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 Languages 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 languages program
  • availability of qualified languages 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 video 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. Most Languages programs delivered in Victorian government schools are taught as a separate subject. 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 (CLIL)

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.

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 languages 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 College
  • the resources and potential timetabling changes required to implement a CLIL programs (including curriculum planning time)

Schools may choose to teach CLIL units or modules rather than an entire CLIL program.

The Department is in the process of establishing a CLIL Principal Network which will be lead by a principal who has hands-on experience introducing a successful CLIL program in his school.

CLIL case studies

The following digital stories have captured four 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, see: CLIL in Victorian schools (docx - 38.18mb)

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. See: MLTAV CLIL Language Teachers' Network

A range of resources to support the implementation of CLIL approach is available on FUSE. See CLIL on FUSE.

Designated bilingual programs

The Designated bilingual program provides annual funding to support the delivery of 14 bilingual programs across 12 primary government schools to deliver:

  • face-to-face teaching in and through, the target language for a minimum of 7.5 hours up to 12.5 hours per week to 100% of their students
  • content-based teaching in the target language using teachers who have appropriate teaching qualifications
  • content-based teaching in the target language across two or more of the Learning Areas within the Victorian Curriculum.

Government schools offering bilingual programs in Victoria are:


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 languages 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 languages classes in action

Each of the links below is an example of languages learning in action in Victorian government schools, demonstrated through a teacher-created digital story.

Curriculum, asessment and reporting

The Victorian Curriculum F-10 is the new curriculum for Victorian schools. It sets out a single, coherent and comprehensive set of content descriptions and associated achievement standards to enable teachers to plan, monitor, assess and report on the learning achievement of every student.

The Victorian Curriculum F–10 incorporates and reflects much of the Australian Curriculum F–10, but differs in some important respects, most notably the representation of the curriculum as a continuum of learning and the structural design.

The Victorian Curriculum F-10 Languages includes six language categories, namely Roman Alphabet Languages, Non-Roman Alphabet Languages, Character Languages, Classical Languages, Sign Language and Victorian Aboriginal Languages.

Some language specific curriculums are still being finalised and will be progressively incorporated into the Victorian Curriculum. These can be accessed in their current format from the Australian Curriculum and Assessment Authority

Assessment and reporting are vital processes which provide information about what students know and can do, and to make recommendations for their future learning.

For information about student reports and prep to year 10 assessment, see: Assessment and reporting

Video conferencing

Video conferencing, where two 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. See: Blended Learning in Languages ebook

Digital stories from schools using video-conferencing units to deliver languages programs: