Research in brief: Critique of BICS and CALP

BICS and CALP in a nutshell

BICS and CALP was an idea first proposed by Prof Jim Cummins in the early 1980s. BICS stands for Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills, and CALP is Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency. Here’s what they are:

‘BICS refers to conversational fluency in a language while CALP refers to students’ ability to understand and express, in both oral and written modes, concepts and ideas that are relevant to success in school’ (Cummins 2008: 108).

Jean Conteh elaborates a bit more…

‘… BICS refers to all the social, everyday things we do with language, embedded in face-to-face, familiar contexts such as greetings, conversations, retelling, describing, recalling and so on. CALP…  refers to all the things we need to do with language in order to achieve academic and cognitively demanding purposes, such as explaining, analysing, synthesising, arguing and so on’. (2019:56)

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