Why Study a Second Language?

 What Does Research Show About the Benefits of Language Learning?

Cognitive Ability

Why is it beneficial to study the Spanish language? I could focus my attention and effort on telling you everything that I am sure you have heard before: such as the popularity of the Spanish language in the world, the growing Hispanic population in the U.S., becoming a well-rounded and culturally-competent/sensitive individual, bettering your chances of finding a job, the fun involved in communicating with others in a different language, among many others.

Let's focus on what the research has to say.  I am sure you will find the results of these studies to be compelling, interesting, and beneficial for all students . . .

1. Research suggests that students who study a foreign language achieve better on standardized tests due to an increase in their ability to think more critically and by a higher achievement in their first language (L1).

2. There is evidence to support that students who study a second language are able to enhance their skills with their native language (L1) , namely the ability to build their vocabulary base in their L1.  This is known as "language transfer," meaning that language learners transfer skills across the languages being studied (including their own).

3. According to a study by Wiley, students who studied a second language (L2) during their high school career were more likely to perform at higher levels academically at the post-secondary level.

4.  By beginning the study of a second language at an early age, students grow cognitively as they gain and improve their higher-level critical thinking skills - i.e. evaluation.  On the other hand, students who are not exposed to language at an early age do not show the same level of cognitive capabilities.

5. Bilingualism greatly enhances executive functions in the brain while helping to avoid age-related cognitive losses.  For example, older individuals with bilingual abilities were shown to respond much more quickly to tasks that called on their working memory than their monolingual peers.

6.  Students who study a second language tend to employ better strategies and methods as they develop their reading abilities in both their L1 and their L2.

7.  As students study a second language, they begin to form and develop an enhanced awareness and control of syntactic structure for both languages (L1 and L2).  This awareness is due to their need to modify their syntactic repertoire in each language to communicate appropriately.  As a result, they become better at grammatical judgment and word recognition. 

8.  Research shows the importance and benefit of studying a second language for all students of various social-economic backgrounds.  That is, regardless of whether or not a student pertains to the working or middle class, or whether s/he is considered to be "underprivileged," second language learners can all benefit from having a second language experience.

9. Countless additional studies and research exist that simply cannot be summarized here!