The influence of CLIL on receptive vocabulary: a preliminary study


  • Kevin Iglesias Diéguez Universidad de Salamanca
  • María Martínez-Adrián Universidad del País Vasco / Euskal Herriko Unibersitatea



Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), receptive vocabulary, general proficiency, Third language (L3) English


Empirical studies have shown that Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) seems to be beneficial to receptive vocabulary, which in turn correlates with a higher level of general competence. However, these studies have mainly compared CLIL and Non-CLIL groups matching in age at testing and without a control of other variables such as amount of exposure. The present study, even though exploratory in nature, sets out to fill this gap by comparing groups with the same onset age as well as controlling for other variables. To test general proficiency, the Quick Placement Test (QPT) was used, and the 1,000 and 2,000 frequency bands of the Vocabulary Levels Test (VLT) were delivered to measure functional vocabulary size. CLIL students were found to outstrip their respective Non-CLIL counterparts at the same educational level and to perform as well as an older Non-CLIL sample. Taking together the level of English language lessons and differences in cognitive maturity and amounts of exposure, it is argued that CLIL instruction has intrinsic benefits for receptive vocabulary.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Kevin Iglesias Diéguez, Universidad de Salamanca

Kevin Iglesias Diéguez (USAL) holds a BA degree in English Studies (UPV/EHU) and is currently an MA student at the University of Salamanca. In 2012, he was granted a scholarship for a one-month stay in Hastings, England.

María Martínez-Adrián, Universidad del País Vasco / Euskal Herriko Unibersitatea

Dr. María Martínez Adrián (UPV/EHU) is an associate professor of English language and linguistics and a researcher in the area L2/L3 acquisition. She is a member of the Language and Speech research group (, noted by the Basque Government for excellence in research in the field.  Her publications have focused on cross-linguistic influence in L2 and L3 acquisition, CLIL, the acquisition of morpho-syntactic features and productive and receptive vocabulary in the elderly. She has coedited the volume Contemporary Approaches to Second Language Acquisition published by John Benjamins which obtained the Spanish Association of Applied Linguistics award 2014. Her work has appeared in books published by Springer and Multilingual Matters, as well as in journals such as Revista Española de Lingüística Aplicada (RESLA), ITL Journal of Applied Linguistics, Journal of Immersion and Content-Based Language Education, and Vigo International Journal of Applied Linguistics, among others.


Agustín, M. P. and M. Terrazas. 2012. “Vocabulary knowledge development and gender differences in a second language”. Estudios de Lingüística Inglesa Aplicada 12: 45-75.

Alcaraz Mármol, G. 2009. “Vocabulary input in EFL textbooks: Frequency levels.” <> (Accessed 21 February 2017)

Alderson, J. C. 2005. Diagnosing Foreign Language Proficiency. London: Continuum.

Calvario Pérez, J. J. 2014. Elaboration of materials for a Conocimiento del Medio class. Zaragoza: University of Zaragoza.

Canga, A. 2013. “Receptive vocabulary size of secondary Spanish EFL learners”. Revista de Lingüística y Lenguas Aplicadas 8: 66-75.

Canga, A. 2015. “Receptive vocabulary of CLIL and Non-CLIL Primary and Secondary school learners”. Complutense Journal of English Studies 23: 59-77.

Cenoz, J. 2015. “Content-Based Instruction and Content and Language Integrated Learning: The same or different?” Language, Culture and Curriculum 28 (1): 8-24.

Cenoz, J., Genesee, F. and D. Gorter. 2014. “Critical analysis of CLIL: Taking stock and looking forward”. Applied Linguistics 35 (3): 243-262.

Cenoz, J. and J. Valencia. 1994. “Additive trilingualism: Evidence from the Basque Country”. Applied Psycholinguistics 15: 195-207.

Coady, J. 1997. “L2 vocabulary acquisition: A synthesis of the research”. Second Language Vocabulary Acquisition. Eds. J. Coady and T. Huckin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 273-290.

Dalton-Puffer, C. 2011. “Content-and-Language Integrated Learning: From practice to principles?” Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 31: 182-204.

Ellis, R. 1994. The Study of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

European Commission. June, 2012. Special Eurobarometer 386: Europeans and their languages. Retrieved from: ebs /ebs_386_en.pdf.

Fernández Fontecha, A. 2014a. “Receptive vocabulary knowledge and motivation in CLIL and EFL”. Revista de Lingüística y Lenguas Aplicadas 9: 23-32.

Fernández Fontecha, A. 2014b. “Motivation and gender effect in receptive vocabulary learning: An exploratory analysis in CLIL primary education”. Latin American Journal of Content and Language Integrated Learning 7 (2): 27-49.

Fernández-Fontecha, A. and A. Canga Alonso. 2014. “A preliminary study on motivation and gender in CLIL and non-CLIL types of instruction”. International Journal of English Studies 14 (1): 21-36.

García Mayo, M. P. 2011. “The relevance of attention to form in communicative classroom contexts”. Estudios de Lingüística Inglesa Aplicada 11: 11-45.

García Mayo, M. P. and I. Villarreal Olaizola. 2010. “The development of suppletive and affixal tense and agreement morphemes in the L3 English of Basque- Spanish bilinguals”. Second Language Research 27 (1): 129-149.

Gershman, S. J. 1970. Foreign language vocabulary learning under seven conditions. Columbia University: Doctoral thesis.

Heras, A. and D. Lasagabaster. 2015. “The impact of CLIL on affective factors and vocabulary learning”. Language Teaching Research 19 (1): 70-88.

Jiménez Catalán, R. M. and M. Terrazas. 2005-2008. “The receptive vocabulary of English Foreign Language young learners”. Journal of English Studies 5-6: 173-191.

Jiménez Catalán, R. M. and Y. Ruiz de Zarobe. 2009. “The receptive vocabulary of EFL learners in two instructional contexts: CLIL versus Non-CLIL instruction”. Content and Language Integrated Learning: Evidence from Research in Europe. Eds. Y. Ruiz de Zarobe and R. M. Jiménez. Bristol: Multilingual Matters. 81-92.

Krashen, S. D. 1989. “We acquire vocabulary and spelling by reading: Additional evidence for the input hypothesis”. The Modern Language Journal 73 (4): 440-464.

Lasagabaster, D. 2008. “Foreign language competence in content and language integrated courses”. The Open Applied Linguistics Journal 1: 30-41.

Lasagabaster, D. 2011. “English achievement and student motivation in CLIL and EFL settings”. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching 5 (1): 3-18.

Lasagabaster, D. and J. M. Sierra. 2009. “Language attitudes in CLIL and traditional EFL classes”. International CLIL Research Journal 1 (2): 4-17.

Laufer, B. 1992. “How much lexis is necessary for reading comprehension?” Vocabulary and Applied Linguistics. Eds. P. J. L. Arnaud and H. Béjoint. London: Macmillan. 126-132.

Lázaro Gómez, M. C. 2013. La enseñanza de contenidos en lengua inglesa: Estrategias, técnicas y recursos. Valladolid: University of Valladolid.

López-Mezquita, M. T. 2005. La evaluación de la competencia léxica: Tests de vocabulario. Su fiabilidad y validez. Universidad de Granada: Doctoral dissertation.

Martínez Adrián, M. and F. Gallardo del Puerto. 2010. “L2 English receptive and productive vocabulary in senior learners”. ITL, International Journal of Applied Linguistics 160: 112-131.

Martínez Adrián, M. and M. J. Gutiérrez Mangado. 2015. “Is CLIL instruction beneficial in terms of general proficiency and specific areas of grammar?” Journal of Immersion and Content-Based Language Education 3 (1): 51-76.

Meara, P. 1996. “The dimensions of lexical competence”. Performance and Competence in Second Language Acquisition. Eds. G. Brown, K. Malmkjaer and J. Williams. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 35-53.

Nagy, W. E. November. 1995. “On the role of context in first- and second-language vocabulary learning”. Center for the Study of Reading Technical Report 627. Illinois: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Nation, I. S. P. 1990. Teaching and Learning Vocabulary. New York: Newbury.

Nation, I. S. P. 1993. “Vocabulary size, growth and use”. The Bilingual Lexicon. Eds. R. Schreuder and B. Weltens. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 115-134.

Nation, I. S. P. and R. Waring. 1997. “Vocabulary size, text coverage, and word lists”. Vocabulary: Description, Acquisition and Pedagogy. Eds. N. Schmitt and M. McCarthy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 6-19.

Navés, T. 2009. “Effective Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) Programmes”. Content and Language Integrated Learning: Evidence from Research in Europe. Eds. Y. Ruiz de Zarobe and R. M. Jiménez. Bristol: Multilingual Matters. 22-40.

Nemati, A. 2010. “Proficiency and size of receptive vocabulary: Comparing EFL and ESL environments”. International Journal of Educational Research and Technology 1 (1): 46-53.

Nikula, T., Dalton-Puffer, C. and A. Llinares. 2013. “CLIL classroom discourse: Research from Europe”. Journal of Immersion and Content-Based Language Education 1 (1): 70-100.

Qian, D. D. 1999. “Assessing the roles of depth and breadth of vocabulary knowledge in reading comprehension”. Canadian Modern Language Review 56: 282-308.

Qian, D. D. 2002. “Investigating the relationship between vocabulary knowledge and academic reading performance: An assessment perspective”. Language Learning 52 (3): 513-536.

Read, J. 1988. “Measuring the vocabulary knowledge of second language learners”. RELC Journal 19 (2): 12-25.

Roquet, H., Llopis, J. and C. Pérez Vidal. 2016. “Does gender have an impact on the potential benefits learners may achieve in two contexts compared: formal instruction and formal instruction + content and language integrated learning?” International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 19 (4): 370-386.

Ruiz de Zarobe, Y. 2008. “CLIL and Foreign Language learning: A longitudinal study in the Basque Country”. International CLIL Research Journal 1 (1): 60-73.

Ruiz de Zarobe, Y. 2010. “Written production and CLIL: An empirical study”. Language use in CLIL. Eds. C. Dalton-Puffer, T. Nikula and U. Smit. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 191-212.

Ruiz de Zarobe, Y. 2013. “CLIL implementation: From policy-makers to individual initiatives”. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 16 (3): 231-243.

Ruiz de Zarobe, Y. and D. Lasagabaster. 2010. “CLIL in a bilingual community: The Basque autonomous region”. CLIL in Spain: Implementation, results and teacher training. Eds. D. Lasagabaster and Y. Ruiz de Zarobe. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. 12-29.

Saragi, T., Nation, I. S. P. and G. F. Meister. 1978. “Vocabulary learning and reading”. System 6: 72-78.

Schmitt, N., Schmitt, D. and C. Clapham. 2001. “Developing and exploring the behaviour of two new versions of the Vocabulary Levels Test”. Language Testing 18 (1): 55-88.

Seibert, L. C. 1930. “An experiment on the relative efficiency of studying French vocabulary in associated pairs versus studying French vocabulary in context”. Journal of Education Psychology 21: 297-314.

Sunderland, J. 2010. “Theorizing gender perspectives in foreign and second language learning”. Gender Perspectives on Vocabulary in Foreign and Second Languages. Ed. R. M. Jiménez Catalán. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 1-19.

Terrazas, M. and M. P. Agustín. 2009. “Exploring the increase of receptive vocabulary knowledge in the Foreign Language: A longitudinal study”. International Journal of English Studies 9 (1): 113-133.

Vidal, K. 2011. “A comparison of the effects of reading and listening on incidental vocabulary acquisition”. Language Learning 61 (1): 219-258.

Webb, S. 2007. “The effects of repetition on vocabulary knowledge”. Applied Linguistics 28 (1): 46-65.

Webb, S. 2008. “The effects of context on incidental vocabulary learning”. Reading in a Foreign Language 20 (2): 232-245.

Xing, P. and G. Fulcher. 2007. “Reliability assessment for two versions of Vocabulary Levels Tests”. System 35: 182-191.




How to Cite

Iglesias Diéguez, K., & Martínez-Adrián, M. (2017). The influence of CLIL on receptive vocabulary: a preliminary study. Journal of English Studies, 15, 107–134.