Second language proficiency and learning theory

Bilingual and English as a Second Language (ESL) educators commonly refer to two types of English language proficiency: Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP). These terms were coined by Jim Cummins (1980). Cummins found that while most students learned sufficient English to engage in social communication in about two years, they typically needed five to seven years to acquire the type of language skills needed for successful participation in content classrooms. Limited English proficient (LEP) students language skills are often informally assessed upon the ability of the student to comprehend and respond to conversational language. However, children who are proficient in social situations may not be prepared for the academic, context-reduced, and literacy demands of mainstream classrooms. Judging students language proficiency based on oral and/or social language assessments becomes problematic when the students perform well in social conversations but do poorly on academic tasks. The students may be incorrectly tagged as having learning deficits or may even be referred for testing as learning disabled.

The terms BICS and CALP tend to be imprecise, value-laden, simplified, and misused to stereotype English language learners (Baker, 1993). Cummins (1984) addressed this problem through a theoretical framework which embeds the CALP language proficiency concept within a larger theory of Common Underlying Proficiency(CUP). The three terms are discussed below.




Instruction:Writing a good summary demonstrates that you clearly understand a text and that you can communicate this understanding to your readers. Sometimes you are asked to write a summary of a paper/article which abounds in factual information. Such a summary can be tricky to write at first because its tempting to include too much or too little information. But by following our easy 8-step method, you will be able to summarize texts quickly and successfully for any class or subject.

1) Divideand conquer. First off, skim the text you are going to summarize and divide it into sections. Focus on any headings and subheadings. Also look at any bold-faced terms and make sure you understand them before you read.

2) Read. Now that youve prepared, go ahead and read the selection. Read straight through. At this point, you dont need to stop to look up anything that gives you troublejust get a feel for the authors tone, style, and main idea.

3) Reread.Rereading should be active reading. Underline topic sentences and key facts. Label areas that you want to refer to as you write your summary. Also label areas that should be avoided because the details though they may be interesting are too specific. Identify areas that you do not understand and try to clarify those points.

4) One sentence at a time. You should now have a firm grasp on the text you will be summarizing. In steps 1-3, you have divided the piece into sections and located the authors main ideas and points. Now write down the main idea of each section in one well-developed sentence. Make sure that what you include in your sentences are key points, not minor details.

5) Write a thesis statement. This is the key to any well-written summary. Review the sentences you wrote in step 4. From them, you should be able to create a thesis statement that clearly communicates what the entire text was trying to achieve. If you find that you are not able to do this step, then you should go back and make sure your sentences actually addressed key points.

6) Ready to write. At this point, your first draft is virtually done. You can use the thesis statement as the introductory sentence of your summary, and your other sentences can make up the body. Make sure that they are in order. Add some transition words (then, however, also, moreover) that help with the overall structure and flow of the summary. And once you are actually putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys!), remember these tips:

Write in the present tense.

Make sure to include the author and title of the work.

Be concise: a summary should not be equal in length to the original text.

If you must use the words of the author, cite them.

Don't put your own opinions, ideas, or interpretations into the summary. The purpose of writing a summary is to accurately represent what the author wanted to say, not to provide a critique.

7) Check for accuracy. Reread your summary and make certain that you have accurately represented the authors ideas and key points. Make sure that you have correctly cited anything directly quoted from the text. Also check to make sure that your text does not contain your own commentary on the piece.

8) Revise. Once you are certain that your summary is accurate, you should (as with any piece of writing) revise it for style, grammar, and punctuation. If you have time, give your summary to someone else to read. This person should be able to understand the main text based on your summary alone. If he or she does not, you may have focused too much on one area of the piece and not enough on the authors main idea.

(After John Swales and Christine Feat. Academic Writing for Graduate Students,Essential Tasks and Skills, 1994)



  2. A Pidgin Language
  3. A second, very small parcel contained a note.
  4. A short theory
  5. A. What countries is English the first language? Match English-speaking countries with their national flags and capitals.
  7. And Harrys feet left the floor to fall, seconds later, back onto the rug in front of Dumbledores desk.
  9. Background: English as the language of publication and instruction
  11. Body Language in American Politics
  12. Case study: Levels of Language Proficiency - Paired with Cummins Iceberg

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Section 1. Guidelines for reading texts on the use of English in European education | Section 2. Grammar workout

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