Subject Learning Through an Unfamiliar Language -


Eaton (2017) contends that:-

  John  Archibald and a team of researchers at the University of Calgary conducted a study in 2007 found that students who learn other subjects in a foreign language are likely to gain fluency and competence faster. The method, known as content-based language teaching (CBLT), involves teaching subject matter content such as math, geography and other subjects in a foreign language.

“Students in time-intensive content-based language teaching (CBLT) programs, such as French immersion, are typically able to master complex content material effectively, despite less than native-like proficiency in the language of instruction.

Research on working memory seriously questions the validity of this research.
    Working memory has relevance to everything we do on plant earth. Human beings are not very good at multi-tasking, which is why it is dangerous to drive whilst using  a mobile telephone. The greater the fluency that we apply in all tasks, the easier it is to apply them in multi-tasking. If someone is typing slowly and inaccurately when word processing, for instance, then  this will have influence the quality of their writing as whole.
       Professor John Sweller, who is authority on cognitive overload, contends that when children attempt to learn a subject content through a unfamiliar language, they cannot give active attention to both, especially until they develop sufficient fluency in the new language. This also recognised in the reading fluency levels, which are extremely well researched and applies to all languages. 
  If children need to give too much attention to reading in their native language, then this will detract from their ability to learn about the language they are learning or a subject content. Attention deficit is associated with low working memory.  Lower level fluency will lower all children's working  memory capacity.
  Archibald's research may illustrate that children's new language development my benefit from their learning a  subject content through a new language, but Sweller's research, who is a cognitivist, is bottom-up. His contention is consistent with the reading fluency levels. 
      There was an Aplha Beta primary mathematics scheme in the 1980s, which had a reading age of 16, which meant that children ability to learn the mathematics was retarded. If children are attempting to learn in a unfamiliar language the reading level will go up. This applies to all the four language skills including listening to spoken language. There are children who find it difficult to learn maths and science when it  is presented to them in English. There tends to be strong correlation between reading attainment and maths and science attainment.
       There must always be a  distinction between learning means and learning ends. Children in South Korea are being instructed, not taught, but because they devote a vast amount of time to their learning, up to twelve hours a day they achieve high standards of attainment. Expecting children to learn a subject content may require children to use their new language more purposefully and effectively, but this does mean their learning will efficient. The level of success is unlikely to be uniform for all learners.

Native languages are applied automatically with ease and flow. Effective learning develops from what is known.  Context is very important in human memory. The language context that learners learn in also. In pure terms, learners will always learn a subject content more effectively in the language that they are most fluent in, their native language. The more fluent they will become in it, the more effectively they will be able to learn through it.