Social English versus Academic English (BICS versus CALPS)
Social English is often called “Survival English”. This is the English needed to function at some degrees of comfort in our society. It is also called “basic interpersonal communicative skills” or BICS.
Academic English, or CALPS (cognitive academic learning proficiency skills) is the sophisticated level of reading, writing, speaking, and listening that is needed to function successfully in the classroom.
BICS are learned fairly easy by most LEP (Limited English Proficiency) students. Research stated that BICS are often learned within one to three years.
CALPS are much more difficult to learn. Research states that CALPS takes 5-7 years for the brightest students and 7-10 years for the average student to acquire. Some students never acquire CALPS.
If students have developed CALPS (concepts and skills) in their primary language, it will transfer to English. This is why it is encouraged for students and families to continue to speak in their native language and use their native language at home.