Content-Compatible Language/alx

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Content-Compatible Language
Contributors Christian Köppe, Mariëlle Nijsten
Last modification May 15, 2017
Source Köppe and Nijsten (2012)[1][2][3]
Pattern formats OPR Alexandrian
Learning domain

Also Known As: Content-Complementary Language (Content-Complementary Language).

You identified the Content-Obligatory Language (Content-Obligatory Language) and included it in the course design opportunities so that the students can master it. However, most domains contain more elements of a specific language: synonyms, proverbs, expressions, phrases, metaphors, etc..


Only mastering the obligatory language of a course’s content limits the students in their expressiveness and does not improve the overall quality of students’ language skills, even though it might be sufficient to fulfill the course’s requirements.

Content First. As the content is often the more important part of a course, any way of showing that it has been mastered is sufficient. The quality and expressiveness of this "showing" seems of less priority.

Language Variety. Things in general are better understood if described in different ways. Using only one set of language constructs restricts the language variety. At the same time, many things can be described in different ways.

Language Elements. Most domains contain more elements of a specific language than only nouns and verbs: synonyms, proverbs or other expressions. But most often only the nouns and verbs are taught to the students.

Unknown Synonymity. Even though the synonymity of expressions might be obvious to the teacher, this is not always the case for the students.


Therefore: Identify the language constructs and expressions of the course domain which are additional to the obligatory language. Create opportunities for learning these in your course design and course execution.

Offering a broader variety of descriptive possibilities might help with the better understanding of the content. Documenting synonyms (as a part of the Content-Compatible Language (Content-Compatible Language)) in advance creates an awareness of these, which also can later be used in a Commented Action (Commented Action).

Including too many — or even all — content-compatible elements could be overwhelming and is in most cases not necessary. The focus should be on either the most used ones in the domain of the course or the ones which match the current language level of the students best. For example, theoretical academic terms of the domain might be inappropriate for beginning undergraduate students while appropriate for graduate students. Terms which are used in the companies where students take an internship could also be important sources of Content-Compatible Language (Content-Compatible Language). This means that the corpus of the Content-Compatible Language (Content-Compatible Language) is variable and dependent on the course level.

One starting point for this is the Language Status Quo (Language Status Quo). But it is also necessary to look at the long-term language learning objectives. This way some vocabulary can already be included which enriches the current language, but is obligatory for follow-up courses[4].

Implementing this pattern might require a lot of time, as usually no collections of these Content-Compatible Language (Content-Compatible Language) elements exist. It is a good idea to implement this pattern in an iterative way by incrementally adding newly identified language elements to the collection and integrating them in the course design.

For a course on software design the curriculum designer included a section in the teachers guide, listing the most important constructs of the Content-Compatible Language (Content-Compatible Language). This constructs were then used during the lectures and especially Commented Action (Commented Action). Examples of terms/constructs on this list are: Is-a relationship, liabilities, responsibilities, Sketch, Members, or sections in class representations.

A business teacher at the HAW University of Applied Sciences in Hamburg gave a list to his students with contentrelated words on it — the Content-Obligatory Language (Content-Obligatory Language) and the Content-Compatible Language (Content-Compatible Language). The students had to identify the translation and meaning of the words by themselves and had to transform this list into a glossary. The teacher checked later in the course these glossaries to ensure that the students were working with correct meanings and translations.


  1. Patlet first mentioned in Köppe, C., & Nijsten, M. (2012). A pattern language for teaching in a foreign language: part 1. In Proceedings of the 17th European Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (EuroPLoP 2012) (p. 10). New York:ACM.
  2. Pattern published in Köppe, C., & Nijsten, M. (2012). A pattern language for teaching in a foreign language: part 2. In Proceedings of the 19th Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (PLoP 2012). New York:ACM.
  3. Patlet also mentioned in Köppe, C., & Nijsten, M. (2012). Towards a Pattern Language for Teaching in a Foreign Language. In Proceedings of the VikingPLoP 2012 conference. Saariselkä, Finland.
  4. Met, M. (1994). Teaching content through a second language. Educating second language children: The whole child, the whole curriculum, the whole community, 159-182.