All over Europe, new language immersive programs see the light, which propose content-based teaching, that is: teaching the usual disciplinary contents (math, social studies, fine arts, physics, etc.) in another language. Because our curricula are so compact, it is almost impossible to add a new cosmopolitan, global discipline, yet what is being proposed is teaching languages through the various disciplines. High school in France propose Science tracks in German and Chinese and Spain Universities start offering programs for bilingual teachers. Bilingual Education takes many shapes.
There are numerous challenges to content-based, immersive learning and teaching. For the learners, clearly the issue is to get scaffolds, in the form of pre-oral and pre-reading activities that will provide the vocabulary and possible structures, which allow both understanding of the new instructional materials and interaction with the content instructor. The University of Ottawa has been successful for years in offering most basic introductory courses (Introductions to Psychology, Education, Anthropology, Sociology…) in two languages. But to do so they use a specific formula, sandwiching contents between pre-lesson structural information on the way the forthcoming lesson is organized and post-lesson discussion on its contents in the mother tongue to make sure contents had been understood.
For the instructor, the challenge is to gather resources in the target language that match the epistemology used in the first language and culture institutions of elementary, secondary, or higher learning. Different cultures represent different ways of knowing, and it is never sure instructional materials in the target language will match the needs of schooling expressed in first language curricula (for example the chemistry program in Spain may present the contents in a manner that is different from the British or American materials available on the market or online. Besides, teachers and professors who have been used to controlled teaching and learning have a hard time with the sense of fuzziness that develops when you do not really have the right materials and knowledge to meet the need of the students.
The Deep Approach to languages and cultures comes as a tremendous help to both learners and instructors engaged in content-based programs. It not only offers templates and ways of organizing resources but it further provides a teaching methodology that frees the instructors of many concerns which otherwise might seriously bother them. Teacher training to the Deep Approach is necessary to do a good job. The workshop will develop a few key principles that will help teachers scaffold disciplinary contents in the second language in a way that is conducive to a new, deeper way of learning for their students.