In this blog post, we are going to explain THE LANGUAGE TRYPTICH. It is a key concept in the CLIL approach and its use is necessary in one of the 4Cs, Communication. As you know in a CLIL context, language learning is a tool for communication and there are varieties of the language which are recognisable. The language needed in CLIL does not always correspond to the grammatical progression we would find in an ordinary language learning context. It is, for us, an amazing advantage because you can learn in a natural way as in your mother tongue. This triptych gives us the opportunity to make connections between content and language objectives. In this way, we can integrate cognitively demanding content with language learning and using, making meaningful the relationship between using the language for knowledge construction.

First of all, you can see here a triangle with three different concepts:

  1. Language OF learning
  2. Language FOR learning
  3. Language THROUGH learning


The language tryptich

Now, we are going to explain the meaning of each concept.


It is the language needed for learners to access the basic concepts and skills of the topic. Thanks to this, students use the appropriate language in meaningful contexts. Obviously, teachers need to be aware of the linguistic demands of the subject to work in the vehicular language. Language of learning is subject-specific.

Examples of this could be:

  • Key vocabulary phrases
  • Language of describing/defining/ explaining
  • Modal verbs for prediction
  • Future/conditional tenses
  • Cause-effect language


It is the language to get by in a foreign language context. If we give our learners strategies to help them, they will able to use the foreign language effectively. Here we have the magic word SCAFFOLDING because it is the kind of language they need in order to complete the tasks they are given. Students need to be supported in developing skills such as those needed for pairwork, cooperative group work, asking questions, debating, enquiring, thinking, etc. Language for learning is subject-compatible.

Examples of this could be:

  • Presenting evidence
  • Writing a simple research report
  • Language for project work
  • Language for arguments/disagreements



It is linked to the student getting actively engaged in using the language and thinking. Effective learning cannot take place without active involvement of language and thinking. New settings will require new language and for this reason this language cannot be predicted in advance. This emergent language needs to be captured by the teacher, but it is difficult to predict beforehand what will emerge.

Examples of this could be:

  • Dictionary skills
  • Recycling discussion skills
  • Extending presentation skills
  • Using feedback
  • Questioning/ Answering

Language of learning and language for learning are predictable and should be planned for. However, language through learning is unpredictable and should be responded to.

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