teacher incorporates individual elements and peculiarities of other subjects – such as art, music, physics, biology or history – into the foreign language lessons. Since the three other variants, which tend to have more of a content-based focus, have not yet become established in many school learning environments worldwide, FüDaF serves as it were to bridge the gap to these forms of CLILiG teaching (Wicke/Rottmann 2015: 11). When it comes to integrating subject-specific content into FüDaF lessons, the (foreign) language is not only the subject but first and foremost a fundamental and authentic means of communication both in and for the GFL lessons (ibid.). Teachers can incorporate content into the lessons that is either based on or used instead of text books. They can add content to supplement individual chapters or leave out (parts of) chapters.

CLILiG makes it possible to learn German in combination with STEM subjects. CLILiG makes it possible to learn German in combination with STEM subjects. | Photo: © science photo -

Bilingual content teaching in German

In the variant involving bilingual content teaching in German, it is the content that is the primary focus. It is taught both in the students’ first language and in German, the target language. Accordingly, lessons in this CLILiG variant are taught in two languages, at least some of the time. Which subjects are taught in this way, and how much of the teaching takes place in each of the two languages, can differ considerably. The key factor when it comes to bilingual content teaching is for properly qualified staff and suitable teaching materials to be available at the school in question.

German-language (partial) immersion programmes

Students in several European countries are now being taught according to this method in subject-focused foreign language lessons. This variant has been influenced by the immersion programmes in Canada, Australia and the USA, where complete and partial immersion teaching was in fact developed. Whereas the former involves all subjects being taught in the foreign language, the students thereby being completely immersed, only a number of selected subjects are taught in the foreign language in the case of the latter. The choice of subjects differs a great deal in the individual immersion programmes because it will depend not only on the curricula but also on the number of qualified teaching staff and suitable teaching materials. Lessons in the individual subjects are based on the compulsory curriculum, though the peculiarity of subject-focused lessons is that the foreign language is not their subject but their communication medium. 

Language-sensitive German-language content teaching (DFU)

German-language content teaching has long been practised at the German Schools Abroad, for which it was developed. Over time, however, the original term German-language content teaching was renamed language-sensitive German-language content teaching to make it clear that the concept had further evolved. The addition emphasizes that DFU entails a sensitive approach to language and language learning (Leisen 2013: 3-6). These days, this method is used by teachers not only at the German Schools Abroad, but also at other schools supported by the Federal Republic of Germany. In contrast to the other CLILiG variants, the long DFU tradition means that numerous materials are available. In DFU lessons, communication takes place solely in German; not only in science subjects, but also in subjects like music, art and history. Unlike immersion programmes, DFU takes place in a wide variety of subjects. Native-language teaching is provided in only a handful of subjects. A whole host of methodological tools are available for working in the different subjects, the majority of which were developed by Josef Leisen (ibid.).

Objectives of CLIL

Unlike the other three variants, the objective of FüDAF is to identify those areas in which German proficiency can be expanded by incorporating subject-specific aspects. What all four variants have in common, however, is that students acquire a subject-based discourse ability, allowing learners to engage in cultural and expert discussions in the foreign language. This is relevant if they wish to study the subject in question at university, as well as later in professional contexts. Learners in general should have not only what Cummins describes as Basic Interpersonal Skills (BICS), but also Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) (Leisen 2013: 59). All four variants of CLILiG contribute to improving the CALP of students (ibid.).

CLIL supports acquisition of the educational language. CLIL supports acquisition of the educational language. | Photo: © kasto -


Haataja, Kim/Wicke, Rainer E. (2015): Sprache und Fach. Integriertes Lernen in der Zielsprache Deutsch. München: Hueber-Verlag.
Haataja, Kim/Wicke, Rainer E. (2016): Fach- und sprachintegriertes Lernen in der Zielsprache Deutsch (CLILiG). In: Fremdsprache Deutsch. No. 54, p. 3-9.
Leisen, Josef (2013): Handbuch Sprachförderung im Fach. Sprachsensibler Fachunterricht  in der Praxis. Stuttgart: Klett-Verlag.
Wicke, Rainer E./Rottmann, Karin (2015): Musik und Kunst im Unterricht Deutsch als Fremdsprache. Berlin: Cornelsen Verlag.