Find out more about the research used to inform the languages and literacy leaflet.

Languages and literacy

Literacy is more than the ability to read and write. When we talk about literacy, we mean a range of language skills that helps learners participate in all aspects of their lives and learning. Learning new languages can play an important role in helping children and young people to develop their literacy skills, including literacy in their first language, whether this is English or another language.


Education Scotland (2010) Curriculum for excellence: literacy across learning: principles and practice (Word doc)

Cunningham, T. H., & Graham, C. R. (2000). Increasing native English vocabulary recognition through Spanish immersion: Cognate transfer from foreign to first language. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92(1), 37-49. from PsycINFO database.

Rafferty, E. A. (1986). Second language study and basic skills in Louisiana. U.S.; Louisiana, from ERIC database.

D'Angiulli, A., Siegel, L. S., & Serra, E. (2001). The development of reading in English and Italian in bilingual children. Applied Psycholinguistics, 22(4), 479-507. from PsycINFO database.

Garfinkel, A., & Tabor, K. E. (1991). Elementary school foreign languages and English reading achievement: A new view of the relationship. Foreign Language Annals, 24(5), 375-382. from Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts database. 

How does learning languages help my child develop literacy?

Learning languages involves participating in activities that help develop literacy skills. Through languages, learners have opportunities to:

  • develop and improve their skills in listening, talking, reading and writing 
  • get a feeling for how languages work
  • learn how to communicate ideas and information in their own language as well as in the new languages they study
  • become familiar with different texts and media in different languages
  • consider new points of view 
  • use new technologies to communicate in other languages, which boosts their learning and helps them develop literacy skills for the digital age


Education Scotland (2010) Curriculum for excellence: literacy across learning: principles and practice (Word doc)

University of Strathclyde Education Scotland British Council Scotland The Scottish Government
SCILT - Scotlands National centre for Languages