Research demonstrates that language learning can enhance literacy skills and narrow the attainment gap.
W. P. Thomas and V. P. Collier. NCDPI (2010)
This report studies the impact of ‘two-way dual language’ programmes, implemented in North Carolina. English language learners and native English speakers are educated in the classroom together in both English and another languages (the home language of the English learners). The curriculum is presented in English part of the time and a second language at least half the time (Spanish, Chinese, French, German or Japanese).
North Carolina contracted researchers to look into the effectiveness of dual language programs in addressing the gaps in achievement between students whose first language is English and those whose first language is not English.
- Overall, reading and maths scores of students in two-way dual language education were higher for all dual language students, regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, level of English language proficiency, or special education status.
- When English language learners, African American native English speakers, students of low-socioeconomic and special education status – groups which typically see significant achievement gaps when compared to white native English speakers – participate in dual language programs, their achievement gaps are smaller.
- Low socioeconomic status may be a primary factor affecting differences in reading and maths achievement for some groups of students, but three years of analyses show that dual language programmes significantly address the achievement gap for low socioeconomic students.
V. A. Murphy, E. Macaro, et al. Applied Psycholinguistics 36 (2015)
This study investigated whether learning a second language (L2) in primary school has a facilitative effect on first language (L1) literacy. In addition, the study considered whether there is an advantage to learning an L2 where the written symbols closely represent their significant spoken sound (in this case Italian compared to French).
The results presented in this paper suggest there are definite benefits from learning an L2 on L1 literacy skills. The study supports the point that apart from the obvious benefits of learning an L2 – including learning basic L2 language, having a greater appreciation for another culture and providing a good basis for later L2 learning at secondary level – L2 learning can be viewed as language awareness training: developing an appreciation for, and understanding of language as a system of sounds, words, and structure that can be manipulated in different ways. L2 learning at the primary level and heightened language awareness can lead to improvements in the developing L1 in the primary school learner.
For research demonstrating the links between language skills and employability, please visit the Employability pages of our website.
Some arguments for the case for languages having a positive impact on health and wellbeing can be seen on our Beyond School pages.