Rethinking the Education of Multilingual Learners: A Critical Analysis of Theoretical Concepts

Author: Jim Cummins

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Multilingual Matters
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234mm x 156mm

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Over the past 40 years, Jim Cummins has proposed a number of highly influential theoretical concepts, including the threshold and interdependence hypotheses and the distinction between conversational fluency and academic language proficiency. In this book, he provides a personal account of how these ideas developed and he examines the credibility of critiques they have generated, using the criteria of empirical adequacy, logical coherence, and consequential validity. These criteria of theoretical legitimacy are also applied to the evaluation of two different versions of translanguaging theory – Unitary Translanguaging Theory and Crosslinguistic Translanguaging Theory – in a way that significantly clarifies this controversial concept. 

This evidence-based, nuanced and scholarly volume is Cummins at his best. Courteous and collegial, Cummins distinguishes between defensible complementary theory, and enthusiastic but conjectural false dichotomy. The single purpose is to guide educators towards how best multilingual students can learn and succeed if we are to ensure equity and social justice.

Kathleen Heugh, University of South Australia, Australia

In this volume Cummins brings the reader along on an inspiring journey that spans over 40 years and offers a unique synthesis of a life-long dedication and contribution within the field of bi- and multilingual education. The journey starts with a retrospective look at Cummins' revolutionary and frontier-pushing theoretical hypothesis on early research in bilingual development within education and ends with presentations of innovative and creative crosslinguistic and multilingual pedagogies.

Siv Björklund, Åbo Akademi University, Finland

In this book, Jim Cummins not only presents his ideas and writings, giving insights into their origins and evolution, but importantly, he answers his critics. The volume provides an up-to-date analysis of translanguaging, considering its strengths and its criticisms, and offers practical translanguaging ideas for classrooms and curriculum activities. This book is Jim Cummins' finest contribution to the literature.

Colin Baker, Emeritus Professor, Bangor University, UK

Jim Cummins is Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto, Canada and has spent the past 40 years researching and working with multilingual learners across the world. His controversial theoretical distinction between conversational versus academic language proficiency is a key topic in pre-service and professional development related to the education of multilingual students who are learning the language of instruction.


Lily Wong Fillmore: Foreword

Series Editor's Preface

Tove Skutnabb-Kangas: Preface

Part 1: Evolution of a Theoretical Framework: A Personal Account

Chapter 1. Core Ideas and Background Influences

Chapter 2. Resolving Contradictions: Cognitive Consequences of Bilingualism

Chapter 3. Linguistic Interdependence: Accounting for Patterns of Bilingual Academic Development

Chapter 4. Language Proficiency and Academic Achievement

Chapter 5. Power Relations in School: Constructing or Constricting Identities?

Chapter 6. Reversing Underachievement: An Integrated Framework

Part 2: Critical Analysis of Competing Theoretical Claims

Chapter 7. How Do We Assess the Legitimacy of Theoretical Constructs and Claims?

Chapter 8. Is 'Academic Language' a Legitimate Theoretical Construct?

Chapter 9. Are 'Linguistic Interdependence' and the 'Common Underlying Proficiency' Legitimate Theoretical Constructs?

Chapter 10. Unitary Translanguaging Theory and Crosslinguistic Translanguaging Theory: A Comparative Analysis

Part 3: Instructional Practice in Dialogue with Theoretical Concepts

Chapter 11. Teachers as Knowledge Generators: Learning from Inspirational Pedagogy

About the Author

Postgraduate, Research / Professional
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