Functions of English and Finnish in CLIL classroom interaction

Collaborating scholar: Tarja Nikula

From a sociolinguistic viewpoint, CLIL classrooms are interesting contexts of language use in that English is chosen as the working language among people who share the same native language. Given such co-existence of two languages, it is not surprising that both English and Finnish are used in CLIL classrooms. The aim of this research is to take a closer look at the ways in which the two languages come into contact and to explore whether there are regularities in the purposes and functions for which they are used in classroom discourse.

The preliminary findings suggest that language use in CLIL settings does not follow any clear pattern of English being used for official on-record talk and Finnish for off-record discourse in the way suggested by many earlier studies on bilingual classrooms. Nor do switches into Finnish seem to result from students’ skills in English failing them. Instead, the motivations for using the two languages are more complex, ranging from participant-oriented code-switching, for example when students address the teacher in English and their peers in Finnish, to situations where flows in and out of English and Finnish and the resulting mixed language in itself seem to serve as an ingroup marker, highlighting students’ multilingual identity.

For more detailed information, see

  • Nikula, Tarja. 2007. Speaking English in Finnish Content-based Classrooms. World Englishes, 26 (2), 206-223.