Principles of CLAC (a CLAC Manifesto)

Submitted by Diana Davies, former CLAC Chair & Vice Provost for International Initiatives, Princeton University


  • CLAC is a driver of students’ personal transformation, as users of languages and as critical analysts of cultures.
  • CLAC is NOT Content Based Language Instruction. It is not about using content as a means of teaching language as a subject or a skill. (Some have more appropriately described CBLI as CALC, or the Curriculum across Languages and Cultures.)
  • CLAC is NOT simply the infusion of culture into language teaching. Infusing culture into all levels of language teaching should be a minimum expectation of all quality language programs.
  • CLAC can happen everywhere EXCEPT within traditional language classrooms in the same sense that Sciences across the Curriculum does not occur in a Physics course and Writing across the Curriculum does not occur in an English Composition course.
  • CLAC practitioners believe that language use can’t be truly meaningful unless it is informed by an awareness of culture. To speak of the meaningful use of language, then, always implies the use of language within an authentic cultural context. The reverse is also true. For this reason, the “C” and the “L” are always linked together in CLAC.
  • CLAC practitioners believe that meaningful USE of language is qualitatively different from the STUDY of language. Too many U.S. students continue to see modern languages as an “academic object” or just another requirement they must complete on their way to more meaningful curricular content.  Ironically, the majority of distributional and General Education language requirements in the U.S. only serve to reinforce this perception.
  • CLAC practitioners believe that meaningful use of a second language is a critical step in the development of translingual and transcultural sensitivities. Using another language to approach subjects and experiences outside the traditional language classroom aids in the development of sensitization to cultural differences.  It allows the student to operate from a “third place,” a point of estrangement, from which academic disciplines, and the world more generally, can be seen from a new and different perspective.
  • CLAC experiences are qualitatively similar to the experience of studying abroad.
  • CLAC can involve more or less immersive meaningful language use. At one end of the continuum (parallel to the experience a student might have in an “island” study abroad program), students in U.S. classrooms read, discuss and reference materials written in English by native speakers of another language, focusing on the cultural filters that inform the meaning of the text. At the other extreme, students use language to access and create meaning from within the immediate cultural context of that language.  At this point, CLAC and full immersion study abroad become one and the same.
  • CLAC practitioners believe that no U.S. institution of higher education can claim to be “global” or “internationalized” unless meaningful use of other languages (from within a more or less immersive, culturally appropriate context) is an important part of its curriculum.
  • CLAC practitioners believe that meaningful use of language isn’t exclusive to studying, working or living abroad. It can happen within any U.S. classroom, and it can occur outside of the classroom altogether, in work, internship and volunteer opportunities and in extracurricular activities.
  • CLAC opportunities should exist in the widest array of languages possible and should utilize the widest variety of authentic materials possible. If language is not seen as an academic subject or simply a means of accessing canonical literature, then the idea of “appropriate texts” extends far beyond those created in privileged languages and recognized as “literary”.
  • CLAC empowers students to be contributors of knowledge. In order to offer CLAC opportunities in a wide variety of languages, students may need to work in languages that are not understood by the faculty and/or in languages that are not formally offered within academic departments on the home campus.  This suggests the transformational potential of CLAC to shake up power structures in the classroom and on the campus and to empower students to access knowledge outside of the regular restrictions of classroom or campus administrative structures.
  • CLAC practitioners believe that true internationalization is always transformational. It demands a reassessment of the established power structures, operational standards, academic divisions and traditions of U.S. higher education institutions. If it isn’t transformational, it isn’t true internationalization.
  • CLAC is a driver of institutional transformation.