Conversational/Academic Language Proficiency Distinction The distinction between BICS and CALP (Cummins, 1979b) was intended to draw educators’ attention to these data and to warn against premature exit of ELL students (in the United States) from bilingual to mainstream English-only programs on the basis of attainment of surface level fluency in English. In other words, the distinction highlighted the fact that educators’ conflating of these aspects of proficiency was a major factor in the creation of academic difficulties for bilingual students. p58
Conversation and composition (Bereiter and Scardamalia)
Bereiter and Scardamalia (1981) have analyzed the problems of learning to write as problems of converting a language production system geared to conversation over to a language production system capable of functioning by itself. They argue that the absence of normal conversational supports makes writing a radically different kind of task from conversation. Specifically, in writing the individual must:
+learn to continue to produce language without the prompting that comes from a conversational partner;
+learn to search his or her own memory instead of having memories triggered by what other people say;
+plan large units of discourse instead of planning only what will be said next;
+learn to function as both sender and receiver, the latter function being necessary for revision.
They suggest that the oral production system must be reconstructed to function autonomously rather than interactively if effective writing abilities are to develop. Furthermore, they suggest that as mastery increases there is progressive automatization of lower-level skills (e.g. handwriting, spelling of common words, punctuation, common syntactic forms) which releases increasingly more mental capacity for higher-level planning of large chunks of discourse. p64
Thus, the social practice of schooling entails certain ‘rules of the game’ with respect to how communication and language use is typically organized within that context. In short, in the present context the construct of academic language proficiency refers not to any absolute notion of expertise in using language but to the degree to which an individual has access to and expertise in understanding and using the specific kind of language that is employed in educational contexts and is required to complete academic tasks. p66
FIGURE 3.1 Range of contextual support and degree of cognitive involvement in
language tasks and activities
Quadrant A cognitively undemanding, context embedded: casual conversation
Quadrant B cognitively demanding, context embedded: persuading another individual that your point of view is correct
Quadrant C cognitively undemanding, context reduced: copying notes from the blackboard, filling in worksheets, or other forms of drill and practice activities
Quadrant D cognitively demanding, context embedded: writing an essay using academic language
A central implication of the framework in Figure 3.1 for instruction of second
language learners is that language and content will be acquired most successfully
when students are challenged cognitively but provided with the contextual and
linguistic supports or scaffolds required for successful task completion. In other
words, optimal instruction for linguistic, cognitive and academic growth will tend
to move from Quadrant A, to B, and from Quadrant B to D. Quadrant C activities
maybe included from time to time for reinforcement or practice of particular points.
This progression corresponds very closely to the stages that Gibbons (1995, 1998)
observed in her research on classroom discourse in science teaching. She distinguished
+Small group work.
+Teacher guided reporting.
Judy Haynes - Everything ESL
BICS: Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills
CALP: Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency
English language learners (ELLs) employ BIC skills when they are on the playground, in the lunch room,on the school bus, at parties, playing sports and talking on the telephone. Social interactions are usually context embedded. They occur in a meaningful social context. They are not very demanding cognitively. The language required is not specialized. These language skills usually develop within six months to two years after arrival in the U.S.
CALP refers to formal academic learning. This includes listening, speaking, reading, and writing about subject area content material. This level of language learning is essential for students to succeed in school. Students need time and support to become proficient in academic areas. This usually takes from five to seven years. Recent research (Thomas & Collier, 1995) has shown that if a child has no prior schooling or has no support in native language development, it may take seven to ten years for ELLs to catch up to their peers.]