Content-based Second Language Instruction, which is also known as Content-Based Instruction ( CBI), is an approach to second language teaching in which teaching is organized around the content or information that students will acquire, rather than around a linguistic or another type of syllabus.
Krahnke, (1987: 65 as cited in Richards and Rodgers, 2001: 204) defines Content-Based Instruction as the teaching of content or information in the language being learned with little or no direct or explicit effort to the language itself separately from the content being taught.
It is the integration of content learning with language teaching. It integrates the learning of language with the learning of some other content, often academic subject matter.
CBI focuses that the content or subject matter of teaching is of primary importance in teaching. Classrooms should focus on real communication and the exchange of information.
An ideal situation for second language learning would be one where the subject matter of language teaching is content, i.e. subject matter from outside the domain of language.
The language being taught could be used to present subject matter, and the students would learn the language as a by-product of learning about real-world content. For example, students have presented a biography of Laxmi Prasad Devkota, a famous literary figure of Nepal, to teach different language skills.
With the help of given content, the students get information about Laxmi Prasad Devkota and get mastery of different skills and aspects of language. In one sentence, it aims to kill two birds with a single bullet.
Content-Based Instruction is based on the following two central principles. (Richards and Rodgers, 2001: 207)
- People learn a second language more successfully when they use the language as a means of acquiring information, rather than as an end in it.
- Content-Based Instruction better reflects learners’ needs for learning a second language.
Following Richards & Rodgers (2001: 208), assumptions about the nature of language can be explained.
- Language is text and discourse-based: CBI addresses the role of language as a vehicle for learning content. This implies the centrality of linguistic entities which are longer than single sentences because the focus of teaching is how meaning and information are communicated and constructed through texts and discourse. This involves the study of textual and discourse structure of written texts such as letters, reports, essays, descriptions, or book chapters, or of speech events such as meetings, lectures, and discussions.
- Language use draws on integrated skills: CBI views language use as involving several skills together. In a content-based class, students are often involved in activities that link the skills, because this is how the skills are involved in the real world. Hence, students might read and take notes, listen and write a summary, or respond orally to things they have read or written. In CBI grammar is seen as a component of other skills rather than viewing it as a separate dimension of language.
- Language is purposeful: Language is used for specific purposes. The purpose may be academic, vocational, social, or recreational but it gives direction, shape, and ultimately meaning to discourse and texts.
- Language learning is typically considered incidental to the learning of content.
- The subject matter content is used for language teaching purposes.
- It integrates the learning of language with the learning of some other content, often academic subject matter.
- It makes use of a thematic or topic-based syllabus.
- All the language skills are integrated.
- Grammar is seen as a component of other skills rather than viewing it as a separate dimension of language.
- The content-based approach is one of the communicative approaches.