Approaches to teaching languages
This page includes information on the types of languages programs in schools and methods for teaching.
Types of language programs
Language programs are delivered in Victorian schools as:
- separate subject programs
- Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) programs
- bilingual programs.
A cultural awareness program that teaches limited vocabulary and language structures and is delivered by a teacher who does not have formal language qualifications is not considered a language program.
A school's approach to languages education will need to ensure pedagogy, curriculum, assessment and reporting are appropriate to the type of program to be provided.
Decisions about the type of program to be provided will be determined by factors such as:
- the purpose of the language program
- availability of qualified language teachers and their particular skills and pedagogical preferences
- professional development available to support particular approaches
- the timelines required to implement particular approaches
- whether the school will provide a program on its own or work in a cluster
- the availability of technology including virtual conferencing facilities to support the program
- the availability of other resources including assistants to support the program.
Languages taught as a separate subject
Traditionally languages are taught as a separate subject, particularly in secondary schools. These programs focus on the teaching and learning of the target language and understanding the connections between language and culture.
Content and Language Integrated Learning
Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) programs combine teaching content from a curriculum area with the explicit teaching of the target language. There is a focus on the vocabulary and structures required for the additional curriculum area. Content may include all or part of one or more curriculum areas.
In a CLIL program, learners gain knowledge of the curricular subject (for example, Science) while simultaneously learning and using the target language (for example, Italian). CLIL has the advantage of addressing the 'crowded curriculum' issue as it enables one or more curriculum areas to be taught in and through an additional language, and thereby extends the time on task for language learning.
Schools may choose to teach CLIL units or modules rather than an entire CLIL program. However, there are important factors which need to be considered before a school commits to the introduction of a CLIL program. These include:
- the availability of qualified language teaching staff with the required content knowledge, knowledge of the CLIL approach and the appropriate level of competence in the target language
- the need for collaboration with mainstream and subject teachers to teach the target language through a subject area
- ensuring students can also understand the key terms and concepts in content areas in English
- the need to manage parental perceptions (that subject knowledge will be not be compromised, or that students won't embrace this type of teaching), see Promotional brochure for CLIL – Gladstone Park Secondary
- the resources and potential timetabling changes required to implement a CLIL program (including curriculum planning time).
CLIL case studies
The following digital stories have captured 4 Victorian schools that are offering CLIL:
For information about a 2012 research project into the CLIL approach at six Victorian schools, including case studies and strategies, refer to CLIL in Victorian .
The MLTAV CLIL Language Teachers' Network is a Professional Learning Community which has been created with the support of the department to support and inform educators new to or in the process of implementing CLIL. The network site provides answers to Frequently Asked Questions about CLIL, advice on implementation and links to useful resources. Refer to: MLTAV CLIL Language Teachers'
A range of resources to support the implementation of CLIL approach is available on FUSE. Refer to: CLIL on
Designated bilingual programs
Bilingual education utilises two languages as means of instruction for students, providing them with the opportunity to learn curriculum content in, and through, both English and a target language. Eleven government primary schools are provided with additional funding as part of the Designated Bilingual Program to offer a partial immersion bilingual education, where students are immersed into a classroom in which the curriculum is taught for between a minimum of 30% and 50% in the target language. Schools in the Designated Bilingual Program offer strong models of bilingual education, leading to biliteracy learning in students that demonstrate high levels of sociocultural, linguistic, academic and cognitive outcomes. Language teachers who offer bilingual education are suitably qualified teachers with native or near native level of language proficiency able to deliver the Victorian curriculum in the target language.
Government schools offering bilingual programs in Victoria are:
- Abbotsford Primary – Chinese
- Aurora – Auslan
- Bayswater South Primary – German
- Brunswick South Primary – Italian
- Camberwell Primary – French
- Caulfield Primary – Japanese
- Footscray Primary – Italian
- Huntingdale Primary – Japanese
- Lalor North Primary – Greek and Macedonian
- Newlands Primary – Spanish
- Richmond West Primary – Chinese and Vietnamese
For information about funding to support the delivery of the bilingual programs, refer to Designated Bilingual Program.
Languages learning is developmental – new learning is built on students' existing knowledge and understanding.
Quality languages teaching encompasses a range of approaches to:
- develop and extend student capacity to communicate in the target language, across all four dimensions of reading, writing, speaking and listening
- develop and extend intercultural understanding
- develop understanding of and respect for diversity and an openness to different perspectives
- nurture reflective, creative and critical thinking
- enhance intellectual and analytical capabilities.
The department recommends that a language program is:
- a language acquisition program – while the long-term aim of the program is to develop proficiency in the target language, learners have regular opportunities to practise in a supportive environment where fluency rather than accuracy is the initial aim
- literacy-based – learners acquire an understanding of the grammar, word and sentence construction, phonology, as well as an extensive vocabulary in the target language
- personalised and scaffolded – the learner's first language literacy is acknowledged and taken into account so that pedagogy, curriculum and learning environments meet the needs of individual learners
- blended – combines face-to-face classroom methods with mobile and online learning
- cognitively demanding – learners have the opportunity to apply higher-order reasoning and thinking skills and engage with age-appropriate content
- authentic and contextualised – language is used in meaningful contexts for authentic purposes
- engaging – learners play an active role in their own learning.
Victorian language classes in action
A range of innovative, whole-school approaches to the provision of high quality and sustainable Languages programs are implemented by government primary and secondary schools, including:
- Coburg North Primary School Languages
- Bellaire Primary School Languages
- Oakleigh South Primary School Languages
- Westgarth Primary School Languages
- Bayswater South Primary School Languages
- Point Cook P-9 College Languages
- Bendigo Senior Secondary College Languages
- Dromana Secondary College Languages
Curriculum, assessment and reporting
The Victorian Curriculum F-10 recognises that learning a language is a sequential and cumulative process and that students learn most effectively through frequent, regular engagement over an extended period of time and opportunities to practice and meaningfully use the language in authentic situations. Schools are required to implement the Victorian Curriculum F-10 Languages and report on student learning against the achievement standards set out in the curriculum. For information about student reporting, refer to Reporting Student Achievement and Progress Foundation to 10.
Virtual conferencing, where 2 or more people or groups can see each other using a network or internet video connection, can be used for:
- sharing teachers across schools when face-to-face access to qualified languages teachers is limited
- networking and co-developing language curriculum
- accessing professional development
- classes working on collaborative language projects across schools or around the globe
- connecting individuals or groups with native speakers or other learners across schools or around the globe.
The Blended Learning in Languages ebook contains a section about video conferencing. Refer to: Blended Learning in Languages
Resources and digital stories on using virtual conferencing to deliver language programs:
Reviewed 28 March 2023