Discussion Questions

Chris Baker
Discussion Questions: Roseberry-McKibbin (2007) CH3
1. Define the terms simultaneous and sequential bilingualism. Which type of
child would have more difficulty, the child who is a simultaneous language
learner, or the one who is a sequential language learner?
Simultaneous Bilingualism: the acquisition of two languages from infancy in a
naturalistic setting. Simultaneous bilinguals tend to acquire both languages with equal
levels of proficiency.
Sequential Bilingualism: the acquisition of a second language later on in childhood,
after a first language has been acquired.
Children who are sequential bilinguals will tend to have more difficulty in acquiring
their second language than children who have been exposed to both languages
simultaneously. While some sequential bilingual children experience minimal difficulty
in acquiring their L2, if the L2 is introduced before foundational proficiency of L1 has
been acquired, development of L1 may be arrested or even regress.
2. Discuss the negative myths about bilingualism in the united states. How have
these negative myths impacted actual practice in the US school systems?
One particularly pernicious myth about bilingualism is that the native language will
interfere with the students ability to acquire English as a second language. This was
conventional wisdom until relatively recently, which led many professionals to suggest to
parents that they speak only English at home. This has undoubtedly complicated
language learning for many children of immigrants, especially those who had not
completely acquired their first language to sufficient proficiency.
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3. Describe the terms Separate Underlying Proficiency and Common Underlying
Proficiency. Which one is more accurate? Why?
Separate Underlying Proficiency (SUP): This is a model of second language
acquisition that holds that L1 and L2 proficiency is entirely separate from one another,
which implies a lack of lateral transfer of linguistic competence between languages.
Under this view, further development of the L1 does not enhance L2.
Common Underlying Proficiency (CUP): This is an alternative view to the SUP model
that holds that L1 and L2 proficiency share underlying proficiencies, which implies that
the linguistic skills attained in L1 can be generalized to L2. Under this view, competence
in L1 bolsters the language learner’s ability to acquire L2.
Of the two models, the CUP model presents a more accurate depiction of the
relationship between L1 and L2 development. Prima facie, the SUP model fails to
recognize the universality of human languages. Linguistic processing and literacy skills
are built upon myriad cognitive sub-routines that are language agnostic, the frequent use
of which is critical to developing cognitive-linguistic skills generally. There is also the
matter of conceptual knowledge and cognitive strategies that are acquired through
language, which will facilitate L2 acquisition and are essential for academic success.
Building this framework trumps any concerns over L2 acquisition, and attempting to
build this knowledge base and skill set in L2 in children whose L1 is not fully developed
is inefficient.
Research has bore out the CUP model of language proficiency. In bilingual students it
has been shown that reading proficiency in both L1 and L2 are highly correlated, which
suggests that resources are shared between languages. Conversely, students who read
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only in L2 have been shown to have greater difficulty than those who also read in their
5. Describe Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) and Cognitive
Academic Language Proficiency (CALP). How do they differ?
Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) and Cognitive Academic Language
Proficiency (CALP) are language proficiencies differentiated by James Cummins in his
research into bilingual pedagogy. These proficiencies exist on a continuum
BICS refers to the basic communicative fluency achieved by native speakers of a
language. These linguistic skills are cognitively undemanding and contextually embedded
used by students in informal settings, say, on a playground or cafe. Research by
Cummins as well as Virginia Collier suggest that it typically takes language learners 1-3
years to develop BICS if they have sufficient exposure to the second language.
CALP refers to the ability to manipulate language using abstractions in a sophisticated
manner. CALP is used while performing in an academic setting. CALP is the ability to
think in and use a language as a tool for learning. Cummins's and Collier's research
suggest that K-12 students need 5 to 7 years to acquire CALP in the second language if
the learner has native language literacy. Learners who do not have strong native language
literacy often need 7-10 years to acquire CALP in the second language.
Why are these types of language proficiency so important to consider when
working with students who are acquiring English as a second language?
Remaining cognizant of BICS and CALP when working with ELL students is critical
in a number of areas. We want to remain aware (and make the students’ teachers aware)
that their ability to communicate and their linguistic abilities as they pertain to academics
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develop on two very different time lines. It will take a significantly longer time for ELL’s
to catch up to their peers in their linguistic-academic abilities. The student’s familiarity
with the language generally (BICS) might lead some to conclude that the student is
functioning on a lower cognitive-academic level than they are capable. This should be
considered when interpreting performance and assessments, and the academic
environment must be under equal scrutiny when considering linguistic functioning. If
instruction provides only a minimum of context, an adjustment in this area may provide
the support that the student needs to function at grade level.
This important is in helping ELL teachers to establish their curriculum. Since this is
where development will likely take the longest, developing these skills should be the
primary focus of ELL instruction in the classroom.
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