Threshold hypothesis

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The threshold hypothesis is a hypothesis concerning second language acquisition set forth in a study by Cummins (1976 [1] ) that stated that a minimum threshold in language proficiency must be passed before a second-language speaker can reap any benefits from language. It also states that, in order to gain proficiency in a second language, the learner must also have passed a certain and age appropriate level of competence in his or her first language. [2]

Language proficiency or linguistic proficiency is the ability of an individual to speak or perform in a language. As theories among pedagogues as to what constitutes proficiency go, there is little consistency as to how different organizations classify it. Additionally, fluency and language competence are generally recognized as being related, but separate controversial subjects. In predominant frameworks in the United States, proficient speakers demonstrate both accuracy and fluency, and use a variety of discourse strategies. Thus, native speakers of a language can be fluent without being considered proficient. Native-level fluency is estimated to be between 20,000 and 40,000 words, but basic conversational fluency might require only as little as 3,000 words.

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The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to second-language acquisition:

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  1. Cummins J. (1976). The influence of bilingualism on cognitive growth: a synthesis of research findings and explanatory hypotheses. Work. Pap. Biling. 9, 1–43 :
  2. Charlotte Franson (2 May 2009). "Bilingual Language Acquisition". National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum (NALDIC): ITTSEAL website. National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum.