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What the Research Shows

What does research show about the benefits of language learning?

In this age of accountability in education, policymakers and administrators, as well as parents, are increasingly demanding to know what research studies show regarding the benefits of language learning.  This document will identify some of the major correlation studies that highlight how language learners benefit from their experiences.

Three major areas have been identified: 

How does language learning support academic achievement?

How does language learning provide cognitive benefits to students?

How does language learning affect attitudes and beliefs about language learning and about other cultures?


How does language learning support academic achievement?

Click on the statement to review the specific studies that support this claim.

Language learning correlates with higher academic achievement on standardized test measures.

Language learning is beneficial to both monolingual English and English language learners in bilingual and two-way immersion programs.

Language learning is beneficial in the development of students’ reading abilities.

There is evidence that language learners transfer skills from one language to another.

There is a correlation between second language learning and increased linguistic awareness.

There is a correlation between language learning and students’ ability to hypothesize in science.

Language learning can benefit all students.

There is a correlation between young children’s second language development and the development of print awareness.

Heritage learners who use their language skills to interpret and translate for family members experience higher academic performance and greater self-efficacy.

There is a correlation between language study and higher scores on the SAT and ACT Tests.

There is a correlation between high school foreign language study and higher academic performance at the college level.

How does language learning provide cognitive benefits to students?

Click on the statement to review the specific studies that support this claim

There is evidence that early language learning improves cognitive abilities.

There is evidence bilingualism correlates with increased cognitive development and abilities.

There is a correlation between bilingualism and the offset of age-related cognitive losses.

There is a correlation between bilingualism and attentional control on cognitive tasks.

There is a correlation between bilingualism and intelligence.

There is a correlation between bilingualism and metalinguistic skills.

There is a correlation between bilingualism and memory skills.

There is a correlation between bilingualism and problem solving ability.

There is a correlation between bilingualism and improved verbal and spatial abilities.

Find out more about the benefits of language learning by investigating these resources.

Find out more about the benefits of bilingualism by investigating these reviews of the literature.

How does language learning affect attitudes and beliefs about language learning and about other cultures?

Click on the statement to review the specific studies that support this claim

Research suggests that language learners develop a more positive attitude toward the target language and/or the speakers of that language.

Helpful Resources on the topic of attitudes and foreign language learning.


Thanks to Amanda Kibler and Sandy Philipose, Graduate Research Assistants of Guadalupe Valdés at Stanford University, for assisting in the compilation of these studies. 

This information is not designed to provide a comprehensive review of the research studies available but has been compiled to highlight the benefits of language learning.