The benefits of CLIL instruction in Spanish students' productive vocabulary knowledge

  1. Andrés Canga Alonso 1
  2. Mario Arribas García 1
  1. 1 Universidad de La Rioja

    Universidad de La Rioja

    Logroño, España


Encuentro: revista de investigación e innovación en la clase de idiomas

ISSN: 1989-0796

Year of publication: 2015

Issue: 24

Pages: 2

Type: Article

More publications in: Encuentro: revista de investigación e innovación en la clase de idiomas



  • Social Sciences: C
  • Human Sciences: C


This paper aims at (i) investigating the productive vocabulary knowledge of 101 10th grade (4th ESO) EFL Spanish students in two different types of instruction CLIL and non-CLIL, and (ii) analysing the results obtained according to sex-based differences among the participants. We used the parallel version of the Productive Vocabulary Levels Test (PVLT) (Laufer & Nation, 1995, 1999) to measure students’ productive vocabulary knowledge. Our results reveal that our CLIL sample obtained significantly better results than their non-CLIL partners, and the students’ productive vocabulary size ranks below 1,000 words. As for sex-based differences, CLIL boys’ mean scores are the highest, but the differences between both sexes, regardless of their type of instruction, are not statistically significant. These findings led us to believe that the CLIL approach offers a benefit for productive vocabulary learning in a foreign language.

Bibliographic References

  • Adolphs, S. & Schmitt, N. 2004. “Vocabulary coverage according to spoken discourse context”. In P. Bogaards & B. Laufer (Eds.), Vocabulary in a second language (pp. 39-52). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Agustín Llach, Mª P. & Canga Alonso, A. 2014. “Vocabulary growth in young CLIL and traditional EFL learners: evidence from research and implications for education”. International Journal of Applied Linguistics. DOI: 10.1111/ijal.12090.
  • Agustín Llach, Mª P. & Terrazas Gallego, M. 2012. “Vocabulary knowledge development and gender differences in a second language”. ELIA, 12, 45-75.
  • Anderson, R. C. & Freebody, P. 1981. “Vocabulary knowledge. In J. Guthrie (Ed.), Comprehension and teaching: Research reviews (pp. 203-226). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
  • Barrow, J., Nakanishi, Y. & Ishino, H. 1999. “Assessing Japanese college students’ vocabulary knowledge with a self-checking familiarity survey”. System, 27, 223-247.
  • Boyle, J. P. 1987. “Sex differences in listening vocabulary”. Language Learning, 37(2), 273-284.
  • Canga Alonso, A. 2013a. “The receptive vocabulary of Spanish 6 th grade primary school students in CLIL instruction: A preliminary study”. Latin American Journal of Content and Language Integrated Learning (LACLIL), 6(2), 22-41. Retrieved from: from doi: 10.5294/laclil.2013.6.2.2.
  • Canga Alonso, A. 2013b. “The receptive vocabulary of Spanish students in CLIL and non-CLIL instruction”. Op. cit: Series II (2). Available from W98Z3g6MWZmMGEwODAwMmMyMGRiYg
  • Canga Alonso, A. 2013c. “Receptive vocabulary size of Spanish EFL learners at secondary school.” Revista de Lingüística y Lenguas Aplicadas, 8, 66-75. Retrieved from: doi:
  • Celaya, Mª L., & Ruiz de Zarobe, Y. 2010. “First languages and age in CLIL and non-CLIL contexts”. International CLIL Research Journal, 1(3). Retrieved from
  • Cobb, T.,& Horst, M. 2004. “Is there room for an academic word list in French?” In P. Bogaards & B. Laufer (Eds.), Vocabulary in a second language (pp. 15-38). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Coyle, D., Hood, P., & Marsh, D. 2010. CLIL: Content and Language Integrated Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Dalton-Puffer, C. 2007. Discourse in Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL). Amsterdam/Phildelphia: John Benjamins.
  • Dalton-Puffer, C. 2008. “Outcomes and processes in Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL): Current research from Europe”. In Delanoy, W., & Volkmann, L (Eds.), Future perspectives for English language teaching (pp. 139-157).Heidelberg: Carl Winter.
  • Edelenbos, P., & Vinjé, M. 2000. “The assessment of a foreign language at the end of primary (elementary) education”. Language Testing, 17(2), 144-162.
  • Fitzpatrick, T., & Meara, P. 2004. “Exploring the validity of a test of productive vocabulary”. Vigo International Journal of Applied Linguistics (VIAL), 1, 55-74. Retrieved from
  • García Gómez, A. 2010. "Lexical encoding of gender relations and identities". In R. M. Jiménez Catalán (Ed.), Gender Perspectives on Vocabulary in Foreign and Second Languages (pp. 238-63). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Hazenberg, S., & Hulstijn, J. H. 1996. “Defining a minimal receptive second-language vocabulary for nonnative university students: An empirical investigation”. Applied Linguistics, 17, 145–63.
  • Hirsh, D.,&. Nation, P. S. N. 1992. “What vocabulary size is needed to read unsimplified texts for pleasure?” Reading in a Foreign Language, 8, 689-696.
  • Jiménez Catalán, R. Mª. (Ed.). 2010: Gender perspectives on vocabulary in foreign and second language. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Jiménez Catalán, R. Mª. & Moreno Espinosa, S. 2004.” L2 word associations and the variable sex: An outline according to and electronic tool”. In A. R. Celada, D. Pastor García and P. J. Pardo García, (Eds.), Proceedings of the 27th International AEDEAN Conference. (pp. 54-77). Salamanca: Ambos Mundos.
  • Jiménez Catalán, R. Mª. & Moreno Espinosa, S. 2005. “Using Lex30 to measure the L2 productive vocabulary of Spanish primary learners of EFL”. Vigo International Journal of Applied Linguistics (VIAL), 2, 27-44. Retrieved from
  • Jiménez Catalán, R. Mª. & Ojeda Alba, J. 2009. “Girls’ and boys’ lexical availability in EFL”. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 158, 57-76.
  • Jiménez Catalán, R. Mª, & Ruiz de Zarobe, Y. 2009. “The receptive vocabulary of EFL learners in two instructional contexts: CLIL versus non-CLIL”. In R. Mª Jiménez Catalán & Ruiz de Zarobe, Y. (Eds.), Content and language integrated learning. Evidence from research in Europe (pp. 81-92).Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
  • Jiménez Catalán, R. Mª, Ruiz de Zarobe Y., & Cenoz, J. 2006. “Vocabulary profiles in English as a subject and as a vehicular language”. VIEWZ, 15 (3), 23-27. Retrieved from cial.pdf.
  • Jiménez Catalán, R. Mª. & Terrazas Gallego, M. 2005-2008. “The receptive vocabulary of English foreign language young learners”. Journal of English Studies, 5, 173-192.
  • Kucera, H. & Francis, W. N. 1967. A computational analysis of present day American English. Providence: Brown University Press.
  • Laufer, B. 1992. “How much lexis is necessary for reading comprehension”. In P. J. L. Arnaud & H. Béjoint (Eds.), Vocabulary and applied linguistics (pp. 126-132). London: Macmillan.
  • Laufer, B. 1997. “The lexical plight in second language reading: Words you don’t know, words you think you know, and words you can’t guess”. In J. Coady& T. Huckin (Eds.), Second language vocabulary acquisition (pp.20-34). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Laufer, B. 1998. “The development of passive and active vocabulary in a second language: Same or different? “Applied Linguistics, 19(2), 255-271.
  • Laufer, B., & Nation, P. S. N. 1995. “Vocabulary size and use: lexical richness in L2 written production”. Applied Linguistics,16, 307-322.
  • Laufer, B., & Nation, P. S. N. 1999). “A vocabulary-size test of controlled productive vocabulary”. Language Testing, 16(1), 33-51.
  • Lynn, R., Fergusson, D. M. & Horwood, L. J. 2005. “Sex differences on the WISC-R in New Zealand”. Personality and Individual Differences. 39, 103-114.
  • Martínez Adrián, M. & Gallardo del Puerto, F. 2010.” L2 receptive and productive vocabulary in senior learners”. ITL. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 160, 112-131.
  • Mehisto, P., Marsh, D. & Frigols, Mª. J. 2008 Uncovering CLIL: Content and Language Integrated Learning in bilingual and multilingual contexts. Oxford: Macmillan.
  • Meara, P., & Fitzpatrick, T. 2000. “Lex 30: An improved method of assessing productive vocabulary in an L2. System,28, 19-30.
  • Milton, J. 2009. Measuring second language vocabulary acquisition. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
  • Mochizuki, M. 2012. “Four empirical vocabulary tests studies in the three dimensional framework”. Vocabulary Learning and Instruction,1(1), 44-52. Retrieved from
  • Moreno Espinosa, S. 2009. “Young learners’ L2 word association responses in two different learning contexts”. In R. Mª Jiménez Catalán & Y. Ruiz de Zarobe (Eds.), Content and Language Integrated Learning evidence from research in Europe (pp. 93-111).Clevedon: MultilingualMatters.
  • Moreno Espinosa, S. 2010. Evaluación del vocabulario en redacciones escritas por aprendices de inglés como L2 a través de la tecnología. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of La Rioja.
  • Muñoz, C. 2007. “CLIL. Some thoughts on its psychological principles”. RELA, 17-26.
  • Nation, P. S. N. 1990. Teaching and learning vocabulary. New York: Newbury.
  • Nation, P. S. N. 1993. “Using dictionaries to estimate vocabulary size: Essential, but rarely followed, procedures”. Language Testing, 10, 27-40.
  • Nation, P. S. N. 2001. Learning vocabulary in another language. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Nation, P. S. N. 2006. “How large a vocabulary is needed for reading and listening?” The Canadian Modern Language Review / La revue canadienne des langues vivantes, 63(1), 59-81.
  • Nation, P. S. N. &Waring, R. 1997. “Vocabulary size, text coverage and word lists”. In N. Schmitt & M. McCarthy (Eds.), Vocabulary: Description, acquisition and pedagogy (pp. 6-19). New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Nikula, T, Dalton-Puffer, C, & Llinares, A. 2013. “CLIL classroom discourse. Research from Europe”. Journal of Immersion and ContentBased Language Education, 1 (1), 70-100. Retrieved from doi: 10.1075/jib.1.1.04nik
  • Nyikos, M. 1990. “Sex-related differences in adult language learning: Socialization and memory factors”. Modern Language Journal, 74, 273-287.
  • Pérez-Vidal, C. 2009. “The integration of content and language in the classroom: A European approach to education (the second time around)”. In E. Dafouz, & M. C. Guerini (Eds.), CLIL Across Educational Levels (pp. 3-16).Madrid: Richmond.
  • Ruiz de Zarobe, Y. 2011. “Which language competencies benefit from CLIL? An insight into applied linguistics research”. In Y. Ruiz de Zarobe, J. M. Sierra and F. Gallardo del Puerto (Eds.), Content and Foreign Language Integrated Learning(pp. 123-153). Bern: Peter Lang.
  • Scarcella, R. & Zimmerman, C. 1998.”Academic words and gender .ESL student performance on a test of academic lexicon”. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 20, 27-49.
  • Schmitt, N. 2000.Vocabulary in language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Schmitt, N., Schmitt, D. & Clapham, C. 2001. “Developing and exploring the behaviour of two new versions of the Vocabulary Levels Test”. Language Testing, 18, 55-88. Retrieved from 88.pdf
  • Sunderland, J. 2010. “Theorizing gender perspectives in foreign and second language learning”. In R. M. Jiménez Catalán (Ed.), Gender Perspectives on Vocabulary in Foreign and Second Languages (pp. 1- 22).Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Terrazas Gallego, M. & Agustín Llach, Mª P. 2009. “Exploring the increase of receptive vocabulary knowledge in the foreign language: A longitudinal study”. IJES, 9(1), 113-133. Retrieved from
  • Thorndike, E. & Lorge, I. 1944. The teacher’s word book of 30,000 words. New York Teachers College: Columbia University.
  • Vermeer, A. 2001. “Breadth and depth of vocabulary in relation to L1/L2 acquisition and frequency of input.” Applied Psycholinguistics, 22(2), 217-34.
  • Webb, S. 2008.” Receptive and productive vocabulary sizes of L2 learners”. Studies in Second language acquisition, 30(1), 79-95.
  • Webb, S. & Rodgers, M. P. H. 2009a. “The vocabulary demands of television programs”. Language Learning, 59(2), 335-366.
  • Webb, S. & Rodgers, M. P. H. 2009b. “The lexical coverage of movies”. Applied Linguistics,30 (3), 407-427.
  • Webb, S. & Chang, A. C-S. 2012. “Second language vocabulary growth”. RELC Journal,43(1), 113-126.
  • West, M. 1953.A general service list of English words. London: Longman.
  • Xanthou, M. 2011. “Current trends in L2 vocabulary learning and instruction. Is CLIL the right approach? “Advances in research on language acquisition and teaching: Selected Papers (pp. 459-471). Retrieved from
  • Yamamoto, Y. 2011. “Bridging the gap between receptive and productive vocabulary size through extensive reading”. The Reading Matrix,11(3), 226-242.
  • Zhong, H. 2012. “Multidimensional vocabulary knowledge: Development from receptive to productive use”. In D. Hirsh (Ed.), Current Perspectives in Second Language Vocabulary Research (pp. 23-55). Bern: Peter Lang.