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Conceptual and Language Learning in a German Bilingual Primary School - Findings of the BiSY-Study

by Lieselotta Botz (University of Wuppertal, Germany)



In Germany bilingual education, also referred to as Content-and-Language-Integrated-Learning, has developed from an exclusive option for linguistically gifted learners in selective grammar schools to a mainstream programme that addresses children and young people of all ability levels in all types of schools. Most notably, the number of bilingual primary schools has risen considerably (Botz/Diehr 2016). In addition to changes in numbers, new objectives, such as dual literacy, have emerged. After a long period during which the emphasis had been placed on the gains in foreign language competence achieved through CLIL, researchers and practitioners have now started to focus more attention on content, especially conceptual learning in two languages (e.g. Diehr 2012; Frisch 2021; Mehisto 2013; Schwab et al. 2014).


The presentation will deal with the empirical BiSY (BIllingualer Sachunterricht – Young Learners) study which investigates conceptual learning of bilingually learning primary school students in subjects of general knowledge (German Sachunterricht). The study is carried out in a year 4 of primary school where teaching units on ‘Electricity’ are conducted monolingually in English but also bilingually in English and German. The control group, consisting of the research group’s parallel class as well as a year 4 of a regular German primary school that does not offer bilingual education, is attending regular Sachunterricht in German. Written tests provide information on students’ learning growth whereas interviews shed light on students’ oral abilities to articulate content knowledge in German.


After providing information about the research questions and the study’s design, the presentation will depict the study’s results which serve as a base for summing up implications for the practice of teaching and researching bilingual primary school education.






Botz, Lieselotta / Diehr, Bärbel (2016). Bilinguales Lernen in der Grundschule – Einblicke in das BiSY-Projekt (Bilingualer Sachunterricht - Young Learners). In: Diehr, Bärbel / Preisfeld, Gela/Schmelter, Lars (eds.).  Bilingualen Unterricht weiterentwickeln und erforschen. 245-260.  
Diehr, Bärbel (2012). „Whats in a name? Terminologische, typologische und programmatische Überlegun-gen zum Verhältnis der Sprachen im Bilingualen Unterricht“. In: Diehr, Bärbel / Schmelter, Lars (Hg.): Bilingualen Unterricht weiterdenken. Programme, Positionen, Perspektiven. Frankfurt am Main: Lang (Inquiries in Language Learning, 7). 17–36. 
Frisch, Stefanie (2021). „Bilinguales Lernen in der Grundschule: Einblicke in sprachliche und naturwissenschaftliche Kompetenzen". In: Fremdsprachen Lehren und Lernen 50 (1). 31-49. 


Mehisto, Peeter (2013). Integrating CLIL with Other Mainstream Discourses. In: Breidbach, Stephan / Viebrock, Britta (eds.). Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) in Europe. Research Perspectives on Policy and Practice. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. 25-50. 
Schwab, Götz / Keßler, Jörg-U. / Hollm, Jan (2014). CLIL goes Hauptschule - Chancen und Herausforderungen bilingualen  Unterrichts  an  einer  Hauptschule.  Zentrale  Ergebnisse  einer  Longitudinalstudie.  ZFF, 25:1,  3-37.