Content-Based Instruction in Language Learning

Rationale and Purpose

Content-Based Instruction (CBI) is a method of teaching language and content in tandem. In this approach, the language is utilized as the medium for teaching subject matters, such as science, social studies, biology, or mathematics. CBI is receiving increasing attention because it allows schools to combine the goals of language curriculum and the regular curriculum, making language learning the vehicle for strengthening the language skills as well as content knowledge (Echevarria, 2000). Mohan (1986) indicates that the goal of integration in CBI is both language and content learning. Content-based classrooms are not merely places where learners learn a language but places where they gain an education. In addition, Genesee (1994) suggests that CBI is an integrated approach bringing learners’ language learning as well as cognitive, academic, and social development together. The benefits of learning language through subject content are evident in learners’ language and content acquisition. Also, language learners’ school success hinges upon their proficiency of academic language. Therefore, it is crucial for language teachers to move beyond the functional language syllabus and to begin offering a content-rich and high-standards curriculum preparing language learners to become academically successful in content learning (Echevarria, 2000).

Overview of the structure

In this chapter, I will first provide an example of implementing CBI. In addition, I will explain the principles underlying the example. Furthermore, I will discuss what
CBI is as well as the theoretical foundations of it. Moreover, I will talk about three prototype content-based teaching models. Then, I will mention issues related to CBI. Finally, I will draw a conclusion at the end of the chapter.


The chapter of content-based instruction in language learning brings together the theory and practice. I believe that it will add to our understanding of how to help learners acquire language skills as well as content knowledge at the same time. I also hope that this chapter will provide readers with a richer and more completed understanding of content-based instruction that is gaining momentum not just in the US but internationally as well.