Upper School ESL Workshop: Unit 4 Slide 5 of 9
Presenter: Paul Shoebottom

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What kind of language proficiency is necessary for academic success?

According to Professor Cummins, there are two kinds of language competence: basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS) and cognitive-academic language proficiency (CALP). The differences are shown below:

  Definition: the language of everyday social interaction the language of the subjects, science, maths, humanities, etc.
  Typical settings: the playground, cafeteria, schoolbus the classroom, library
  Main characteristics: listening, speaking, context-embedded, concrete, cognitively undemanding reading, writing, context-reduced, abstract, cognitively demanding
  Linguistic features: short, simple sentences; high-frequency words long, complex sentences; subject-specific vocabulary; semi-technical vocabulary
  Learning time frame: 6 months - 2 years 5 - 10 years

Clearly, a good standard of cognitive-academic language proficiency (CALP) in English is a necessary condition for academic success at Frankfurt International School.

More from the ESL website on BICS and CALP.