• Language and identity are closely linked (Cummins, 1986) as well as language being the powerhouse for expressing, formulating and understanding ideas.
  • Derewianka (1998, p.1) “Language is a dynamic, complex system of resources for making meaning ….and reflects the culture in which it is used”.
  • Listening, speaking, writing and all the different purposes of language are all relevant to how language functions in different contexts.

Cummins Model of Functions and Purposes of Language.(Cummins, 2007)

  • Understanding the functions of language helps to set the students up with frameworks within which to express themselves coherently and make themselves understood effectively and to make meaning of the world around them effectively (Fig. 1, Cummins, 2007).
  • Building up skills in terms of the different genres such as explaining, arguing and describing are helpful and have been the basis for many language programmes, although it is also recognised that a student might need to do all of the above in one text (Derewianka, 1998).
  • Understanding the link to meaning and identity places added importance on valuing the students’ heritage language and seeing it as the bridge to gaining understanding in the second language rather than the barrier (McCaffery, 2011).
  • Understanding the different functions of language in different contexts equips students with an understanding of how language is used in different social contexts (Cummins, 2007, Derewianka, 1998).
  • It is important to assist students in 'making meaning' of texts through giving the students skills in the various ways language functions.
  • This then helps the students themselves to use appropriate registers in specific situations and to be able to operate effectively at the CALP level.
  • Attention to the detail of the function and purposes of language points to equipping students in the key competency of using language symbols and texts (Ministry of Education, 2007).

Cummins, J. (1986). Empowering minority students: A framework for intervention. Harvard Educational Review 56 (1), 18-36.

Cummins, J. & Davison, C. (Eds.) (2007). International handbook of English language teaching. NY: Springer.

Derewianka, B. (1998). A grammar companion for primary teachers. Newtown, Australia: Primary English Teaching Association.

Ministry of Education. (2007). The New Zealand curriculum. Wellington: Learning Media.