Languages Across the Curriculum: Terminology
Bruce T. Holl
The name “Languages Across the Curriculum” is one of many variants, each with its own acronym or abbreviation, that describe the use of foreign languages outside the traditional Modern Languages and Literatures framework.
I use it because it is the name of the program at my home institution, Trinity University, and because it seems the most popular term in recent American publications.
There is, however, no consensus. “LAC” itself is sometimes spelled L.A.C. or LxC, presumably to discourage people from pronouncing the acronym like the word “lack,” with its connotation of inadequacy. John M. Grandin even provides a footnote informing readers that LAC is “[p]ronounced ‘L-A-C’ or ‘al-a-se'” (3).
Another popular choice is Foreign Languages Across the Curriculum (FLAC), but this term has fallen into disfavor in recent years because the second language in an LAC course will not necessarily be foreign to everyone involved (Kecht and von Hammerstein xx), or because it privileges English as the only non-foreign language (Shoenberg and Turlington 2) (or perhaps because it suggests the words “flack,” meaning criticism, and “flak,” meaning anti-aircraft fire).
Other versions include Modern Languages Across the Curriculum (MLAC) and Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) (the preferred terms in Europe), Culture and Languages Across the Curriculum (CLAC), Foreign Languages in the Curriculum (FLIC), Content Based Instruction (CBI), Content Based Language Teaching (CBLT), Language for Special Purposes (LSP), Shielded Content (SC), and Applied Foreign Language Component (AFLC).
There also regional variants, like KULAC (The Kansas University LAC program), and language-specific abbreviations, like ESP (Cuba’s English for Special Purposes initiative).
Some commentators have noted the confusion and suggested solutions: “The Terms –CBI, LSP, SC, and LAC– have sometimes been used interchangeably, creating confusion among practitioners and in the literature. We propose CBI as the progenitor and foundation for LSP, SC, LAC, and future ways of mediating language instruction through content” (Leaver and Bilstein 80).
This may be a reasonable proposal, but it is probably not realistic. CBI makes sense, because it suggests not only the use of multiple languages outside the Modern Languages curriculum but also the use of elements from across the curriculum within Modern Languages courses. However, CBI is not likely to be adapted universally because too many institutions have used too many other acronyms for too long.
Trinity University, for example, has used LAC since the early 1990s for all its catalogues, course names, workshops and student certificates. We’re unlikely to change at this late date.
The fact is that the teacher who wishes to research the use of foreign languages in non-traditional settings must use at least 13 different keywords for the general concept and also be on the lookout for novel terms that refer to specific institutions and/or languages.
Grandin, John M. “Languages Across the Curriculum in the Context of Higher Education Reform.” Languages Across the Curriculum: Interdisciplinary Structures and Internationalized Education. Ed. Maria-Regina Kecht and Katharina von Hammerstein. Columbus: National East Asian Languages Resource Center at The Ohio State University, 2000. 3-13.
Kecht, Maria-Regina and Katharina von Hammerstein. Introduction. Languages Across the Curriculum: Interdisciplinary Structures and Internationalized Education. Ed. Maria-Regina Kecht and Katharina von Hammerstein. Columbus: National East Asian Languages Resource Center at The Ohio State University, 2000. ix-xxxii.
Leaver, Betty Lou and Paula M. Bilstein. “Content, Language , and Task in Content-based Programs.” Languages Across the Curriculum: Interdisciplinary Structures and Internationalized Education. Ed. Maria-Regina Kecht and Katharina von Hammerstein. Columbus: National East Asian Languages Resource Center at The Ohio State University, 2000. 79-118.
Shoenberg, Robert and Barabara Turlington, eds. Next Steps for Languages Across the Curriculum: Prospects, Problems and Promise. Washington: American Councils on Education, 1998.