Definition: Separate Underlying Proficiency (SUP) vs. Common Underlying Proficiency (CUP) (Jim Cummins)
Eric Noack

Common Underlying Proficiency

Theory proposed by Jim Cummins (2000) that knowledge of a concept in a primary language promotes the transfer of that knowledge into a second language (Freeman & Freeman 2004). Beyond promoting knowledge transfer, Freeman and Freeman argue that there is an interdependence between knowledge in a first language and learning a second language. If you have an understanding of what romance is, you are better equipped to understand the Spanish equivalent, románico. The CUP is a cognitive approach to L2 acquisition, supports the idea that being bilingual is a cognitive advantage, and that knowledge in a primary language provides a foundation for learning a second language (Díaz-Rico & Weed 2010).

The characteristics of the Common Underlying Proficiency theory strongly support bilingual instruction practices for emerging and proficient ELL students alike.

Separate Underlying Proficiency

Alternative theory to CUP which argues that proficiency in English is separate from proficiency in a primary language, and that content and skills in a primary language to not transfer to English language learning (Díaz-Rico & Weed).

The CUP theory supports English-only instruction as the most effective way for ELLs to learn the language since L2 proficiency is separate from L1 proficiency.

References

Cummins, J. (2000). Language, Power and Pedagogy: Bilingual Children in the Crossfire. Tonawanda, NY: Multilingual Matters.

Díaz-Rico, L. T. & Weed, K. Z. (2010). The crosscultural, language, and academic development handbook: A complete K-12 reference guide (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Freeman, D. E. & Freeman, Y. S. (2004). Essential linguistics: What you need to know to teach reading, ESL, spelling, phonics, and grammar. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann

Critique/Classroom Implications
Hawks, Tara N.

Research suggests that when children are immersed in a bilingual program, L1 and L2 proficency develop simultaniously, this is an example of the Common Underlying Proficiency. This is because ELLs can find similarities between the L1 and L2 and connect the two together (Freeman). In the classroom this theory, if correct, maintains a learning community where children can learn literacy without having to give up their L1.

A theory of Common Underlying Proficiency also means that there is cross-linguistic transfer from the L1 to the L2 and vice versa. Students can learn both language and content in one language and transfer that knowleldge to the other language. In other words, the two language proficiencies are not separate. They are part of one whole.

In contrast, Seperate Underlying Proficiency, it is not uncommon for children to give up their L1. This is because SUP maintains that knwoledge of the L1 will not help in the acquisition of the L2. Some people even believe in the myth that one must abandon his/her L1 in order to grasp the L2 (homeofbob.com). In the classroom this can be detrimental, because ELLs, once they lose their L1, also can lose their cultural Identity.

References (Please use APA style)


Díaz-Rico, L. T. & Weed, K. Z. (2010). The crosscultural, language, and academic development handbook: A complete K-12 reference guide (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Freeman, D. E. & Freeman, Y. S. (2004). Essential linguistics: What you need to know to teach reading, ESL, spelling, phonics, and grammar. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann


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