An Electronic Magazine by Omar Villarreal and Marina Kirac ©


Year 6                Number 148                 May 24th 2005

8400 SHARERS are reading this issue of SHARE this week
Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being SHARED




Do you remember our last “editorial” on “quack” teacher trainers? We received piles of mails with reactions to the issue we had raised. Many were curious about who we were talking about! (and they were left wondering, obviously). And many expressed their deep concern about this disgraceful state of affairs and “reported” many similar cases. We would love to publish them all (and expose them all!) but that is, for the time being, impossible so we chose one mail from a very dear SHARER from abroad: Costas Gabrielatos. Enjoy it:


Dear Omar


First off I’d like to agree with your sentiments about ‘trainers’ with minimal, if any, education and professional training, and add that the same applies to EFL teachers as well. I’m afraid that such incidents are not restricted to self-professed ‘trainers’, but extend to cases when the title is sanctioned, so to speak, by an institution. It is not uncommon for language schools and training centres to regard a 120-hour Certificate in ELT as sufficient qualification for a post as an EFL teacher, and a 200-hour Diploma for a post of director of studies or teacher trainer.


I’d also like to say how gratifying it is to see a third article of mine appearing in SHARE. Thank you – and keep up the good work.


Best regards


Costas Gabrielatos
Dept. of
Linguistics & English Language
Lancaster University
, UK


Omar and Marina




In SHARE 148


1.-    Performance- based report cards.

2.-    Language Proficiency and Academic Development in Bilingual Schools.

3.-    Tips for Writing Comments in Report Cards.

4.-    British Council Online Information Service.

5.-    Forthcoming ARTESOL and TESOL Conventions.

6.-    Women Authors in English Literature.

7.-    Online Course: The Key to Understanding Tenses

8.-    Support Learning Courses at ZEAL.

9.-    Much Ado about Beatrice and Benedick.

10.-   Analía Kandel en Radio Splendid: “Idiomas,Arte y Cultura”

11.-   Request from Canada.

12.-   On the Road Performances in Belgrano.
13.-   Words on Words 2005.

14.-   Free Course on Communicative Competence.





Our dear SHARER Dr. Fernando Fleurquin has generously offered to SHARE this article with all of us.

At the time he wrote this article, Dr Fleurquin was Academic Director of ALIANZA, the bi-national centre in Montevideo, Uruguay. He is now based in the English Language Institute, University of Michigan. He will soon be visiting our country to speak at the XI National Congress of Teachers and Students of English – Rosario 2005.


Seeking Authentic Changes: New Performance-based Report Cards


Informing parents and students of a student's progress is an ongoing task for EFL teachers. This is largely done informally and spontaneously on an almost daily basis, either answering students' questions or parents' requests for information on students' performance in class. However, several times a year we have to prepare a thorough evaluation and report of our learners' performance. At our Binational Center, we have developed useful assessment and evaluation tools and have devised practical and informative ways to report students' results.     


For several years, our report cards included three boxes, which were completed with teachers' comments on the students' oral, written, and overall performance each term. Filling in this kind of information was no easy task because comments for each student should be original and suggestive and, at the same time, they should be an accurate reflection of the student's performance. More experienced and inspired teachers had fewer problems with this task and devoted less time to it. However, the types of comments that prevailed were too general or vague, either giving an overall grade or general comment on the learner's oral or written expression, commenting on the quality of their participation, or giving general suggestions (e.g., very good oral participation; you are always motivated in class; you should write more; remember to do your homework).   


In need of a change


We decided we needed a more accurate system to report students' results. In fact, since assessment and instruction are two sides of the same coin, we needed to adapt the assessment and evaluation procedures in such a way that they faithfully reflected our teaching practices. We needed a change that would help us reach the following improvements:                                                      


  1. raise our expectations and standards for students' performance at an institutional level;
  2. increase opportunities for authentic assessment in each class and throughout the course;
  3. strengthen feedback provided to each learner throughout the course;
  4. achieve a more specific reporting of students' performance by the end of each term;

          provide more evidence of the status of the student's progress to parents.   



First step: defining the outcomes expected                                 


When we started analyzing our needs, we realized we needed to define the performance that we expected of students in the first place. In this way, teachers, students, and parents could be informed of the minimum expectations for each school year. Thus, we appointed a team to write, revise, and edit the performance outcomes for our students' courses.                                                   


The six-year program was divided into two main levels: grades 1 through 3, and grades 4 through 6. In our case, with three hours of English instruction per week and with learners who may begin studying English at almost any age, there is a significant difference between their performance during the first three and the last three years of English courses. Even when there are two main levels defined, teachers know how each performance statement can be interpreted and accomplished in each different course.            


Once we had defined these outcomes, we found that we were able to reach several new goals. We could improve our assessment practices. We could make use of a wider variety of authentic assessment instruments and practices (such as classroom observation, reflective writing, performance assessment, self-assessment checklists, and portfolio assessment) with more precision and reliability. The conclusions we reached would be more valid portraits of the quality of students' accomplishments. Based on the outcomes defined, a checklist could be easily prepared to follow each child's progress in the different areas. In this sense, the most important advantage of having outcomes is that teachers know which types of performance to assess and therefore to observe, to keep written records of, and to inform and discuss with students and parents.         


From outcomes to report cards                                              


To design the report cards, we divided the outcomes into three main categories: oral language development, the reading and writing process, and learning attitude. In this way, we could give more unity and coherence to the different components of students' performance.                           


Aside from the skills traditionally assessed, we included a special section on student's learning attitude, in which we could show perceived signs of the student's learning preferences and motivation. The areas we emphasized include the interest and motivation that the student shows in and out of class, how the student tolerates and accepts mistakes as an integral part of learning, how respectfully the student interacts with the class, and how effectively the student carries out the assigned tasks.                    



Finding a scale that fits our purposes                                       


The scale we are using is an interesting attempt to depart from the traditional numbers or grades that are used in most public and private schools. The main effect created by using these evolving concepts is that the results reported are only one snapshot in a much longer process; they reflect our assumption that these results are dynamically changing with the student's performance, rather than conforming to a stagnant concept. Therefore, we truly emphasize the idea that learning involves a change, that learning is a process, that it is in constant evolution, and that learning involves a different process for each learner, who may need more or less time to understand and learn certain content. From the beginning, we assume that if a certain performance is not attained, it may be because the student is not yet ready to demonstrate that she or he has learned it. In other words, we show real confidence in the student. We know that if we continue providing an enticing classroom atmosphere; if we promote attractive and safe learning conditions in which the student can feel free to take risks, to create with language, to express his or her own voice; and if the student continues receiving reassuring and encouraging feedback from the teacher, the student will reach the expected levels of performance at his or her own pace, in due time.                                                       


Our audience: students and parents        


Report cards are aimed at both parents and students. However, to involve students even more in their own learning process and to help them accept more responsibility for their own learning, the comments and suggestions the teacher makes are addressed to the student and not to the parents. Furthermore, eliciting the student's response and signature encourages a real exchange of information between students and parents, fostering more critical thinking and developing higher awareness of the factors that improve or hinder the student's learning progress. And to generate a stronger sense of personal commitment to the performance reported, we leave a space for students to include one of their own classroom pictures so that each report card will have a unique and colorful cover.                                                                         


We explained the changes in the report cards to parents in our first meeting with them, explaining some of the concepts mentioned in this article and even some of the performance outcomes. It took some time for them to process this information, but their feedback has been very positive. We feel they are now more accurately informed of the real performance of their students.                       




We are still learning and changing accordingly. We continue receiving feedback from teachers, learners, and parents on the implementation of this report card system, and we will need to continue making minor adjustments.  


Our instruction is truly congruent with our assessment practices. Having progressed to more authentic ways of assessing our students has implied adopting reliable and personalized instruments to report our assessment conclusions. By understanding the nature of the learning process in our particular context, we have taken steps to develop performance assessments that portray our learners' real accomplishments, to develop students' awareness of their own progress and responsibility for their own learning, and to periodically inform students and parents of the real performance changes that take place in our classrooms.


© 1998 Fernando Fleurquin







Our dear SHARER Gerardo Laffitte from Santiago , Chile has sent us this article by well-known educationist James Cummins.

Putting Language Proficiency in Its Place: Responding to Critiques of the Conversational/Academic Language Distinction

by Jim Cummins
of Toronto


The issue of how language proficiency relates to academic achievement is clearly relevant to the educational development of bilingual and trilingual children.  These children may be exposed to a wide variety of language interaction patterns in home and school. In many contexts in Europe and elsewhere, it is increasingly common for schools to promote knowledge of three (or more) languages. A typical pattern is for primary schooling to be conducted bilingually through a minority language (which children speak at home) and the national language, with instruction in a language of wider communication (frequently English) introduced at a later stage (see Cummins & Corson, 1997, for numerous examples).

A number of issues arise for policy-makers contemplating the introduction of bilingual and trilingual education programs. For example, if instruction is divided among two or three languages, will proficiency in each language develop adequately?  When is it appropriate to compare bilingual children’s proficiency in their two languages (L1 and L2) with that of monolingual children whose instruction has been totally through their L1?  In other words, how long does it take children to attain grade expectations in their second (or third) language?  In a transitional bilingual program such as those implemented for minority students in the United States and parts of The Netherlands (e.g. Verhoeven, 1991), when should children be mainstreamed to classes taught predominantly or totally through their L2?  If children experience academic difficulties (e.g. in reading) in a bilingual program, should they be transferred to a monolingual program where more intensive instruction can be given through just one language?  How valid are tests administered through a bilingual child’s second language, or even first language if that language is not being promoted strongly in school?  Should the introduction of reading in a second language be delayed until a certain level of oral language proficiency in that language has been attained?  If so, what level?

These issues have been debated in the context of bilingual education for linguistic minority students in the United States , for majority language students in Canadian French immersion programs, and in a wide variety of bilingual and trilingual programs in Europe .  I have suggested that underlying many of these issues is the question of what do we mean by language proficiency and how is it related to academic achievement.  Two examples will illustrate the relevance of this underlying issue.  In North America, minority children have frequently been tested on IQ tests through English (their L2) after two or three years in the country and assigned to special needs classes based on the results of these tests (usually a pattern of low verbal scores and higher non-verbal scores). In Texas in the early 1980s, for example, there were more than three times as many Latino/Latina students labeled as “learning disabled” as would be expected based on their proportion in the school population (Ortiz & Yates, 1983).  This pattern raises obvious issues such as the validity of ability and achievement tests whose norms reflect the experiences of the dominant group in the society; but it also raises the issue of how conversational fluency in a second language is related to academic development in that language and how long do students typically require to develop conversational and academic language skills in a second language.


A related example is the debate in the United States over how long bilingual students should remain in bilingual programs before being transferred to all-English classrooms.  Because of controversy over the desirability of permitting minority languages into the school system, there is considerable pressure on educators to limit the time that a student can spend in a bilingual program to less than three years.  Students who are transferred after this period of time to classrooms without additional support for learning English and catching up academically frequently experience academic failure.  An obvious issue that arises is “How much proficiency in a language is required to follow instruction through that language?”


In short, the question of how we conceptualize language proficiency and how it is related to academic development is central to many volatile policy issues in the area of bilingual education.  I have suggested that in order to address these issues we need to make a fundamental distinction between conversational and academic aspects of language proficiency (originally labeled basic interpersonal communicative skills [BICS] and cognitive academic language proficiency [CALP]).  (Cummins, 1979).  In this paper I use the terms conversational/academic language proficiency interchangeably with BICS/CALP.

This distinction has been influential in a number of contexts (e.g. Cline & Frederickson, 1996) but it has also been severely critiqued by a number of investigators (e.g. Edelsky et al., 1983; Martin-Jones & Romaine, 1986;  Romaine, 1990; Wiley, 1996).  In this paper, I try to clarify the rationale and nature of the distinction in light of research evidence from a number of contexts and I respond to the critiques that have been addressed to the distinction.  In the first section below I elaborate the rationale for the distinction and the evolution of the constructs during the past 20 years.


Evolution of the Conversational/Academic Language Proficiency Distinction


Skutnabb-Kangas and Toukomaa (1976) had brought attention to the fact that Finnish immigrant children in Sweden often appeared to educators to be fluent in both Finnish and Swedish but still showed levels of verbal academic performance in both languages considerably below grade/age expectations. Similarly, analysis of psychological assessments administered to minority students showed that teachers and psychologists often assumed that children who had attained fluency in English had overcome all difficulties with English (Cummins, 1984). Yet these children frequently performed poorly on English academic tasks as well as in psychological assessment situations. The need to distinguish between conversational fluency and academic aspects of L2 performance was highlighted by the reanalysis of large-scale language acquisition data from the Toronto Board of Education (Cummins, 1981a).  These data showed clearly that there was a gap of several years, on average, between the attainment of peer-appropriate fluency in L2 and the attainment of grade norms in academic aspects of L2. Conversational aspects of proficiency reached peer-appropriate levels usually within about two years of exposure to L2 but a period of 5-7 years was required, on average, for immigrant students to approach grade norms in academic aspects of English.


The distinction between BICS and CALP (Cummins, 1979) was intended to draw educators' attention to these data and to warn against premature exit of minority 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 minority students.

The BICS/CALP distinction also served to qualify John Oller's (1979) claim that all individual differences in language proficiency could be accounted for by just one underlying factor, which he termed global language proficiency. Oller synthesized a considerable amount of data showing strong correlations between performance on cloze tests of reading, standardized reading tests, and measures of oral verbal ability (e.g. vocabulary measures). I pointed out that not all aspects of language use or performance could be incorporated into one dimension of global language proficiency.  For example, if we take two monolingual English-speaking siblings, a 12-year old child and a six-year old, there are enormous differences in these children's ability to read and write English and in their knowledge of vocabulary, but minimal differences in their phonology or basic fluency.  The six-year old can understand virtually everything that is likely to be said to her in everyday social contexts and she can use language very effectively in these contexts, just as the 12-year old can.  Similarly, as noted above, in second language acquisition contexts, immigrant children typically manifest very different time periods required to catch up to their peers in everyday face-to-face aspects of proficiency as compared to academic aspects.


This distinction was elaborated into two intersecting continua (Cummins, 1981b) which highlighted the range of cognitive demands and contextual support involved in particular language tasks or activities (context-embedded/context-reduced, cognitively undemanding/cognitively demanding) (see Figure 1). The BICS/CALP distinction was maintained within this elaboration and related to the theoretical distinctions of several other theorists.  The terms used by different investigators have varied but the essential distinction refers to the extent to which the meaning being communicated is supported by contextual or interpersonal cues (such as gestures, facial expressions, and intonation present in face-to-face interaction) or dependent on linguistic cues that are largely independent of the immediate communicative context.

The framework elaborated in Figure 1  differs from distinctions made by theorists such as Bruner (1975) [communicative/analytic competence], Donaldson (1978) [embedded and disembedded thought and language], Olson (1978) [utterance and text] and Snow et al. (1991) [contextualized and decontextualized language] in that it goes beyond a simple dichotomy in mapping the underlying dimensions of linguistic performance in academic contexts.  In these one-dimensional distinctions, as in distinctions between oral and literate forms of language, the degree of cognitive demand of particular tasks or activities is not represented.  Thus there would be no way of highlighting the fact that an intense intellectual discussion with one or two other people can be just as cognitively demanding as writing an academic paper, despite the fact that the former is contextualized while the latter is relatively decontextualized.


Cognitive and Contextual Demands


The framework outlined in Figure 1 is designed to identify the extent to which students are able to cope successfully with the cognitive and linguistic demands made on them by the social and educational environment in which they are obliged to function. These demands are conceptualized within a framework made up of the intersection of two continua, one relating to the range of contextual support available for expressing or receiving meaning and the other relating to the amount of information that must be processed simultaneously or in close succession by the student in order to carry out the activity.

The extremes of the context-embedded/context-reduced continuum are distinguished by the fact that in context-embedded communication the participants can actively negotiate meaning (e.g. by providing feedback that the message has not been understood) and the language is supported by a wide range of meaningful interpersonal and situational cues. Context-reduced communication, on the other hand, relies primarily (or, at the extreme of the continuum, exclusively) on linguistic cues to meaning, and thus successful interpretation of the message depends heavily on knowledge of the language itself. In general, context-embedded communication is more typical of the everyday world outside the classroom, whereas many of the linguistic demands of the classroom (e.g. manipulating text) reflect communicative activities that are close to the context-reduced end of the continuum.

The upper parts of the vertical continuum consist of communicative tasks and activities in which the linguistic tools have become largely automatized and thus require little active cognitive involvement for appropriate performance. At the lower end of the continuum are tasks and activities in which the linguistic tools have not become automatized and thus require active cognitive involvement. Persuading another individual that your point of view is correct, and writing an essay, are examples of quadrant B and D skills respectively. Casual conversation is a typical quadrant A activity while examples of quadrant C are copying notes from the blackboard or filling in worksheets.


The framework elaborates on the conversational/academic distinction by highlighting important underlying dimensions of conversational and academic communication. Thus, conversational abilities (quadrant A) often develop relatively quickly among immigrant second language learners because these forms of communication are supported by interpersonal and contextual cues and make relatively few cognitive demands on the individual. Mastery of the academic functions of language (quadrant D), on the other hand, is a more formidable task because such uses require high levels of cognitive involvement and are only minimally supported by contextual or interpersonal cues. Under conditions of high cognitive demand, it is necessary for students to stretch their linguistic resources to the limit to function successfully. In short, the essential aspect of academic language proficiency is the ability to make complex meanings explicit in either oral or written modalities by means of language itself rather than by means of contextual or paralinguistic cues (e.g. gestures, intonation etc.).


As students progress through the grades, they are increasingly required to manipulate language in cognitively-demanding and context-reduced situations that differ significantly from everyday conversational interactions. In writing, for example, they must learn to continue to produce language without the prompting that comes from a conversational partner and they must plan large units of discourse, and organize them coherently, rather than planning only what will be said next. The difference between the everyday language of face-to-face interaction and the language of schooling is clearly expressed by Pauline Gibbons (1991) in outlining the differences between what she terms playground language and classroom language:


This playground language includes the language which enables children to make friends, join in games and take part in a variety of day-to-day activities that develop and maintain social contacts. It usually occurs in face-to-face contact, and is thus highly dependent on the physical and visual context, and on gesture and body language. Fluency with this kind of language is an important part of language development; without it a child is isolated from the normal social life of the playground. ...

But playground language is very different from the language that teachers use in the classroom, and from the language that we expect children to learn to use. The language of the playground is not the language associated with learning in mathematics, or social studies, or science. The playground situation does not normally offer children the opportunity to use such language as: if we increase the angle by 5 degrees, we could cut the circumference into equal parts. Nor does it normally require the language associated with the higher order thinking skills, such as hypothesizing, evaluating, inferring, generalizing, predicting or classifying. Yet these are the language functions which are related to learning and the development of cognition; they occur in all areas of the curriculum, and without them a child's potential in academic areas cannot be realized. (p. 3)


Thus, the context-embedded/context-reduced distinction is not one between oral and written language. Within the framework, the dimensions of contextual embeddedness and cognitive demand are distinguished because some context-embedded activities are clearly just as cognitively-demanding as context-reduced activities. For example, an intense intellectual discussion with one or two other people is likely to require at least as much cognitive processing as writing an essay on the same topic. Similarly, writing an e-mail message to a close friend is, in many respects, more context-embedded than giving a lecture to a large group of people.

Contextual support involves both internal and external dimensions. Internal factors are attributes of the individual that make a task more familiar or easier in some respect (e.g. prior experience, motivation, cultural relevance, interests, etc.). External factors refer to aspects of the input that facilitate or impede comprehension; for example, language input that is spoken clearly and contains a considerable amount of syntactic and semantic redundancy is easier to understand than input that lacks these features.

A central implication of the framework 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 fall into quadrant B.


Clarifications of the Conversational/Academic (BICS/CALP) distinction


The distinction between BICS and CALP has sometimes been misunderstood or misrepresented. For example, the distinction was criticized on the grounds that a simple dichotomy does not account for many dimensions of language use and competence (e.g. sociolinguistic aspects of language) (e.g. Wald, 1984).  However, the distinction was not proposed as an overall theory of language but as a very specific conceptual distinction addressed to specific issues related to the education of second language learners. As outlined above, the distinction entails important implications for policy and practice. The fact that the distinction does not address issues of sociolinguistics or discourse styles or any number of other linguistic issues is irrelevant.  The usefulness of any theoretical construct should be assessed in relation to the issues that it attempts to address, not in relation to issues that it makes no claim to address.  To suggest that the BICS/CALP distinction is invalid because it does not account for subtleties of sociolinguistic interaction or discourse styles is like saying: "This apple is no good because it doesn't taste like an orange."


Another point concerns the sequence of acquisition between BICS and CALP. August and Hakuta (1997), for example,  suggest that the distinction specifies that BICS must precede CALP in development. This is not at all the case. The sequential nature of BICS/CALP acquisition was suggested as typical in the specific situation of immigrant children learning a second language. It was not suggested as an absolute order that applies in every, or even the majority of situations.  Thus attainment of  high levels of L2 CALP can precede attainment of fluent L2 BICS in certain situations (e.g. a scientist who can read a language for research purposes but who can’t speak it). 

Another misunderstanding is to interpret the distinction as dimensions of language that are autonomous or independent of their contexts of acquisition (e.g. Romaine, 1990, p. 240). To say that BICS and CALP are conceptually distinct is not the same as saying that they are separate or acquired in different ways. Developmentally they are not necessarily separate; all children acquire their initial conceptual foundation (knowledge of the world) largely through conversational interactions in the home. Both BICS and CALP are shaped by their contexts of acquisition and use.  Consistent with a Vygotskian perspective on cognitive and language development, BICS and CALP both develop within a matrix of social interaction.  However, they follow different developmental patterns: phonological skills in our native language and our basic fluency reach a plateau in the first six or so years; in other words, the rate of subsequent development is very much reduced in comparison to previous development.  This is not the case for literacy-related knowledge such as range of vocabulary which continues to develop at least throughout our schooling and usually throughout our lifetimes.


It is also important to point out that cognitive skills are involved, to a greater or lesser extent, in most forms of social interaction.  For example, cognitive skills are undoubtedly involved in one's ability to tell jokes effectively and if we work at it we might improve our joke-telling ability throughout our lifetimes.  However, our joke-telling ability is largely unrelated to our academic performance. This intersection of the cognitive and social aspects of language proficiency, however, does not mean that they are identical or reducible one to the other.  The implicit assumption that conversational fluency in English is a good indicator of "English proficiency" has resulted in countless bilingual children being "diagnosed" as learning disabled or retarded. Despite their developmental intersections, BICS and CALP are conceptually and follow different developmental patterns.


An additional misconception is that the distinction characterizes CALP (academic language) as a “superior” form of language proficiency than BICS (conversational language).  This interpretation was never intended, although it is easy to see how the use of the term “basic” in BICS might appear to devalue conversational language as compared to the higher status of cognitive academic language proficiency.  Clearly, various forms of oral language performance are highly complex and sophisticated both linguistically and cognitively. However, these forms of language performance are not necessarily strongly related to the linguistic demands of schooling.  As outlined above, access to very specific forms of language are required to continue to progress academically and a major goal of schooling for all students is to expand students’ registers and repertoires of language into these academic domains. However, the greater relevance of academic language proficiency for success in schooling, as compared to conversational proficiency, does not mean that it is intrinsically superior in any way or that the language proficiency of non-literate or non-schooled communities is in any way deficient.


A final point of clarification concerns the relationship of language proficiency to social determinants of minority students’ academic development (e.g. Troike, 1984). The conversational/academic language proficiency theoretical construct is psychoeducational in nature insofar as it focuses primarily on the cognitive and linguistic dimensions of proficiency in a language.  The role of social factors in minority students' academic success or failure was acknowledged in early work but not elaborated in detail.  In 1986, I proposed  a framework within which the intersecting roles of sociopolitical and psychoeducational factors could be conceptualized (Cummins, 1986).  Specifically, the framework highlighted the ways in which the interactions between educators and minority students reflected particular role definitions on the part of educators in relation to students' language and culture, community participation, pedagogy, and assessment.  It hypothesized that minority students are educationally disabled in school in much the same way that their communities have historically been disabled in the wider society and pointed to directions for reversing this process.  The framework argues that educational interventions will be successful only to the extent that they constitute a challenge to the broader societal power structure (Cummins, 1986, 1996).


Linguistic Evidence for the Conversational/Academic Language Distinction


To this point, two major sets of evidence have been advanced to support the conversational/academic language distinction:


         In monolingual contexts, the distinction reflects the difference between the language proficiency acquired through interpersonal interaction by virtually all 6-year old children and the proficiency developed through schooling and literacy which continues to expand throughout our lifetimes. For most children, the basic structure of their native language is in place by age 6 or so but their language continues to expand with respect to the range of vocabulary and grammatical constructions they can understand and use and the linguistic contexts within which they can function successfully.  A typical 16-year-old student has considerably greater knowledge of language and options for language use (e.g. reading novels, encyclopedias, etc.) than a typical six-year old despite the fact that both are fluent native speakers of their L1.

         Research studies since the early 1980s have shown that immigrant students can quickly acquire considerable fluency in the target language when they are exposed to it in the environment and at school but despite this rapid growth in conversational fluency, it generally takes a minimum of about five years (and frequently much longer) for them to catch up to native-speakers in academic aspects of the language (Collier, 1987; Cummins, 1979, 1981a; Klesmer, 1994) as assessed by measures of literacy and formal language knowledge.


In addition to the evidence noted above, the distinction receives strong support from two other sources: (a) Douglas Biber's (1986) analysis of a corpus of authentic discourse gathered from a wide range of communicative situations, both written and oral, and (b) David Corson’s (1995) documentation of the lexical differences between English everyday conversational language and textual language, the former deriving predominantly from Anglo-Saxon sources and the latter from Graeco-Latin sources.


Biber’s Analysis of Textual Variation


Biber used psychometric analysis of an extremely large corpus of spoken and written textual material in order to uncover the basic dimensions underlying textual variation. Among the 16 text types included in Biber's analysis were broadcasts, spontaneous speeches, telephone conversation, face-to-face conversation, professional letters, academic prose and press reports. Forty-one linguistic features were counted in 545 text samples, totaling more than one million words. 


Three major dimensions emerged from the factor analysis of this corpus. These were labeled by Biber as Interactive vs. Edited Text, Abstract vs. Situated Content, and Reported vs. Immediate Style. The first dimension is described as follows:


Thus, Factor 1 identifies a dimension which characterizes texts produced under conditions of high personal involvement and real-time constraints (marked by low explicitness in the expression of meaning, high subordination and interactive features) - as opposed to texts produced under conditions permitting considerable editing and high explicitness of lexical content, but little interaction or personal involvement. ... This dimension combines both situational and cognitive parameters; in particular it combines interactional features with those reflecting production constraints (or the lack of them). (1986, p. 385)


The second factor has positive weights from linguistic features such as nominalizations, prepositions, and passives and, according to Biber, reflects a "detached formal style vs. a concrete colloquial one" (p. 396). Although this factor is correlated with the first factor, it can be empirically distinguished from it, as illustrated by professional letters, which, according to Biber's analysis, represent highly abstract texts that have a high level of personal involvement. 


The third factor has positive weights from linguistic features such as past tense, perfect aspect and 3rd person pronouns which can all refer to a removed narrative context. According to Biber this dimension "distinguishes texts with a primary narrative emphasis, marked by considerable reference to a removed situation, from those with non-narrative emphases (descriptive, expository, or other) marked by little reference to a removed situation but a high occurrence of present tense forms" (p. 396).


Although Biber's three dimensions provide a more detailed analysis of the nature of language proficiency and use than the conversational/academic distinction (as would be expected in view of the very extensive range of spoken and written texts analyzed), it is clear that the distinctions highlighted in his dimensions are consistent with the broad distinction between conversational and academic aspects of proficiency. For example, when factor scores were calculated for the different text types on each factor, telephone and face-to-face conversation were at opposite extremes from official documents and academic prose on Textual Dimensions 1 and 2 (Interactive vs. Edited Text, and Abstract vs. Situated Content).  In short, Biber’s research shows clearly that the general distinction that has been proposed between conversational and academic aspects of language has linguistic reality that can be identified empirically.


Consistent with Biber’s distinctions is recent work by Gibbons and Lascar (1998) in Australia . Gibbons and Lascar point to the fact that Biber’s descriptions of different registers of language are consistent with the characteristics that Michael Halliday (e.g. Halliday & Hasan, 1985) assigns to the concept of Mode “which examines the linguistic effects produced by the distance (in terms of time, space and abstractness) between a text and the context to which it refers, and also the distance between listener/reader and speaker/writer” (p. 41).  Gibbons and Lascar note that degree of context-embeddedness  is a defining feature of this register parameter Mode and refer to it as the literate register on the grounds that “it constitutes an important element of literacy” (p. 41). Gibbons and Lascar point out that many minority language speakers often have a well-developed domestic or everyday register but have not had opportunities to acquire many other registers, particularly the academic or literate register.  Their research used multiple choice cloze procedures as a way of operationalizing cognitive academic language proficiency.

Corson’s Analysis of the English Language Lexicon

Corson (1993, 1995) has pointed out that the academic language of texts in English depends heavily on Graeco-Latin words whereas everyday conversation relies more on an Anglo-Saxon-based lexicon: "most of the specialist and high status terminology of English is Graeco-Latin in origin, and most of its more everyday terminology is Anglo-Saxon in origin" (1993, p. 13).  He cites data that suggests that approximately 60% of all of the words in written English text are of Graeco-Latin origin. These words tend to be three or four syllables long whereas the everyday high frequency words of the Anglo-Saxon lexicon tend to be one or two syllables in length.
Corson (1997, p. 677) points out that


…printed texts provided much more exposure to [Graeco-Latin] words than oral ones.  For example, even children's books contained 50% more rare words than either adult prime-time television or the conversations of university graduates; popular magazines had three times as many rare words as television and informal conversation.


An obvious implication of these data is that if second language learners are to catch up academically to native-speakers they must engage in extensive reading of written text because academic language is reliably to be found only in written text. The research on reading achievement also suggests, however, that in addition to large amounts of time for actual text reading, it is also important for students to have ample opportunities to talk to each other and to a teacher about their responses to reading (see Fielding and Pearson, 1994, for a review).  Talking about the text in a collaborative context ensures that higher order thinking processes (e.g. analysis, evaluation, synthesis) engage with academic language in deepening students’ comprehension of the text.

To better illustrate the centrality of the Graeco-Latin lexicon to the comprehension of academic language consider the following passage from Edgar Allan Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum which appeared in a high school literature compendium:


My outstretched hands at length encountered some solid obstruction.  It was a wall, seemingly of stone masonry -- very smooth, slimy, and cold. I followed it up; stepping with all the careful distrust with which certain antique narratives had inspired me. (ScottForesman, 1997, p. 256)


Among the more difficult words in this passage are the following: outstretched, encountered, solid, obstruction, masonry, slimy, distrust, antique, narratives, inspired  With the exception of outstretched and slimy, all of these words are Graeco-Latin in origin and have semantic relationships across the Romance languages. Outstretched has indirect cognate relationships with Graeco-Latin-based languages through its synonym extended (e.g. extendido in Spanish). Thus, at least in English, the lexicon used in conversational interactions is dramatically different than that used in more literate and academic contexts.


In summary, there is solid linguistic evidence for the reality of the conversational/academic language distinction in addition to the evidence of different time periods required to develop peer-appropriate levels of each dimension of language proficiency among second language learners. In the North American context, failure to take account of this distinction has led to inappropriate psychological testing of bilingual students and premature exit from bilingual or ESL support programs into "mainstream" classes where students received minimal support for continued academic language development.  In other words, the conceptual distinction between conversational and academic language proficiency highlighted misconceptions about the nature of language proficiency that were contributing directly to the creation of academic failure among bilingual students.


Critiques of the Conversational/Academic Language Distinction


Early critiques of the conversational/academic distinction were advanced by  Carole Edelsky and her colleagues (Edelsky et al., 1983) and in a volume edited by Charlene Rivera (1984).  These critiques were responded to and will not be discussed in depth in this paper (see Cummins & Swain, 1983).  Edelsky (1990) later reiterated and reformulated her critique and other critiques were advanced by Martin-Jones and Romaine (1986) and Romaine (1990).  More recently, Terrence Wiley (1996) has provided a detailed review and critique.

The major criticisms in these and other critiques are as follows:


         The conversational/academic language distinction reflects an autonomous perspective on language that ignores its location in social practices and power relations (Edelsky et al., 1983; Romaine, 1990; Troike, 1984; Wald, 1984; Wiley, 1997).

         CALP or academic language proficiency represents little more than “test-wiseness” - it is an artifact of the inappropriate way in which it has been measured (Edelsky et al., 1983).

         The notion of CALP promotes a “deficit theory” insofar as it attributes the academic failure of bilingual/minority students to low cognitive/academic proficiency rather than to inappropriate schooling; in this respect it is no different than notions such as  “semilingualism” (Edelsky, 1990; Edelsky et al., 1983; Martin-Jones & Romaine, 1986).


I will outline in more detail the points raised by Edelsky (1990) and Wiley (1996) as representative of the general orientation of these critiques.


Edelsky’s (1990) critique


Consistent with her previous critique (Edelsky et al., 1983), Edelsky disputes the legitimacy of the constructs of cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP) and basic interpersonal communicative skills (BICS).  She argues that CALP consists of little more than test-taking skills and the construct encourages skills-oriented instruction, thereby impeding the literacy development of bilingual students who will thrive only in meaning-oriented whole-language instructional contexts.  The tone and substance of her critique can be gauged from the following extracts:


The fundamental problem with all versions of Cummins’ THEORY is that it is premised on an erroneous, psychologically derived ‘theory’ of the nature of reading—a conception of reading as consisting of separate skills with discrete components of language. What counts as either reading-in-action or as evidence of reading ability is ‘reading skills’. These are demonstrated by performance in miscontextualized tasks (performed for the sole purpose of either demonstrating proficiency or complying with the assignment) or on tests whose scores are resumed to represent some supposedly context-free reading ability. (pp. 60-61)

Despite Cummins’ occasional use of ‘whole language’ terminology (e.g. ‘inferring’, ‘predicting’ ‘large chunks of discourse’), his underlying skills orientation shows through. (p. 61)... he uses a discourse of empowerment and puts forward a set of suggestions that implicitly contradict his ‘theory’ of reading as consisting of separate skills (Cummins, 1986). ... And Cummins uses the right rhetoric.  He talks of students setting their own goals and generating their own knowledge and he mentions congruent educational practice... Even so, the separate skills ‘theory’ slips out and he contradicts his own message.  For example, for empirical support, he relies heavily on test score data that can only provide evidence of how well students perform on skill exercises.  He applauds and describes at length programs that operate according to a skills ‘theory’. For instance, he talks of two programs that make language or cultural accommodations which benefit minority language children by helping them attain readiness or success.  Readiness for what? For the academic tasks of the traditional kindergartens the children will enter in California . Success at what? Success in doing reading exercises in tests and basal reading lessons in Hawaii . (p. 62)


What Edelsky is referring to here is reference to two programs that incorporated many of the characteristics that I postulated were necessary to challenge coercive power structures in school.  One was the bilingual preschool program in Carpinteria that used Spanish as the predominant language of instruction and attempted to incorporate children’s cultural background experience into the design of the program which was strongly child-centered (Campos & Keatinge, 1988). The other was the Kamehameha program in Hawaii that dramatically improved native Hawaiian children’s reading performance by incorporating culturally-familiar communal story-construction patterns into reading instruction (Au & Jordan, 1981).

According to Edelsky the theoretical constructs “gained popularity so fast and was so effective in influencing policy” (p. 63) because they reinforced ideas that “undergird predominant thinking about education in North America” namely “[t]hat written language consists of separate skills, that curriculum should teach those skills, that tests can assess them” (p. 63). 

Edelsky points out that in disputing the constructs of CALP and BICS, she is not claiming that all children are equally competent.  She also points out that she does not believe that proficiency with any language variety, in either oral or written modes, enables one to do everything humanly possible with language (p. 65):


Though potentially equal, at any given historical moment different language repertoires (including literate repertoires) of particular speech communities are unequally efficient for all purposes and even then, unequally assigned to members. ... However, the nature of those repertoires, their functions, their meanings, and their inequalities must be determined by ethnographies of speaking and of literacy, not by differential performance in one (testing) context that is subject to criticism on multiple grounds. (p. 65)


She is explicit about how she views the construct of cognitive academic language proficiency: it is nothing more than “test-wiseness” (p. 65) or what she terms “skill in instructional nonsense” (SIN).  Any research that has used any form of “test,” whether standardized reading measures or non-standardized measures of any kind of cognitive performance is dismissed.  For example, in referring to Gordon Wells’ (1986) documentation of the relation between exposure to literacy at home and subsequent literacy performance in school she notes: “In fact, from the use he makes of Wells’ research, Cummins seems to interpret the social grounding of CALP to mean no more than a correlation between test scores and certain kinds of home interactions” (p. 68). It is not surprising to her that support for the theoretical constructs of CALP and BICS would come


... almost entirely from studies using tests of separate so-called reading skills. (No wonder. His small parts, psychometric orientation that views all human activity as first divisible into atomized skills and then measurable would certainly lead him to prefer such evidence. (p. 61)


Edelsky concludes her critique by rejecting theories that locate “failure in children’s heads (in their IQ, their language deficits, their cognitive deficits, their learning styles, their underdeveloped CALP).”


Response to the Critique


A first point to note is that there is nothing new in the Edelsky (1990) critique that was not already in the Edelsky et al. (1983) critique.  The only difference is that any elaboration of the sociopolitical determinants of students’ academic difficulties is dismissed as suffering from “internal contradictions.”  The same charge is leveled against any explication of the pedagogical implications of the theoretical framework which attempt to go beyond apolitical one-size-fits-all whole language approaches towards transformative or critical pedagogy (Cummins, 1986, 1996; see also Delpit, 1988, and Reyes, 1992, for critiques of whole language from progressive educators). 

To set the record straight, the sociopolitical and instructional implications of the theoretical framework which Edelsky dismisses as internally contradictory were expressed in 1986 as follows:


Sociopolitical perspective:  

Minority students are disabled or empowered in schools in very much the same way that their communities are disempowered in interactions with societal institutions. ... This analysis implies that minority students will succeed educationally to the extent that the patterns of interaction in school reverse those that prevail in the society at large. (p. 24)

Given the societal commitment to maintaining the dominant/dominated power relationships, we can predict that educational changes threatening this structure will be fiercely resisted. (p. 34)


Instructional perspective:


A central tenet of the reciprocal interaction model is that “talking and writing are means to learning” (Bullock Report, 1975, p. 50). ... This model emphasizes the development of higher level cognitive skills rather than just factual recall, and meaningful language use by students rather than correction of surface forms.  Language use and development are consciously integrated with all curricular content rather than taught as isolated subjects, and tasks are presented to students in ways that generate intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation.  In short, pedagogical approaches that empower students encourage them to assume greater control over setting their own learning goals and to collaborate actively with each other in achieving these goals (p. 29)

 In terms of the quadrants outlined in Figure 1, these approaches fall into quadrant B (cognitively demanding, context embedded). In later work, I have emphasized the importance of going beyond whole language or “progressive pedagogy” as illustrated in the quotation below:  


Transformative pedagogy uses collaborative critical inquiry to enable students to relate curriculum content to their individual and collective experience and to analyze broader social issues relevant to their lives.  It also encourages students to discuss ways in which social realities might be transformed through various forms of democratic participation and social action. 

Thus, transformative pedagogy will aim to go beyond the sanitized curriculum that is still the norm in many schools.  It will attempt to promote students’ ability to analyze and understand the social realities of their own lives and of their communities.  It will strive to develop a critical literacy... (1996, p. 157)


So how are these perspectives “internally contradictory” with the conversational/academic language distinction and with the dimensions outlined in Figure 1? They are not in any way contradictory.  The construct of academic language proficiency does not in any way depend on test scores as support for either its construct validity or relevance to education. Three out of four sources of evidence cited above make no mention of test scores. The obvious differences between 6-year-old and 16-year-old  monolingual students in multiple aspects of literacy-related knowledge (assessed by any criterion) illustrate this reality as does Corson’s analysis of the lexicon of English and Biber’s analysis of more than one million words of English speech and written text (although Biber’s work might be suspect to Edelsky since he did use psychometric tools to analyze relationships among words and their linguistic and social contexts of use).


Edelsky’s vehement dismissal of any test used for any purpose in any context and her adamant endorsement of only one way of collecting data on language proficiency (through ethnographies of speaking and literacy) might appear to some researchers as extreme.  To others it might appear as a fundamentalist approach which recognizes only one truth and adopts an “off with their heads” attitude to other perspectives. There are very few researchers in the area of bilingual education (or any other area of educational research) who, on ideological grounds, have refused to even cite research that used statistics or that involved formal testing of academic progress.

A characteristic of fundamentalist approaches to any topic or belief system is that attempts at dialogue tend not to progress very far.  This is illustrated in the fact that Edelsky (1990) makes no attempt to respond to the rebuttals of the Edelsky et al. (1983) position advanced by Cummins and Swain (1983).  We made three basic points in response to the arguments that the CALP/BICS distinction entailed a “deficit position” that blamed the victim by attributing school failure to “low CALP” and furthermore that it promoted a “skills” approach to pedagogy that would further victimize minority group students. We suggested:


         That rational discussion of which theories constitute ‘deficit theories’ require explicit criteria  of what constitutes a ‘deficit theory’; for example, does it constitute a “deficit theory” to note, as many researchers and theorists have done (e.g. Wells,  1981), that middle class children tend to have more experience of books than low-income students when they come to school and that this gives them access to a greater range of language functions and registers that are relevant to the ways schools tend to teach initial literacy? In this case, children’s linguistic experience and the consequent earlier access to certain registers of language is seen as an intervening variable that interacts with patterns of instruction at school. Is any positing of learner attributes and linguistic experience as an intervening variable a deficit theory?

         That universal condemnation of all formal test situations is simplistic and fails to account for considerable data documenting strong positive relationships between reading test scores and “authentic” assessment measures such as miscue analysis and cloze procedures. We pointed out that “if cloze tests are to be dismissed as ‘irrelevant nonsense’ then this surely merits some comment in view of their widespread use  and acceptance among applied linguists” (1983, p. 28) including Sarah Hudelson, one of Edelsky’s co-authors.

         That when language proficiency or CALP “is discussed as part of a causal chain, it is never discussed as an isolated causal factor (as Edelsky et al. consistently depict it) but rather as one of a number of individual learner attributes which are determined by societal influences and which interact with educational treatment factors in affecting academic progress” (p. 31). In other words, language proficiency was always seen as an intervening variable rather than an autonomous causal variable; it develops through social interaction in home and school.


To deny this essentially Vygotskian perspective on language and academic development, one has to either adopt an extreme Chomskian perspective that identifies “language proficiency” as Universal Grammar and immune from virtually all social interactional and environmental influence or claim that a student’s language proficiency in a particular language has no relationship to that student’s ability to benefit from instruction in that language.

 Edelsky’s (1990) failure to define what she means by a deficit position, explain how “authentic” measures of reading are so closely related to “skill in instructional nonsense,” and discuss the extent to which, within her belief system, there is a place for any construct of “language proficiency” and if so how it relates to academic progress (intervening variable, “causal” variable, totally unrelated?) suggests that she is more interested in rhetoric than dialogue. 


A more open approach would admit that there is no contradiction between the conception of “language proficiency” outlined in the early part of this paper and a theoretical framework that


         identifies coercive power relations as the causal factors in the underachievement of subordinated group students; and

         promotes transformative pedagogy as a central component in challenging these coercive relations of power in the classroom. 


In fact, the distinction between conversational and academic dimensions of proficiency has been instrumental in highlighting both how standardized tests (e.g. IQ tests used in psychological assessment) and premature exit from bilingual programs on the basis of conversational rather than academic development in English have contributed to the perpetuation of coercive power relations in the educational system.  A balanced critique would have acknowledged the impact of the conversational/academic distinction in highlighting these realities.

A final issue concerns Edelsky’s dismissal of the efforts of dedicated educators in Carpinteria and Hawaii (and countless other programs that have used standardized tests as one way of documenting student progress and establishing credibility to skeptical policy-makers and the general public). While the offensive tone of this dismissal is probably unintended, it illustrates the consequences of adopting a one-dimensional perspective on the contradictions encountered by educators attempting to create contexts of empowerment in the real world of classrooms and schools.


Wiley’s (1996) critique


Wiley’s critique forms a chapter in his useful volume Literacy and Language Diversity in the United States. The critique derives from a basic distinction he makes between different orientations to literacy. Specifically, he contrasts the autonomous approach with the ideological approach.  The former is described as follows:


The autonomous approach to literacy tends to focus on formal mental properties of decoding and encoding text, excluding analyses of how these processes are used within social contexts. The success of the learner in acquiring literacy is seen as correlating with individual psychological processes. ... Those operating within the autonomous approach see literacy as having “cognitive consequences” at both the individual and societal level... An autonomous perspective largely ignores the historical and sociopolitical contexts in which individuals live and differences in power and resources between groups.  (p. 31)


By contrast, in the ideological approach advanced by Street (1993) and critical pedagogy theorists (e.g. Freire, 1970) “literacy is viewed as a set of practices that are inextricably linked to cultural and power structures in the society (p. 32).  From this perspective, literacy problems are seen as related to social stratification and to gaps in power and resources between groups. The role of schools in reinforcing this stratification is expressed as follows:


Because schools are the principal institutions responsible for developing literacy, they are seen as embedded within larger sociopolitical contexts. Because some groups succeed in school while others fail, the ideological approach scrutinizes the way in which literacy development is carried out. It looks at the implicit biases in schools that can privilege some groups to the exclusion of others. Finally, the social practices approach values literacy programs and policies that are built on the knowledge and resources people already have. (p. 33)


Wiley’s major concern is that constructs such as BICS/CALP or conversational/academic language and the contextual and cognitive dimensions outlined in Figure 1 appear to invoke an autonomous orientation to language and literacy that isolates language and literacy practices from their sociocultural and sociopolitical context. He concurs with the critiques of Edelsky et al. (1983) that the construct of CALP relies on inauthentic test data and cites Martin-Jones and Romaine (1986, p. 30) that the distinction between CALP and BICS is suspect


...if both are seen as independent of rather than shaped by the language context in which they are acquired and used... The type of literacy-related skills described by Cummins are, in fact, quite culture-specific: that is, they are specific to the cultural setting of the school.


Wiley is also concerned about the higher status supposedly assigned to academic as compared to conversational language:


Notions of academic language proficiency and decontextualization, as they are often used, are particularly problematic because they confound language with schooling and equate a higher cognitive status to the language and literacy practices of school. Academic language proficiency seems to equate broadly with schooling. Schooling is not a neutral process.  It involves class and culturally specific forms of socialization. (p. 183)


Finally, Wiley criticizes the “simplistic” but “well-intentioned” ways in which practitioners have attempted to operationalize the kinds of language tasks/activities that would fall into the four quadrants of Figure 1. He gives one set of examples of such tasks/activities used for professional development in California which he describes as “value laden and arbitrary” with categorization of tasks which is “confused and inaccurate.”  He points out that “[p]rofessional development materials such as these illustrate the limitations of applying constructs in practice that have not been fully elaborated at the theoretical level.”

Wiley concludes that it is “necessary to rid the framework of those constructs that are compatible with an autonomous view of language use. ... It would require focusing more on social than on cognitive factors affecting language development (Troike, 1984) and on the cultural factors that affect language and literacy practices in the schools” (p. 178).


Response to the Critique


Wiley’s analysis suffers from a rigid “either-or” perspective on what forms of inquiry are appropriate in the area of literacy and schooling. Either an approach is autonomous or it is ideological but it can’t be both, or draw from each tradition in order to address different kinds of questions. Linked to this is a prescriptivism which, although much less strident than Edelsky’s (1990), suggests that only questions deriving from an ideological perspective can and should be asked.


This rigid dichotomy leads him to largely ignore the fact that the theoretical constructs associated with the notion of language proficiency (e.g. as outlined in Figure 1) have been integrated since 1986 with a detailed sociopolitical analysis of how schools construct academic failure among subordinated groups.  This framework (Cummins, 1986, 1989, 1996) analyzes how coercive relations of power in the wider society (“macro-interactions”) affect both educator role definitions and educational structures which, in turn, result in patterns of “micro-interactions” between educators and subordinated group students that have constricted students’ academic language development and identity formation.  The framework documents educational approaches that challenge this pattern of coercive power relations and promote the generation of power in the micro-interactions between educators and students.

This framework, however, does not regard “language proficiency” as irrelevant to the schooling of subordinated group students. I believe that, in order to analyze how power relations operate in the real world of schooling, it is crucial to ask questions such as “How long does it take second language learners to catch up to native speakers in English academic development?” The data showing that five years are minimally required to bridge this gap continue to provide bilingual educators with a powerful rebuttal to efforts to deny students access to bilingual programs or exit them rapidly from support services whether bilingual or English-only. Yet, Wiley would presumably classify this question as deriving from an “autonomous” perspective.


I also believe that it is legitimate to ask “What forms of proficiency in English do bilingual students need to survive academically in all-English classrooms after they have been transitioned out of bilingual programs?” This question would also fall into the “autonomous” category of the artificial either-or dichotomy that Wiley constructs. The conversational/academic language proficiency distinction has been instrumental in helping educators understand why students transitioned on the basis of conversational fluency in English frequently experience severe academic difficulties in all-English mainstream classrooms.


The same issue surfaces with respect to the assessment of bilingual children for special education purposes.  The BICS/CALP distinction highlighted the fact that psychological assessment in English was considered appropriate by psychologists and teachers when students had gained conversational fluency in English but frequently were far from their native English-speaking peers in academic English development (Cummins, 1984).

Wiley’s dichotomy would also consign any question regarding how language and cognition intersect (in either monolingual or multilingual individuals) to the garbage heap of scientific inquiry. All of the research studies documenting  that acquisition of bilingualism in childhood entails no adverse cognitive consequences for children and, in fact, is associated with more advanced awareness of language and ability to analyze language would also be castigated as reflecting an “autonomous” perspective.


It is also legitimate, I believe, to ask how linguistic interactions in home and school, and interactions related to print, affect children’s linguistic, cognitive, and academic development. These interactions take place within a sociocultural and sociopolitical context but their effects are still linguistic, academic, and cognitive.  A student from a bilingual background who does not understand the language of instruction in school and receives no support to enable him or her to do so is unlikely to develop high levels of academic or literacy skills in either first or second language.


The list of questions could go on.  The point I want to make is that within the framework I have proposed, “language proficiency” is seen as an intervening variable that mediates children’s academic development.  It is not in any sense “autonomous” or independent of the sociocultural context. I fully agree with Martin-Jones and Romaine’s point that the development of conversational and academic aspects of proficiency are “shaped by the language context in which they are acquired and used” and that academic language is “specific to the cultural setting of the school.”  Their claim that the BICS/CALP distinction proposes otherwise is without foundation. A central aspect of the framework, in fact, is that language proficiency is shaped by the patterns and contexts of educator-student interaction in the school and will, in turn, mediate the further outcomes of schooling.


The claim that the BICS/CALP distinction ascribes a superior status to academic language as compared to conversational has already been addressed above. No form of language is cognitively or linguistically superior to any other in any absolute sense outside of particular contexts.  However, within the context of school, knowledge of academic language (e.g. the Graeco-Latin lexicon of written English text) is clearly relevant to educational success and adds a crucial dimension to conversational fluency in understanding how “language proficiency” relates to academic achievement.. Wiley, like Martin-Jones and Romaine, take a conceptual distinction that was addressed only to issues of schooling, and criticize it on the grounds that this distinction is “specific only to the cultural setting of the school.” They seriously misrepresent the distinction when they label it “autonomous” or “independent” of particular contexts..


An inconsistency in Wiley’s attitude to “inauthentic test data” should be noted. He suggests (p. 167) that there is a major concern regarding the authenticity of using school-test data as a means of determining language proficiencies. I would agree. School-test data attempt to assess certain kinds of language proficiencies but often do it very inadequately without regard to cultural and linguistic biases in the test instruments, as the study of psychological test data demonstrated (Cummins, 1984). However, in view of Wiley’s dismissal of school-test data as even a partial basis for constructing theory, it is surprising to see him invoke exactly this type of data to assert that “[t]here is an ever-growing body of evidence that bilingual education is effective in promoting literacy and academic achievement  among children when adequate resources are provided” (p. 153). Virtually all of this evidence derives from “inauthentic” standardized test data. For example, among the references cited to back up this claim are Ramirez (1992) and Krashen and Biber (1988) who relied almost exclusively on standardized test data to support their claims for the effectiveness of bilingual education.


A final point concerns Wiley’s unease with the “simplistic,” “confused and inaccurate” interpretations by some practitioners of what kinds of language task or activities would fall into the four quadrants of Figure 1. He fails to appreciate that the quadrants represent a visual metaphor that incorporates hypotheses about the dimensions underlying various kinds of language performance.  It makes linkages between the theoretical literature on the nature of proficiency in a language and specific instructional and policy issues faced on a daily basis by educators working with bilingual learners (e.g. how much “English proficiency” do children need to participate effectively in an all-English classroom?). It attempts to provide tentative answers to certain questions such as why certain kinds of “English proficiency” are acquired to peer-appropriate levels relatively quickly while a longer period is required for other aspects of proficiency.  However, it was also intended as a heuristic tool to stimulate discussion regarding the linguistic and cognitive challenges posed by different academic tasks and subject matter content and in both the British and North American context it has been effective in this regard (e.g. Frederickson & Cline, 1996).  Thus, it risks appearing condescending to dismiss as “simplistic” the efforts of educators to use the framework as a tool to discuss, and attempt to better understand, the linguistic challenges their students face.


In summary, Wiley’s basic point is that the theoretical construction of language and literacy and prescriptions regarding how they should be taught are never neutral with respect to societal power relations.  An “ideological” approach is fundamental to understanding literacy development, particularly in linguistically and culturally diverse contexts.  I am in full agreement with this perspective and have attempted to highlight how coercive power relations affect the development of language and literacy among bilingual students.  However, there are also many important and legitimate questions regarding the nature of language proficiency, the developmental patterns of its various components, and the relationships among language proficiency, cognitive development, and academic progress, that cannot be totally reduced to “ideological” or sociopolitical questions.  To dismiss these issues as reflecting an “autonomous” orientation and to demand that any traces of such an orientation be purged from theoretical approaches to literacy is not only to dismiss much of the entire disciplines of psychology and applied linguistics but it also reflects a misunderstanding of the nature of intervening or mediating variables. There is absolutely no internal inconsistency in asking questions about the nature of the relationships between language, bilingualism, cognition, and academic achievement within the broader context of a sociopolitical causal model.




Although much of the discussion in this paper has revolved around theoretical issues relating to language proficiency and how it relates to academic development, my primary goal has been to clarify misconceptions regarding these issues so that policy-makers and educators can re-focus on the issue of how to promote academic language development effectively among bilingual children.  If academic language proficiency or CALP is accepted as a valid construct then certain instructional implications follow.  In the first place, as Stephen Krashen (1993) has repeatedly emphasized, extensive reading is crucial for academic development since academic language is found primarily in written text. If bilingual students are not reading extensively, they are not getting access to the language of academic success. Opportunities for collaborative learning and talk about text are also relevant in helping students internalize and more fully comprehend the academic language they find in their extensive reading of text. 


Writing is also crucial because when bilingual students write about issues that matter to them they not only consolidate aspects of the academic language they have been reading, they also express their identities through language and (hopefully) receive feedback from teachers and others that will affirm and further develop their expression of self.


In general, the instructional implications of the framework within bilingual programs can be expressed in terms of the three components of the construct of CALP:


Cognitive -  instruction should be cognitively challenging and require students to use higher-order thinking abilities rather than the low-level memorization and application skills that are tapped by typical worksheets or drill-and-practice computer programs;  


Academic - ­academic content (science, math, social studies, art etc.) should be integrated with language instruction so that students acquire the specific language of these academic registers.  


Language -  the development of critical language awareness should be fostered throughout the program by encouraging students to compare and contrast their languages (e.g. phonics conventions, grammar, cognates, etc.) and by providing students with extensive opportunities to carry out projects investigating their own and their community's language use, practices, and assumptions (e.g. in relation to the status of different varieties).


In short, instruction within a strong bilingual program should provide a Focus on Message, a Focus on Language, and a Focus on Use in both languages (Cummins, in press).  We know our program is effective, and developing CALP, if we can say with confidence that our students are generating new knowledge, creating literature and art, and acting on social realities that affect their lives.  These are the kinds of (quadrant B) instructional activities that the conversational/academic language distinction is intended to foster.




I would like to thank David Corson for helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper




Au, K.H. & Jordan, C. (1981).  Teaching reading to Hawaiian children: Finding a culturally appropriate solution. In H. Trueba, G.P. Guthrie, & K.H. Au (Eds.), Culture and the bilingual classroom: Studies in classroom ethnography. (pp. 139-152). Rowley , MA : Newbury House.
August, D. & Hakuta, K. (Eds.). (1997). Improving schooling for language-minority children A research agenda.
Washington , DC : National Academy Press.
Biber, D. (1986). Spoken and written textual dimensions in English: Resolving the contradictory findings.  Language, 62, 384-414.
Bruner, J.S. (1975). Language as an instrument of thought. In A. Davies (Ed.), Problems of language and learning. London : Heinemann.
Bullock Report. A Language for life: Report of the Committee of inquiry appointed by the Secretary of State for Education and Science under the chairmanship of Sir Alan Bullock.  London : HMSO, 1975.
Campos , J. & Keatinge, R. (1988). The Carpinteria language minority student experience: From theory, to practice, to success. In T. Skutnabb-Kangas and J. Cummins (Ed.), Minority education: From shame to struggle. (pp. 299-308). Clevedon , England : Multilingual Matters
Collier, V. P. (1987).  Age and rate of acquisition of second language for academic purposes.  TESOL Quarterly, 21, 617-641.
Corson, D. (1993). Language, minority education and gender: Linking social justice and power. Clevedon , England : Multilingual Matters. 
Corson, D. (1995). Using English words. New York : Kluwer. 
Corson, D. (1997). The learning and use of academic English words. Language Learning, 47, 671-718.
Cummins, J. (1979). Cognitive/academic language proficiency, linguistic interdependence, the optimum age question and some other matters.  Working Papers on Bilingualism, No. 19, 121-129.
Cummins, J.  (1981a).  Age on arrival and immigrant second language learning in Canada.  A reassessment.  Applied Linguistics, 2, l32-l49.
Cummins, J. (1981b) The role of primary language development in promoting educational success for language minority students. In California State Department of Education (Ed.), Schooling and language minority students: A theoretical framework. Evaluation, Dissemination and Assessment Center, California State University, Los Angeles.

Cummins, J. (1984). Bilingualism and special education: Issues in assessment and pedagogy. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.

Cummins, J. (1986).  Empowering minority students: A framework for intervention.  Harvard Educational Review, 56, 18-36. 

Cummins, J. (1989).  Empowering minority students.  Sacramento : California Association for Bilingual Education.

Cummins, J. (1996).  Negotiating identities: Education for empowerment in a diverse society. Los Angeles : California Association for Bilingual Education.
Cummins, J. (in press).  Teaching the language of academic success. Monograph to be published by New Jersey TESOL/Bilingual Education Association.
Cummins, J. & Corson, D. (Eds.). (1998). Bilingual education.
Dordrecht , The Netherlands : Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Cummins, J. & Swain, M. (1983). Analysis-by rhetoric: reading the text or the reader’s own projections? A reply to Edelsky et al. Applied Linguistics, 4(1), 22-41.

Delpit, L. D. (1988). The silenced dialogue: Power and pedagogy in educating other people's children. Harvard Educational Review, 58, 280-298.
Donaldson, M. (1978). Children's minds.
Glasgow : Collins.
Edelsky, C. (1990). With literacy and justice for all: Rethinking the social in language and education.
London : The Falmer Press.
Edelsky, C, Hudelson, S., Altwerger, B., Flores, B., Barkin, F., Jilbert, K.(1983). Semilingualism and language deficit.  Applied Linguistics, 4(1), 1-22.
Fielding, L.G. & Pearson, P.D.  (1994). Reading comprehension: what works. Educational Leadership, 51(5), 62-68.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York : Herder & Herder.
Gibbons, J. & Lascar, E. (1998). Operationalizing academic language proficiency in bilingualism research.  Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 19(1), 40-50.

Gibbons, P. (1991). Learning to learn in a second language. Newtown , Australia : Primary English Teaching Association. 
Halliday, M.A.K. & Hasan, R. (1985). Language, context and text: Aspects of language in a social-semiotic perspective.
Geelong , Victoria : Deakin University Press. Heath,
Klesmer, H.  (1994). Assessment and teacher perceptions of ESL student achievement. English Quarterly, 26(3), 5-7.
Krashen, S.  (1993). The power of reading.  Englewood, CO.: Libraries Unlimited. 
Krashen, S.& Biber, D. (1988). On course: Bilingual education’s success in
California . Sacramento : California Association for Bilingual Education.
Martin-Jones, M., & Romaine, S. (1986). Semilingualism: A half-baked theory of communicative competence.  Applied Linguistics, 7(1), 26-38.
Oller, J. (1979).  Language tests at school: A pragmatic approach.
London : Longman.
Olson, D.R. (1977). From utterance to text: The bias of language in speech and writing. Harvard Educational Review, 47, 257-281. 
Ortiz, A.A. & Yates, J.R. (1983). Incidence of exceptionality among Hispanics:  Implications for manpower planning. NABE Journal, 7, 41-54. 
Ramirez, J.D. (1992). Executive summary. Bilingual Research Journal, 16, 1-62.
Reyes, M. de la Luz. (1992). Challenging venerable assumptions: Literacy instruction for linguistically different students. Harvard Educational Review, 62, 427-446.
Rivera, C. (Ed.). (1984). Language proficiency and academic achievement. Clevedon , England : Multilingual Matters.
Romaine, S. (1989). Bilingualism.
Oxford : Blackwell.
Skutnabb-Kangas, T. & Toukomaa, P. (1976). Teaching migrant children's mother tongue and learning the language of the host country in the context of the sociocultural situation of the migrant family.
Helsinki : The Finnish National Commission for UNESCO.
Snow, C.E., Cancino, H., De
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Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.
Troike, R. (1984). SCALP: Social and cultural aspects of language proficiency. In C. Rivera (Ed.), Language proficiency and academic achievement.  (pp. 44-54).
Clevedon , England : Multilingual Matters.
Verhoeven, L.  (1991). Acquisition of biliteracy.  AILA Review, 8, 61-74
Wald, B. (1984). A sociolinguistic prspective on Cummins’ current framework for relating language proficiency to academic achievement. In C. Rivera (Ed.), Language proficiency and academic achievement.  (pp. 55-70). In C. Rivera (Ed.), Language proficiency and academic achievement.  
Clevedon , England : Multilingual Matters.
Wells, G. (1981). Learning through interaction: The study of language development.
Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.
Wells, G. (1986). The meaning makers.
Portsmouth , NH : Heinemann.
Wiley, T. G. (1996). Literacy and language diversity in the United States . Washington , DC : Center for Applied Linguistics and Delta Systems.






Our dear SHARER Flarencia Damario has sent us this list of tips to help us write comments in our young learners´ report cards. As someone once said "My main advice about report card comments is to tell the truth." Well, here you have 286 ways to tell the truth.

  1. Is a good citizen
  2. Is learning to share and listen.
  3. Is becoming more dependable during work periods.
  4. Is developing a better attitude toward ___ grade.
  5. Is showing interest and enthusiasm for the things we do.
  6. Is learning to occupy his time constructively.
  7. Wants responsibilities and follows through.
  8. Can be very helpful and dependable in the classroom.
  9. Always uses her time wisely.
  10. Has strengthened her skills in ___.
  11. Has great potential and works toward achieving it.
  12. Working to full capability.
  13. Is strong in _____.
  14. Is learning to be a better listener.
  15. Is learning to be careful, cooperative, and fair.
  16. Is continuing to grow in independence.
  17. Enthusiastic about participating.
  18. Gaining more self-confidence.
  19. Has a pleasant personality.
  20. Has earned a very fine report card.
  21. Has improved steadily.
  22. Is learning to listen to directions more carefully.
  23. Now accepts responsibility well.
  24. _____'s work habits are improving.
  25. Has been consistently progressing.
  26. Has shown a good attitude about trying to improve in ___.
  27. The following suggestions might improve his ____.
  28. I am hoping this recent interest and improvement will continue.
  29. Seems eager to improve.
  30. Has shown strong growth in ____.
  31. Is cooperative and happy.
  32. Volunteers often.
  33. Is willing to take part in all classroom activities.
  34. Works well with her neighbors.
  35. _____'s attitude toward school is excellent.
  36. Has the ability to follow directions.
  37. Hand work is beautifully done.
  38. Learns new vocabulary quickly.
  39. Has a sense of humor and enjoys the stories we read.
  40. Is a steadfast, conscientious worker.
  41. Is very helpful about clean-up work around the room.
  42. Anxious to please.
  43. Brings fine contributions.
  44. Has a pleasant disposition.
  45. Works well.
  46. Is hard-working.
  47. Is pleasant and friendly.
  48. Needs to increase speed and comprehension in reading.
  49. Needs to apply skills to all written work.
  50. Gets along well with other children.
  51. Your constant cooperation and help are appreciated.
  52. Has shown an encouraging desire to better herself in ___.
  53. Making steady progress academically.
  54. Quality of work is improving.
  55. Responds well.
  56. Is maintaining grade-level achievements.
  57. Works well in groups, planning and carrying out activities.
  58. Seems to be more aware of activities in the classroom.
  59. Takes an active part in discussions pertinent to ___.
  60. Accepts responsibility.
  61. Extremely conscientious.
  62. Bubbles over with enthusiasm.
  63. Has a sense of humor we all enjoy.
  64. Has an excellent attitude.
  65. Work in the areas of ____ has been extremely good.
  66. Is an enthusiastic worker during the ____ period.
  67. Needs to work democratically with others in groups.
  68. Possible for ___ to exceed grade expectations.
  69. Grasps new ideas readily.
  70. Needs to develop a better sense of responsibility.
  71. Enthusiastic about work in general.
  72. Performs well in everything he undertakes.
  73. Unusually mature.
  74. Seeks information.
  75. Mature vocabulary.
  76. Doing strong work in all areas.
  77. Is a clear thinker.
  78. Excels in writing original stories and poems.
  79. Is a good student who appears to be a deep thinker.
  80. Reads extensively.
  81. Has good organization of thoughts.
  82. Has a vast background knowledge of ___.
  83. Is a very fine and serious student and excels in ___.
  84. Rate of achievement makes it difficult for ___ to keep up with the class.
  85. Must improve work habits if ___ is to gain the fundamentals needed for ___ grade work.
  86. _____'s academic success leaves much to be desired.
  87. Handwriting needs to be improved.
  88. Cooperative, well mannered.
  89. Is a very happy, well-adjusted child, but ___.
  90. Makes friends quickly and is well liked by classmates.
  91. Cries easily.
  92. Good worker and attentive listener.
  93. Good adjustment.
  94. Good attitude.
  95. Capable of achieving a higher average in areas of ____.
  96. Has difficulty retaining process of addition, etc.
  97. Is inconsistent in his efforts, especially in ___.
  98. Sacrificing accuracy for unnecessary speed in his written work.
  99. Needs to listen to directions.
  100. Never completes assignments in the allotted time.
  101. Fails to finish independent assignments.
  102. Would improve if he developed a greater interest in ___.
  103. Comprehends well, but needs to work more quickly.
  104. Needs to be urged.
  105. Can follow directions.
  106. Enjoys listening to poetry.
  107. Enjoys listening to stories.
  108. Listens carefully.
  109. Evaluates what he/she hears
  110. Phonics - (is able to distinguish, has difficulty distinguishing) sounds in
  111. Now knows and is able to use _____ consonant and vowel sounds
  112. Confuses the sounds ___ and ___
  113. Is able to blend short words using the vowel(s) _____ with /without
  114. Is learning to attack words independently
  115. Uses the phonics skills to attack new words
  116. Reading is (smooth, jerky, hesitant, rapid, irregular, or fluent)
  117. Comprehends what he/she reads
  118. Is interested in books and reading
  119. Can read to follow directions
  120. Can now recognize ____ sight words
  121. Reads for pleasure
  122. Needs lots of repetition and practice in order to retain reading vocabulary
  123. Is still confusing words which look alike
  124. Is beginning to read words in groups (phrases)
  125. Reading is becoming (not yet becoming) automatic
  126. Enjoys discussing the stories
  127. Has had difficulty with learning ______ so in the coming term we will
            focus on ______.
  128. Speaks in good sentences
  129. Speaks clearly
  130. Has difficulty using (pronouns, verbs) correctly
  131. Enjoys dramatization
  132. Enjoys participation in conversation and discussion
  133. Expresses ideas clearly
  134. Has a good oral vocabulary
  135. Takes turns talking
  136. Speaks with confidence to the group
  137. Uses punctuation correctly
  138. Is able to place periods and question marks correctly
  139. Uses colorful words
  140. Uses (complex, simple) sentences
  141. Is now able to write a complete sentence independently
  142. Participates in group story telling (composition)
  143. Can write an original story of (one or two sentences, of a few sentences)
  144. Puts words in the appropriate order
  145. Is able to read his sentences back
  146. Shows self confidence in writing
  147. Can compose several related sentences
  148. Is building a good spelling vocabulary
  149. Uses his individual dictionary to find unfamiliar words
  150. Enjoys learning to spell new words
  151. Is able to learn to spell words easily
  152. Sometimes reverses letters in a word
  153. Has difficulty remembering the spelling of non-phonetic words
  154. Is helped by using hand or body motions to remember spelling
  155. When printing, often reverses letters, such as __, __, etc.
  156. Has good (poor) fine-motor skills
  157. Is able to print on the lines
  158. Spaces letters and words correctly
  159. Some printing is excellent but is often untidy in daily assignments
  160. Enjoys doing neat careful work
  161. Can work with numbers up to ___ with understanding
  162. Is friendly and cooperative
  163. Cooperates well
  164. Helps others
  165. Has a sense of humor
  166. Has a good attitude towards school
  167. Is working well in all subjects
  168. Lacks independence / Is gaining independence
  169. Is too easily distracted
  170. Is becoming more self-reliant
  171. Is an attentive student
  172. All work is neatly and accurately done
  173. Is a polite conscientious pupil
  174. Is working above grade level in _________.
  175. Works too slowly
  176. Does not complete assignments in the allotted time
  177. Seems unable to finish required work
  178. Does colorful and interesting art work
  179. Is especially good at ______
  180. Requires too much supervision.
  181. Please encourage him to do things on his own.
  182. Should be encouraged to _____
  183. Needs frequent encouragement
  184. Is maturing
  185. Is learning to concentrate
  186. Is learning to listen carefully
  187. Is gaining self-confidence
  188. Often completes work early
  189. Is very thoughtful
  190. Takes pride in work well done
  191. Is eager to learn
  192. Makes little effort when not under direct supervision
  193. Often seems tired at school
  194. Is not very appreciative of the value of ( time, courtesy, sharing,
            neatness, accuracy)
  195. Shows initiative; thinks things through for himself/herself
  196. If a child is having difficulty - say so! Say what you have tried already to
            help him/her, and what you are going to do differently in the term to
            come to help the child.
  197. Never say the child is having problems without giving a possible solution
            you are going to try and what has already been tried.
  198. This shows you are doing everything in your power to change the situation.
  199. _____ has matured nicely this year, academically and socially.
  200. He/She assumes responsibility well and has a find attitude.
  201. He/She still needs strengthening in the concept of long division.
  202. Thanks for the help I know you have given her.
  203. There has been a noticeable improvement in _____'s study habits this
            reporting period, which is very encouraging.
  204. Please continue during the summer with ___________ review and as many
            reading experiences as possible.
  205. ___________ would benefit from reading many library books this summer.
  206. He needs to improve his reading speed and comprehension if he is to have
            success in the ________ grade.
  207. If ___________ will put forth in the future the effort he has shown in
            the past two reporting periods, he will receive a great deal from his
  208. With __________'s ability to apply herself to each task, she should
            receive much satisfaction from her school experiences.
  209. _____________ continued to blossom as the year progressed.
  210. _______________'s oral reading is very expressive and her oral reporting
            is excellent.
  211. Thank you for your interest in _____________'s attitude.
  212. Although he has had some difficulty adjusting to our room and various
            duties, he usually tries to cooperate.
  213. _____________ has had some problems adjusting to our room, as you
            know from my reports to you.
  214. Many of her difficulties occur on the playground and she then carries a
            poor attitude in the classroom.
  215. This hurts her academically.
  216. She is capable of much better work.
  217. I'm sorry I didn't get to meet you this year.
  218. __________has made nice progress this reporting period.
  219. He is maturing nicely and I hope this continues.
  220. Although _____________'s growth in social maturity is continuing, it is
            not consistent.
  221. She still needs guidance and support from both you and me.
  222. Thanks for your cooperation.
  223. _____________ is a wonderful girl and I'm happy to have had her in my
  224. she has made many fine contributions to our class and is an inspiration to
            her classmates.
  225. With ____'s friendly, cooperative attitude, she will always be a pleasant
            addition to any class.
  226. I have enjoyed the association I have had _____________.
  227. His friendly, sincere way has made him a very popular member of the ___
  228. Regardless of how busy _________ is, he still has time to do something
            nice for someone. For this reason, he is one of the best-liked members of
            my class.
  229. I enjoyed having _____________ in my class.
  230. She is a sweet and cooperative child.
  231. _____________ is a pleasant, conscientious student.
  232. He is self-confident and has excellent manners.
  233. It has been a pleasure to have him in my class.
  234. I enjoyed having _____________ in my room.
  235. She assumes responsibility well, excels on the playground and is well liked
            by her peers.
  236. She's helped to make my year a pleasant one.
  237. She is a big help in seeing that our room looks clean and pleasant.
  238. She has been most cooperative and only needs strengthening in social
            studies skills to bring her up to ____ grade level.
  239. ___________ is a fine citizen and takes a keen interest in school.
  240. I hope you enjoy your new home!
  241. __________ takes a keen interest in all work and is most agreeable and a
            willing worker. It has been wonderful having her in my room.
  242. Exhibits excellent attitude
  243. Possesses good self discipline
  244. Respectful of others
  245. Works independently on assignments
  246. Exhibits creativity
  247. Does good work
  248. Always cooperative
  249. Classroom attitude shows improvement
  250. Pleasant student to work with
  251. Quality of work has improved
  252. Hard worker
  253. Participates well in class
  254. A pleasure to have around
  255. Experiences difficulty following directions-when unsure needs to ask for questions
  256. Needs to actively participate in classroom discussion
  257. Needs better study skills
  258. Requires incentives
  259. Low quiz/test scores
  260. Assignments/Homework incomplete/late
  261. Needs to pay attention in class
  262. Disruptive in class
  263. Needs to improve classroom attitude
  264. Excessive tardiness
  265. Excessive absences
  266. Failure to turn in make up work
  267. A conference is requested
  268. This subject modified/ levelled according to ability
  269. Does not work up to his/her ability
  270. Student will be retained in current grade next year. Please contact the school to arrange a conference.
  271. Subject has been taught but no grade issued
  272. Makes careless errors
  273. Difficulty understanding the material
  274. Does not know math facts well
  275. Interrupts others
  276. Gets upset easily
  277. Work is not neat
  278. Disorganized
  279. Needs to proofread work
  280. Does not form letters correctly
  281. Assignments are not neat
  282. Excessive talking
  283. Needs to spend time on task
  284. Does not put enough time into assignment
  285. Needs to improve self discipline
  286. Needs to improve respect for others

© 1999-2005 by








Our dear SHARER Mary Godward writes to us:


We have just launched Live Chat, a new service to answer all your questions in real time. This online information service is operated by Ignacio Aguiló, whom many of you have been in touch with about exhibitions and events.

How do you access this service?

It’s very simple! Go to our homepage ( and click on the Live Chat icon. Ignacio will be ready to answer your questions.

When is this service available?

From Monday to Friday from 1000 to 1400.


What information does this service provide?

·       British Council activities in Argentina and Chile .

·       Information on education in the United Kingdom

Who can use this online information service?

The service is open to people who need information on the British Council and the United Kingdom .


British Council -

Marcelo T de Alvear 590 - 4to piso - C1058AAF Buenos Aires, Argentina
T +54 (0)11 4311 9814 / 7519 - F +54 (0)11 4311 7747






19th Argentina TESOL Convention

Friday, July 1 – Saturday July 2, 2005

Escuela Superior de Lenguas Extranjeras. Universidad del Aconcagua, Mendoza, Argentina

“And miles to go before I sleep”

From Robert Frost’s poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Come, join us….let's all walk those miles together...


Keynote Speaker: Dr Jodi Crandall PhD.- University of Maryland Baltimore County
PhD. Georgetown University - Professor – Director Language, Literacy and Culture Doctoral Program of Maryland, Baltimore County, Department of Education
Her Teaching and Research Interests include: Content based language learning, Second language literacy, language teacher education, First and second language writing

For further information please contact: or visit:


Southern Cone TESOL Convention


The 2005 Tesol Southern Cone Convention will be held in Asunción, Paraguay on July 20, 21 and 22, 2005 at the Instituto Superior de Educación “Dr. Raul Peña". Address: Av. Eusebio Ayala Km 4,5. Barrio Hipódromo, Asunción.


If you have any questions feel free to contact: Andrea Amarilla: or






Asociación Internacional de Estudios - Centro de Tutorías University of London announces:


Women Authors In English Literature

Aimed at teachers, professors, translators, interpreters and anybody devoted to the study and the teaching of English Literature.


If you are short of time but want to discuss women’s writing with particular reference to such themes as gender, women’s rights, sexuality and motherhood, why not choose a one-day workshop held on  Saturday afternoons?.

We will be looking in detail at Virginia Woolf’s novel “Mrs. Dalloway”, and at Silvia Plath’s poem “Three Women”.  Lively discussion will take place centering on both the literary merits of the works, and the gender issues they touch upon, from a comparative and contextual perspective.


Date: 28th May.-  10 a.m to 17 p.m

Fee: $ 55.

Lecturer: María Fernanda Diez - BA in English and French (Literature) - MSc Filosophy


Contact us at: (011) 4371-9671 - Montevideo 681 Piso 1 "A"

E-mail:  Website:






Our dear SHARER Susana Trabaldo of Net-Learning, Virtual Learning Environments has got an invitation to make: 

Online Course: “Aspect in English: the key to understanding TENSES… and much more”

Course code: TENSES

Tutor:  Prof. Aldo Blanco M.A.

Duration: 5 weeks - Starting date:  26 MAY
Fee: AR$ 160 - US$ 90

Further information:

Curso con puntaje - Resolución del Gobierno de la Ciudad de Bs. As. 434/05

Certificado por la Escuela de Posgrado de la Universidad Nacional de San Martín.


Please consult our website for more information:  or
e-mail us:
Phones: (+ 54 11) 4654 8945 / (+ 54 11) 4791 6009






Our dear SHARER Maria Teresa Manteo has sent us this announcement:


Support Learning

Affective Methods in the Teaching of Reading & Writing


Training events in June


Saturday, June 4th - from 10.00 to 12.00 a.m  


Roald Dahl's Humour & Thought - dynamic critical appreciation of suitable texts  to promote thoughtful and engaged readers. A good laugh and a good read!  

(EGB 2 & 3) 

- No previous reading required -


Saturday, June 18th - from 10.00 to 12.00 a.m  


The Power of Language- a door to spark literary discussions and empower transformation in our classrooms. Links between Literature and NLP concepts.


Venue: ZEAL- School of English - 25 de Mayo 349  San Isidro     4747 3037

Facilitated by:  María Teresa Manteo, Reading Consultant

Fee: $25   Groups of Teachers: $22 each participant


María Teresa Manteo

Language and Literature Teacher at IGCSE & IB levels, Former Scholastic Literacy Consultant, NLP Practitioner


For registration details contact María Teresa Manteo at: 

54 11 45030605 -






Our dear SHARER Celia Zubiri invites all SHARERS to see her acclaimed “Much Ado …”


Much Ado About Beatrice And Benedick


Only five performances in June

Friday 3, 10, 17, 24 at 7:00 p.m

Saturday 25 at 11:00 a.m


Make your reservations well in advance!

Venue: Teatro Santamaría > Montevideo 842 – Ciudad de Buenos Aires.

Ticket price: $12 - $10 for groups of 10 people or more






Our dear SHARER Analía Kandel has very good news for all of us:


Columna de “Idiomas, Arte y Cultura” de Analía Kandel

Tercer sábado de cada mes a las 18 hs.

en “Bureau de Arte” por Radio Splendid AM 990

En Internet:


La columna de “Idiomas, Arte y Cultura” aborda temas relacionados con aspectos lingüísticos y culturales de las lenguas extranjeras a través de comentarios, debates, gacetillas y entrevistas a especialistas, profesionales y representantes de diversas instituciones con el fin de brindar información actual y relevante para profesores, traductores, intérpretes y amantes de los idiomas y la palabra.


Próximas columnas


Sábado 18 de Junio, 18 Hs.


Entrevistada: Trad. María Cristina Pinto, Presidente de A.A.T.I., Asociación Argentina de Traductores e Intérpretes (entrevista en piso)

Temas:  La Asociación Argentina de Traductores e Intérpretes: objetivos, miembros, actividades. La profesión del traductor literario y técnico-científico y del intérprete.


Próximamente: Susan Hillyard, Co-autora del libro Global Issues (Oxford University Press, 2004)    

Temas: Contenido de Global Issues para docentes de lenguas extranjeras. El por qué del objetivo de los autores respecto de llevar al aula “cuestiones globales” y específicamente, “fomentar el diálogo intercultural y de desafiar estereotipos”.


Analía Kandel es Profesora Nacional de Inglés, egresada del Instituto Nacional Superior del Profesorado “Dr. Joaquín V. González”. Obtuvo una Maestría (M.A.) en la Enseñanza de Inglés como Lengua Extranjera de la Universidad de Reading, Reino Unido. Es especialista en la enseñanza de lengua inglesa, y específicamente en la enseñanza de escritura con un enfoque de proceso. Desde 1995 enseña “Lengua Inglesa III” en Institutos de Formación Docente – desde 2000 en el I.S.P. “J. V. González”. Ha co-organizado y participado como disertante y panelista en congresos y eventos académicos sobre la enseñanza de lenguas extranjeras. Fue vicepresidente de la Asociación de Profesores de Inglés de Buenos Aires (APIBA) y Coordinadora General de los Grupos de Estudio (SIGs) de APIBA. Es autora del Manual de Gestión de APIBA SIGs (2002). Desde 2000 es Coordinadora del Dpto. de Inglés en Boston College. Dicta talleres y seminarios de capacitación sobre metodología de la enseñanza para docentes. Actualmente cursa estudios de interpretación (C.C.I.T.) y desde 2004 cursa la carrera de Producción y Creatividad Radiofónica (E.T.E.R.) y conduce la columna de “Idiomas, Arte y Cultura” en el programa “Bureau de Arte” en Radio Splendid, AM 990.








Our dear SHARER Sandra Zappa-Hollman (formerly from Cippoletti) has written to us all with a request for help.


I'm an ELT currently based in Canada who has taught English as a foreign language in Argentina for almost ten years (at all levels,including post-secondary). Presently, I'm conducting a survey project that investigates the challenges faced by primary-level teachers of English in the public and private education systems in
Argentina .

The Argentine education system has undergone radical changes since the Federal Law of Education (FLE) was passed in 1993. The restructuring of schools was also accompanied by curriculum changes,among which is the introduction of the teaching of a foreign language from an earlier age than in the former system. However, in actual practice it has been hard to successfully implement the new curriculum. There have been many problems related to budget constraints, inadequate teacher training, political opposition, to name just a few. Yet to date,research that documents issues of this type specifically in the area of English is virtually non-existent.

My project thus attempts to address an important gap by gathering crucial information from teachers that are facing the daily challenge to teach English under conditions which are not always the most desirable ones. The idea for this project has evolved out of my legitimate personal interest in learning more about the ELT situation in my country of birth. Having read about the shortcomings and challenges of similar curriculum changes that were implemented in other countries has encouraged me to take a critical look at the situation in
Argentina .

For anyone interested in learning more about this project, please feel free to contact me at . A special invitation to get in touch with me goes to any ELT in
Argentina that reads this message and wishes to participate in this project by filling out a questionnaire or by sharing any relevant information with me. Your interest as well as your help and/or suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

Best wishes!
Sandra Zappa-Hollman
MA (TESL), PhD Candidate (
University of British Columbia )





Our dear SHARER Ximena Faralla invites all SHARERS to the performances of On the Road:


On the Road~ Theatre Company

Our shows at UPeBe Theatre in Belgrano

Limited seats - Book now!



Dates: June, Tuesday 14th - Showtime: 2:30 pm

        June, Thursday 16th - Showtime: 2:30 pm

        June, Friday 17th - Showtime: 2:30 pm

        June, Thursday 30th - Showtime: 2:30 pm

Mostly enjoyed by ages 3 to 9


Robinson Crusoe

Dates: June, Tuesday 21st - Showtime: 10:30 am

        June, Thursday 23rd - Showtime: 2:30 pm

Mostly enjoyed by ages 6 to 13


Venue: UPeBe Theatre - Ciudad de la Paz 1972 - Belgrano.

Ticket: $6.- Bookings & Info: 4568-7125 - 






Our dear SHARER Mary Godward from the British Council writes to us:


You will all be pleased to hear that we are now ready to launch our programme for Words on Words 2005. This year we will be reading. How? By running reading groups on contemporary UK literature using the New Writing 12 anthology published by the British Council. This anthology was edited by Jane Rogers (whom I am sure many of you remember from her visit in 2003), D Abedayo and Blake Morrison.


Under the direction of Claudia Ferradas Moi, each reading group will meet three times. These sessions are aimed at language and literature teachers interested in exploring contemporary texts and perhaps in organising reading groups themselves. During the three meetings, participants will form part of a community of readers actively exchanging views on texts. Discussion and reflection will aim at demystifying the literary text, prioritising reader response and intercultural awareness.


To round off the programme, in October the writer Blake Morrison will be visiting Argentina . He will be talking about his work in New Writing 12, his own writing (don’t worry: Claudia will be using some of his texts with the reading groups) and will run a reading group session, which he is an expert at. If you would like to find out more about Blake Morrison, please check the website.


The reading groups will take place in Buenos Aires , Salta , Córdoba, La Plata and Santa Fe . In Buenos Aires , so far, we can confirm the dates for the sessions at ESSARP and Lenguas Vivas. All workshops are open to everybody and have no cost attached.


Reading Groups at ESSARP

Dates and time: Tuesday 7, 14 and 28 June 2005 – 1730-1930

Address: ESSARP Centre, Esmeralda 672, 7th Floor, Buenos Aires

Enrolment: please phone ESSARP (Tel 4322 2480)


Reading Groups at Lenguas Vivas (Salón 400)

Dates and time: Monday 30 May, Tuesday 7 June and Thursday 16 June 2005 – 1000-1200 - Address: Avda Carlos Pellegrini 1515, Buenos Aires

Enrolment: please phone the British Council (Tel 4311 9814)


We will soon send you the dates for all the other Reading Groups. In the meantime, if you have any doubts or need any further information, you can e-mail us at or phone us (Tel 4311 9814).


Hope to see you at the Reading Group sessions

Mary Godward

Manager Knowledge and Learning

British Council Argentina






Our dear SHARERS at Winton International and ELTeam Consultancy announce:


English Language: Communicative Competence


a course for EGB 2, EGB 3 and Polimodal English teachers approved by Red Federal de Capacitación Continua Proyecto 12/05 Dictamen 6432


This course will focus on teaching phonology, reading, writing, speaking and listening, how to teach grammar and vocabulary embedded in lesson planning, etc. Theoretical background as regards communicative competence, discourse analysis and interlanguage will be developed as well as practical ideas for teaching practice.


The course will consist of nine meetings: June 4, 11, 18, July 2 and 30, August 13, 20, 27 and September 3. - Time: Saturdays 9:00AM to 1:00 PM .

Venue:  Instituto Superior IDRA, San Luis 3851 (Mar del Plata)

Registration: Only at ELTeam lounge, Río Negro 4413, Mar del Plata (0223-4758631)

Important: bring a copy of your ID.


Free of charge - Sponsored by Garbarino

Enrollees with perfect attendance and punctuality will participate in a raffle with important prizes.




Today we would like to finish this issue of SHARE a mail that a dear old colleague sent us:


Congratulations on such a long-running inspired development! I don't know how it happened, but I just learnt about your mag last month when a friend user told me. The whole thing makes me nostalgic for Inner Eye times! Well, I'll be reading. So long for now.


Sharingly yours,

Hugo Tordoni


We thank Hugo for his mail and for his incredible effort to produce The Inner Eye for such a long time. We missed you, Hugo as much as we miss your ineffable Inner Eye.

Cheers for the good old days and the very best of days to come!



Omar and Marina.



SHARE is distributed free of charge. All announcements in this electronic magazine are also absolutely free of charge. We do not endorse any of the services announced or the views expressed by the contributors.  For more information about the characteristics and readership of SHARE visit:
VISIT OUR WEBSITE : There you can read all past  issues of SHARE in the section SHARE ARCHIVES.