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Jim Cummins

In 1979 Cummins codified a couple of terms to help teachers qualify student's language ability. The acronyms are


(Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills) BICS refers to the basic communicative fluency acheived by all normal native speakers of a language. It is cognitively undemanding and contentextual and is better understood as the language used by students in informal settings, say, on a playground or cafe.


(Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency) CALP refers to the ability to manipulate language using abstractions in a sophisticated manner. CALP is used while performing in an academic setting.

Bilingual educational environments, Cummins tells us, should be mindful of a student's apparent ability to interact at a high cognitive level on the 'street' does not necessarily match their cognitive or communications ability in the 'class'.

It is tempting for teachers and administrators to move students with a high BICS level into a 'mainstream' class because they 'sound' like the other kids on the playground.

Cummins insists that a more thorough assessment[?] of the students academic language abilities be performed before moving the student out of a 'sheltered' language development environment.

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