Benefits on Learning a Foreign Language


 Research Studies supporting claims of benefits of learning a foreign language.

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




 Top Ten Benefits of Early Language Learning


Ten Great Reasons to Start

Learning a Language Now


Learning a new language at any age is an enormously rewarding experience in many ways. While language learning is an enriching experience for all ages, children have the most to gain from this wonderful adventure. Quite simply, starting early offers the widest possible set of benefits and opportunities.


Children understand intuitively that language is something to explore, to play around with, and to enjoy. Their enthusiasm is both infectious and effective. The quickness with which they pick up their first language is nearly miraculous—and such a joy to watch as a parent. As children grow, all parents can attest to how much fun their children continue to have as they sing new words they hear and even invent new ones with a huge, bright smile. The joy with which children explore their first language makes childhood the ideal time for a second language—even if all the other reasons for an early start didn't exist!


But there are many other reasons, and while this list does not exhaust the number and variety of advantages starting a language early can provide, these are some of the most notable benefits.


Higher test scores: Numerous reports have proven that students who have studied a foreign language perform much better than their monolingual peers on many standardized tests, including all sections of the SAT. In fact, the 2007 College Bound Seniors report, issued by the College Board, which administers the SAT, vividly demonstrates the significant benefits of studying a foreign language. The report shows that students with 4 or more years of foreign language study score on average 140 points higher (out of 800!) than students with half a year or less experience on the Critical Reading section, and almost another 140 in the Math section and over 150 points higher on Writing.


Better and more advanced reading skills: A study undertaken by York University in Canada suggests that bilingual children’s knowledge of a second language gives them an advantage in learning to read. Their ability to apply the insights and experiences of one language to the other as well as their wider experience of language gives them a big leg up. As they grow older, this advantage continues and grows. Plus, being able to read two languages is pretty impressive all by itself!




Greater confidence: Children are always discovering new things, but learning a new language is a uniquely rewarding experience—at any age. For children, the feeling of accomplishment that comes with their first steps toward a second language can spur them on to a deeper and broader passion for learning in general. And because children are at a special "window of opportunity" in which language learning is intuitive and natural, the ease and pleasure of the experience may boost their confidence and their desire for new discoveries.


Gives brains a boost: In a recent article in The New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell quotes James Flynn, a renowned scientist, as saying "The mind is much more like a muscle than we've ever realized… It needs to get cognitive exercise. It's not some piece of clay on which you put an indelible mark." Research into the effects of bilingualism on children suggests that exposure to more than one language is an excellent way of flexing those brain muscles—and building them up too! Bilingual children in one study reported in Nature showed a significantly larger density of "grey matter" in their brains. And those who had been exposed to a second language from an early age proved to have the most grey matter of all. Grey matter is responsible for processing information, including memory, speech and sensory perception. And if it can be increased by exposure to a second language, then language learning would be just like taking your brain to the gym!


Natural-sounding, native-like accent: Children are always mimicking what they hear, and are surprisingly good at it! They are uniquely attuned to slight differences in tone and sound. Their sensitive ears help them pick up on and duplicate the tricky sounds adults and even adolescents often stumble over. For adults just beginning a new language, this difficulty can be discouraging—trying to speak Spanish like Antonio Banderas from Evita only to end up sounding like Jack Black in Nacho Libre isn't exactly the best language experience. A study conducted by researchers from UCLA and the University of Hong Kong, however, shows that even adults with significant exposure to a language in childhood can end up speaking like a native. By starting early, your children can speak smoothly and confidently from the first.


Greater opportunities for college and careers: Colleges now place an increasingly high value on knowledge of more than one language. As the admissions process becomes more competitive across the board, knowing a second or a third language adds a new dimension to an applicant's resume. And as the economy becomes more and more globalized, English-only becomes less and less of an option.


Bigger view of the world: Traveling abroad is an experience which can benefit anyone, offering not just new sites to see, but new frames of mind and new perspectives. But going abroad and feeling comfortable in the language of your destination means you're doing more than just traveling—going from your home to another place, and then back home. You can feel as if you're a part of the culture and the life of this new world, as if you aren't a total stranger just visiting. Like reading a poem in another tongue you know, you will hear more than just the language—you will hear the music behind it as well, and the life.


Greater grasp of one's first language—including a bigger, richer vocabulary: Most of the time we use our first language with little thought to grammatical rules or constructions. This is perfectly natural, but the experience of learning a new language can bring greater understanding and perhaps even better grammar to our first language. Knowing the way another language works encourages us to examine our own language's mechanics in a positive way. By being able to compare the two, we learn more than we ever would as a monolingual. Or as Nancy Rhodes, Director of Foreign Language Education at the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, DC says, "The more children learn about a foreign language, the more they understand about their own language." Children use what they learn in one language to reinforce concepts and terms they've learned in the other. They can solidify their gains in their native tongue by matching them to their new adventures in another language.


Building and keeping cultural connections: Some of us are lucky enough to have a relative who still speaks their mother tongue frequently. To be able to communicate with them in that language builds a bridge—not only to that person, but to the heritage and history they represent. To maintain that connection keeps alive so much—memories, stories and traditions—and brings to life new memories, stories and traditions as well.


An all-family activity: Modern life is hectic; its demands are frequent and often contradictory. Learning a language together as a family provides a unifying activity which doesn't require you to drive your kids anywhere, and doesn't make it necessary to be in ten places at once. Starting this process early with your child or children provides your family with an activity and an experience it can return to and grow with over the years.


Your child and your family will benefit—in these ways and others—from learning a second language. You will find new and even unique uses, opportunities and ideas open up as you adapt your language learning process to your and your child's needs and aspirations. Starting now means the possibilities are wide open!




DUKE GIFTED LETTER: Volume 8, Issue 1, Fall 2007

The Duke University Talent Identification Program

Online Newsletter for Parents of Gifted Youth


Foreign language programs are often one of the first items to be scrutinized and cut when elementary, middle, and high schools in the U.S. face poor performance evaluations or budget crunches. However, many studies have demonstrated the benefits of second language learning not only on student's linguistic abilities but on their cognitive and creative abilities as well. Duke TIP interviewed several experts in the field about the advantages of foreign language learning for children.


Martha G. Abbott, Director of Education for the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)


Therese Sullivan Caccavale, president of the National Network for Early Language Learning (NNELL)


Ken Stewart, 2006 ACTFL National Language Teacher of the Year; AP Spanish teacher at Chapel Hill High School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina


Should foreign language instruction start earlier in the U.S.?

Abbott: It is critical that foreign language instruction be available to all students throughout their PK-12 academic experience. Knowing other languages and understanding other cultures is a 21st Century skill set for American students as they prepare to live and work in a global society. No matter what career students enter, they will be interacting with others around the world on a routine basis and doing business locally with those whose native language is not English.


Beginning foreign language instruction early sets the stage for students’ to develop advanced levels of proficiencies in one or more languages. In addition, younger learners still possess the capacity to develop near native-like pronunciation and intonation in a new language. Finally, young learners have a natural curiosity about learning which is evident when they engage in learning a new language. They also are open and accepting of people who speak other languages and come from other cultures.


Caccavale: Yes, because it has been shown to enhance children’s cognitive development. Children who learn a foreign language beginning in early childhood demonstrate certain cognitive advantages over children who do not. Research conducted in Canada with young children shows that those who are bilingual develop the concept of “object permanence†at an earlier age. Bilingual students learn sooner that an object remains the same, even though the object has a different name in another language. For example, a foot remains a foot and performs the function of a foot, whether it is labeled a foot in English or un pied in French.


Additionally, foreign language learning is much more a cognitive problem solving activity than a linguistic activity, overall. Studies have shown repeatedly that foreign language learning increases critical thinking skills, creativity, and flexibility of mind in young children. Students who are learning a foreign language out-score their non-foreign language learning peers in the verbal and, surprisingly to some, the math sections of standardized tests. This relationship between foreign language study and increased mathematical skill development, particularly in the area of problem solving, points once again to the fact that second language learning is more of a cognitive than linguistic activity.

A 2007 study in Harwich, Massachusetts, showed that students who studied a foreign language in an articulated sequence outperformed their non-foreign language learning peers on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test after two-three years and significantly outperformed them after seven-eight years on all MCAS subtests.


Furthermore, there is research (Webb bibliography) that shows that children who study a foreign language, even when this second language study takes time away from the study of mathematics, outperform (on standardized tests of mathematics) students who do not study a foreign language and have more mathematical instruction during the school day. Again, this research upholds the notion that learning a second language is an exercise in cognitive problem solving and that the effects of second language instruction are directly transferable to the area of mathematical skill development.


The notion of “earlier is better†in language learning seems to be upheld by the fact that longer sequences of foreign language instruction seem to lead to better academic achievement, overall. Because second language instruction provides young children with better cognitive flexibility and creative thinking skills, it can offer gifted students the intellectual and developmental challenges they need and desire.


Stewart: Absolutely. Every piece of research in the field points to the benefits of starting a second language as early as three years of age. The other key to becoming proficient in another language is a long, continuous contact with the language. Until we have a well articulated PK-16 second language "buy-in" from legislators, school boards, administrators, and parents, the U.S. will continue to lag behind other nation, thus prolonging monolingualism.


Are immersion programs equally effective for younger and older students?

Abbott: The advantage for younger learners is that they have the ability to mimic closely the native pronunciation and intonation of a new language. In addition, literacy skills that are being developed in the native language transfer to the learning of the new language. For this reason, research studies have shown academic gains by students who have begun learning another language at an early age.


Immersion programs for older students are very effective as well. Depending on the age of the students, they may or may not develop native-like pronunciation and intonation. However, the older student already possesses an internalized grammar of the native language which is useful in learning a new language.


Regardless of age, immersion programs are effective because they use second language acquisition as the vehicle for learning the general education curriculum. This makes the content of the course inherently more interesting for the student and maximizes the instructional time by accomplishing two goals at once: language acquisition and content learning.


Caccavale: Currently, over 100 public schools in the U.S. have foreign language immersion programs. Research on immersion programs show that when they are properly structured, they can be equally effective for younger and older students in developing oral proficiency and that all immersion students can achieve functional levels of bilingualism.


However, children who start learning a second language before puberty seem to outperform, over the long run, older children and adults who begin the study of a second language after puberty and continue to study that language for the same number of years. Similarly, children who start learning a language at young ages have better opportunities to develop native pronunciation and intonation. But motivation is key—as research shows that that motivation can help students to overcome some age-related factors in second language learning.


Stewart: Certainly immersion programs come the closest to providing students, young or old, with the intensive language experience they need to become proficient. In my opinion, it's the next best thing to study abroad. Not everyone has the means to study or live abroad, but immersion programs can do a lot to bring the language and culture to them. There are some excellent models in place in certain advantaged areas of the country. Every child deserves the chance to become a citizen of the world in such a rich experience.


Are some individuals naturally talented when it comes to second language acquisition?

Abbott: Of course there are some students who “take to†language learning more readily than others. We tend to see that children, who are more verbal in their native language, use this tendency to their advantage when learning a second language. The challenge is not to send a message to students that language learning is difficult and that one has a knack for it or not. This is not the case. All students have the ability to learn a second language—even those who have specific learning difficulties. The research shows that these learning disabilities surface at the same level in the foreign language classroom as they do in the general education classroom. Students with accommodations need to have the same adaptations made in the language classroom as they do in the general education classroom.


Caccavale: There is a difference between language acquisition and language learning. There are some individuals who seem to develop analytical thinking skills more readily than others, and this helps them in the learning of grammatical concepts. However, that does not mean that only those students who are highly analytical should study a foreign language, as second language acquisition (listening and speaking) is a global process. Just as everyone needs to develop skills in a variety of curricular areas, everyone can benefit from learning a foreign language, whether it is because of the cognitive advantages or the exposure to and understanding of other cultures.


Stewart: Like an artistic or musical talent, language systems click better with some learners. However, as with any new venture, learning a language can be greatly enhanced with perseverance and practice. There is still a lot to learn in terms of linguistics and second language acquisition. I come from a monolingual family and culture with little second language experience; so, I believe that I have a knack for languages. I claim that the desire and drive to learn a language are the single-most determining factors in achieving fluency.


How should students choose which foreign language to study?

Abbott: Of course the best choice is for a student to select a language that he or she is interested in learning. For many the choice is based on the language background of the family but it can also be based on a teacher’s reputation or the language that their friends are taking. Many times parents try to predict which language will be most useful in the future, but this is a difficult projection to make. The important factor is that students begin any language as early as possible and continue in a well-articulated sequence. Since research indicates that learning a third or fourth language then comes more easily. Students can always switch languages at a later date if it appears that another might be more useful for a specific career path.


Stewart: It is not so much which language a student chooses, but rather that they make a choice and stick with it. I have Latino students who become excellent French students, for example. Thus, students who break out of their comfort zones can have an enriching experience in the end. Parents and language educators should embrace all languages and encourage learning multiple languages. As a Spanish teacher, I am constantly advocating for students to start a third language. Portuguese, for example, is a natural transition for advanced Spanish students. One of the life-long benefits of learning another language is that you're always learning, and it keeps the brain actively engaged. Recent studies have connected learning a second language with delaying Alzheimers for this very reason. So, while languages should be started in Pre-K, it's never too late to start learning another language. I was particularly impressed with a program in the European system where children and grandparents were going to school together to learn a second language.


How can parents who do not have a language option in their school obtain foreign language instruction for their children?

Abbott: Parents need to get organized and “speak up†for language education in their communities. Many elementary level programs have been implemented based on parent demand. Parents should advocate for language programs in their local communities and keep up with national initiatives in language education and federal and state legislation.


For home-school and pre-school parents, more resources are becoming available. Publishers and media developers are capitalizing on the renewed interest in language instruction and are developing programs for children based on language learning. In addition, the web offers many free language learning opportunities.


Caccavale: Although parents may not be able to get a foreign language program instituted at their child's school in the immediate future, they can help to do so in the long run. Parents can find and share resources and hold informational meetings with other parents, school administrators, and school board members. School boards represent parents, and school board members are willing to listen to well-informed parents who have done their research and who are able to present the benefits of foreign language learning effectively. Even with a tight school budget, the slow and steady insistence of parents can help to get foreign language classes instituted.


What are the best avenues to study a foreign language, and what are some alternatives if the school does not have a foreign language program or offer a language of interest?

Caccavale: Interactive learning is the best since language learning is a social activity. Many online courses and software programs do offer interactive learning. However, no one can really take the place of a classroom teacher, because a teacher can recast a question and engage students in dialogue to get them to re-think or more readily understand concepts by using a variety of modalities to illustrate their applications.


- American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages





If you had any doubts about exposing your child - or yourself - to a foreign language, there's more evidence than ever that being bilingual has enormous benefits for your brain.


Scientists presented their research supporting this idea Friday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Washington, D.C.


As the human body begins its natural decline in old age, bilinguals seem to maintain better cognitive function, said Ellen Bialystok of York University in Toronto, Ontario. This is the case even for people with dementia. Bialystok and colleagues have studied many Alzheimer's patients, both monolinguals and bilinguals. They found that bilinguals were on average four to five years older than monolinguals at comparable points of neurological impairment.


read more:







CNN news article on recent scientific benefits of learning a 2nd language




Is Learning a Second Language Pointless?

Often, I hear people asking, what is the point in learning a second language, everybody else in the world speaks English now, right? That is a big, no!


While it is true that with globalization, English has become the most universally spoken language, it is ethnocentric to think the entire world speaks it. In fact, only 1 out of 5 people speak Englishas a first or second language. One of the most fulfilling and self-enriching acts you can achieve in your life is to learn a second language, to become a global citizen. Ask others why they would want to learn a new language; you are bound to hear countless answers. Some people may do it for business, others traveling, or for graduate school, to learn a new culture, get a job, or even just so they can brag about it.


One of the most popular answers you will certainly hear is for business. The world is getting smaller and businesses not able to deal with foreign markets are going to fall behind the competition. Fortune 500 companies often look for employees with language skills, especially in the more seldom spoken languages. Speakers of Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and Russian are not easily found, and combined with an MBA, prove a force not to be reckoned with for other applicants. More commonly spoken languages also prove useful. Many jobs working for the United Nations requires the applicant to speak both English and French, with the latter being the second most widely spoken language in the world. In America, you can pick up any newspaper and find jobs asking for applicants who are fluent in Spanish, especially in the customer service and sales sectors. A second language can increase your employment potential tenfold.

Perhaps, you are set when it comes to a job, and wish to see the world. Being able to speak the native language of the country you are traveling can make the trip safer and easier. While much of Europe may have a large English speaking population, it shows respect and a desire to learn to be able to speak the language of the country you are traveling to. If you are going to one of the more exotic places in the world, having knowledge of the native language can make the trip much safer and easily handled. Perhaps, the hustlers, I mean merchants, in Cairo's famous Khan Al-Khalili bazaar will be a bit more lenient on you if you can yell back at them in Arabic. A second language can give you an enhanced perceptive of the civilization that you are visiting.


A third reason for learning a new language is to help with studying for the SAT's, GMAT's, GRE's, LSAT's or other tests you may have to take in order to gain acceptance into undergraduate or graduate schools. It has been repeatedly shown that those students capable of speaking a second language do better across the board on these exams. There is a reason why so many lawyers and doctors take courses in languages as undergraduates. To learn any language requires critical thinking, time, and hard work. A student, also, will gain knowledge into not only the meaning of a word as a whole, but each of its parts.


These are just a few reasons for why you should learn a foreign language. Knowledge of a second language shows that a person is more than a citizen of their own country, but a citizen of the world. People, who have learned another language, have stepped out of the shell of their own culture and helped to make this a more unified world.




Washington DC Language & Linguistics

Composition on the personal career benefits & developed cultural understanding from learning a foreign language

Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics Washington DC.


Personal Benefits of Foreign Language Study. ERIC Digest.

For a long time Americans tended to think that knowing English was sufficient for all their needs. As a result, Americans developed an image as the people who cannot say even the most rudimentary phrase in any other language. Fortunately, however, many business, political, and educational leaders are belatedly realizing that the whole world does not speak English, and that even many of those who have learned English as a second language prefer to converse, to do business, and to negotiate in their native tongue.

Not long ago learning a foreign language was considered to be merely a part of a liberal education or an intellectual exercise through the study of grammar and literature. It was automatically assumed that anyone studying foreign language as a major field was going to be either a teacher, an interpreter, or a translator and had no other career options. There is still a need for people in those professions. There is also a growing need for individuals who possess advanced skills in foreign languages and are trained in various technical areas. This is a result of increased activity in international business, the inflow of large amounts of foreign capital to the Unitied States, increased internationalization, and an expanded awareness of the need to conduct not only business but also diplomatic relations in the language of the host country.


A second language is now becoming a vital part of the basic preparation for an increasing number of careers. Even in those cases where the knowledge of a second language does not help graduates obtain a first job, many report that their foreign language skills often enhance their mobility and improve their chances for promotion.


In addition to any technical skills that foreign language students choose to develop, they also have further tangible advantages in the job market. In a recent study that sought to ascertain which college courses had been most valuable for people who were employed in the business world, graduates pointed not only to career-oriented courses such as business management, but also to people-oriented subjects like psychology, and to classes that had helped them to develop communication skills. Foreign language students, whose courses focus heavily on this aspect of learning, often possess outstanding communication skills, both written and oral. Furthermore, recent trends in the job marketplace indicate a revived recognition of the value of liberal arts training in general in an employee's career preparation.




It is a very common and growing desire of Americans, perhaps especially among young people, to travel abroad. Only a generation or two ago people rarely ventured beyond their home states, but now, as the planet shrinks at an unprecedented pace, large numbers of people travel to other North and South American countries, to Europe, and even to Asia and Africa with increasing frequency for both work and pleasure.


Certainly it is possible to travel in foreign lands without knowing the language. In fact, as much as our generation travels, for many it would be impossible to learn the language spoken in every country that they might visit. Nevertheless, the traveler who knows the language of the country not only has an easier time solving everyday problems associated with travel, but also has a more pleasant experience and greater understanding both of the people of the foreign country and of their culture. Therefore, every language Americans master will enhance their enjoyment and reduce their frustration and isolation as they travel around the world.




As the globe has shrunk, international business opportunities have multiplied and travel has grown apace. Mutual understanding and meaningful communication between nations, which have always been difficult to achieve, have now gained increased urgency. As a result, significant numbers of people in the United States have begun to call for better international understanding, and many of them have been urging more foreign language study as an important means to attaining this goal. Such exhortations are eminently well-founded, because the study of another language provides the most effective tool for penetrating the barrier of a single language and a single culture. Furthermore, experience with another culture enables people to achieve a significantly more profound understanding of their own.


Knowledge of a foreign language is not guaranteed to create empathy with and understanding for the native speakers of the language. However, the development of these qualities in individuals with a desire to understand and empathize is greatly facilitated by language study. Furthermore, foreign language study tends to help dissolve misconceptions and often helps to create feelings of sympathy for native speakers of the language, especially if the study is begun early and pursued for a long period of time.




There was a time in the United States when learning a foreign language was regarded primarily as a mental discipline for developing intellectual capacity. Even though it is now clear that language learning has numerous applications of both a practical and a humanistic nature, researchers as well as language educators still recognize that spin-off benefits accrue from foreign language study for other academic areas. For example, as Eugene Saviano stated, "The person who has never comprehended, spoken, read or written a language other than his mother tongue has little or no perspective on his own language,...he has never penetrated the rich areas of learning and experience lying beyond monolingual communication."


Novelist John Updike attributes the deterioration of writing skills in America to two generations growing up without Latin: "In some curious way, the study of this dead and intricate language enabled writers to write a beautiful, clear idiomatic English." It may be that these benefits are not to be gained only from Latin. As Vermont Royster said, "What is involved is a process in which the study of a different language gives a person an understanding of the nature of language itself, a sense of structure that is difficult to acquire from studying one's own familiar language. Any new language forces us to think why...we need to do what we do to express ourselves clearly."


For many decades researchers have attempted to reinforce with empirical evidence the intuitive sense of the value of foreign language study in improving the cognitive functioning of the brain, and many research projects have lent credence to these ideas, particularly that foreign language study enhances a student's achievements in English. For example, one researcher found that students who had taken a foreign language in high school had a significantly higher grade point average in all high school subjects as well as in freshman English courses in college. In addition, data from the Admission Testing Program of the College Board show a definite positive correlation between Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores and the study of foreign languages. In one recent test group, for example, students who had taken no foreign language in high school achieved a mean score of 366 on the verbal portion of the SAT, and 409 on the math portion. Students who had taken only one year of a foreign language had slightly higher scores (378 and 416), whereas students with two years of foreign language showed more dramatic increases (417 and 463). Each additional year of language study brought a further rise in scores, with students who had studied a language for five years or more achieving an average of 504 on the verbal and 535 on the math portion of the exam.


The College Board also calculated correlations between length of study of certain subjects, including English, math, biological sciences, physical sciences, and social studies, and SAT scores, and found that in almost all cases the longer a student studied one of these subjects, the higher were the scores. However, the verbal scores of students who had taken four or five years of a foreign laguage were higher than verbal scores of students who had studied any other subject for an equal length of time. Similar results have been obtained by other researchers who have examined foreign language study and SAT scores.


A number of studies in bilingual education also seem to lead to the conclusion that foreign language study can aid and even accelerate the cognitive development of the brain. Bilingual subjects in various tests have outperformed similar monolingual subjects on verbal and nonverbal tests of intelligence. This discovery has led some researchers to speculate that bilinguals may have a language ability that enables them to achieve greater mental flexibility. Along with the certainty that people who know more than one language and culture can communicate more effectively with people of other countries and cultures, it is indeed possible that through learning another language and culture, people become more effective problem-solvers, closer to achieving solutions to pressing social problems because of an increased awareness of a wider set of options.








Fradd. "Bilingualism, Cognitive Growth, and Divergent Thinking Skills." EDUCATIONAL FORUM 46 (1982):469-474.


Honig, J., and R. I. Brod. FOREIGN LANGUAGES AND CAREERS. New York: Modern Language Association, 1973.


Sims, N. THE IMPORTANCE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGES FOR TODAY'S STUDENTS. Unpublished manuscript, 1977. ED 152 089.


Timpe, E. F. "The Effect of Foreign Language Study on ACT Scores." ADFL BULLETIN 11 (1979):10-11.


Language Skills Abroad

Essay on benefits of foreign language learning: financial, increased perception of intelligence, social and travel opportunities

The Benefits Of Learning A Foreign Language


If you're wondering whether or not it's worth the time to learn a foreign language, read these Top Benefits of Learning A Foreign Language before you decide.


#1 Reason for learning a foreign language: More money and better job opportunities.


A recent article in the NY Times quoted New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer on the subject of a lawsuit filed against the State of NY charging that "lack of basic translation services in several New York City hospitals is endangering immigrant patients and violating state and federal law."


It's lawsuits like this that underline the importance of employers hiring people that can speak a foreign language. As the lawsuit points out, it's no longer a matter of political correctness to be able to service your customers in their native language. In some instances, such as public health and public safety organizations, it can be truly a matter of live or death!


Many employers are responding to the need to hire people who speak a foreign language by offering more money to start and higher raises throughout their career.


In addition to pay scale, being able to speak a foreign can also help open the opportunity to qualify for more exotic and interesting jobs such as foreign service officer for the CIA or State Department, or foreign language specialist for the National Security Agency.


#2 Reason for learning a foreign language: Increased perception of intelligence.


It is a generally accepted notion that people who speak a second or foreign language are perceived as being more intelligent than those who do not have any foreign language skills. In Europe, where the majority of the population speaks their own native language as well as at least English, if not a third or even fourth foreign language, Americans are perceived as being less intelligent because we are not bilingual for the most part.


#3 Reason for learning a foreign language: More social opportunities


When you speak a foreign language you have the opportunity to associate with others who either speak the language natively or have learned a foreign language in addition to their own native language. You end up expanding your circle of social and business contacts and, as a result, you are open to being invited to more social and business functions.


#4 Reason for learning a foreign language: More rewarding travel opportunities


It's just plain more fun and interesting when you vacation in a country where you speak the language. Not only do the locals treat you better, because they see that you made an effort to learn their language, but you get better service in shops and restaurants because you can read the signs, understand the menu, and converse better with the staff. Being able to speak the native foreign language can be a lifesaver if you have a medical emergency and have to communicate your symptoms to medical staff who may not speak English as well as you would hope they could.


Written in Feb 2009 by


Now that we offer more than one language, we had to create a site to centralize all the resources, so this is it!




e-learning language courses

discusses competitive edge & cultural understanding by Spanish learners

Benefits of Foreign Language Learning


People learn a second language or a foreign language for different purposes. It not only gives them a competitive edge but also gives them new opportunities such as making new acquaintances or building new business prospects. Spanish is the most popular second language in United States itself. Next to that is the Latin culture which has lent a great impact on the American culture. This provides enough reasons in itself to learn a foreign language.


If you learn a new language you get to meet new people and if you have Hispanic neighbors you get to know them better. Does it sound like making yourself popular in the neighborhood?


Learning a foreign language also provides new employment opportunities. There are more opportunities for people who are bilingual. For example, you tend to have greater prospects if you know another language such as Spanish or Italian in US. Moreover, it would be surprising for you to know that people tend to trust those people more who speak their native language.


In United States itself, there is a vast population that speaks one foreign language. For them, English is a second language. So if you learn to speak Spanish, Italian or Hindi, then you are more likely to convince such people. You may even tend to make more sales as you would be able to convince in much better way. In the Spanish community itself, the business prospects are unlimited to boost sales and services of your company.


Similarly, you also have a lot of opportunities in the service industry as well. Call centers are always actively looking for people who can speak two languages. This means that if you are a student and are looking for a part time job to earn a few dollars more, learning another language can definitely help you gain a competitive edge over other looking for the same job. Apart from that, preference is given to doctors, nurses and pharmacists who can speak more than one language. It helps to build trust and loyalty of the patients as well. It means better diagnosis and better communication between the medical staff and the patient. Overall the companies or other professional fields prefer those who can speak at least one foreign language.


Thus, a technician or a sales person who knows French or Spanish is more likely to succeed professionally as he gets more scope to interact with wider choices of people. Apart from getting to talk to people, if one speaks in native language to a foreigner then it is easy for the foreigner to get comfortable with such a sales or a business person.


Learning a second language also acts as an added benefit if you tend to travel a lot to foreign countries. For example, if you speak Spanish well, you get an added advantage while travelling to Latin countries or if you speak Hindi then you get advantage in Middle East or Asian sub-continent. Be it business, sales or service knowing another language definitely helps in improving, customer, client or patient relationship.


If you have been thinking of getting a better job or would opening doors in the business world, you would have definitely thought of touching the faraway lands. Learning a foreign language is what automatically comes to mind if you are planning to venture into the non-English speaking lands. Moreover, when you are visiting a foreign land, if you speak a second language, you easily mingle with the native people and learn a lot more about business and people than you can do with the help of an interpreter.


Professionals who speak second language are called for travel and business purposes. Moreover such people also get to use new technologies and ideas. They also get to seek out more opportunities in the community.


Apart from business and profession, second language acquisition opens new doors to a new culture, its ideas and its people. Learning a new language makes a difference to how you see the people and how the world sees you.


Therefore, another popular belief is that bilingual people are supposed to more open-minded and culturally sensitive. This is backed by the fact the people knowing two languages other culture are familiar with their customs and rituals. They find it easy to understand and adapt to another culture. Such people are more open towards ideas and ideologies. Knowing a foreign language also helps in gathering news gathering news about the region or the people where the language is spoken. Research shows that second language acquisition can improve your skills and grades in Math and English. Studying a second language can drastically improve your analytical and interpretive capabilities.


Knowing a second language is definitely a plus, an advantage! It may ensure better job, a better pay, or new opportunities. No matter what benefits it gives in the tangible world, it definitely opens ways to meet people from other countries and cultures.


Whatever may be the reasons to learn a foreign language the bottom line remains that second language acquisition reaps benefits in multiple folds.


National Science Foundation Special Linguistic Report

Language is common to all humans; we seem to be “hard-wired” for it. Many social scientists and philosophers say it’s this ability to use language symbolically that makes us “human.” Though it may be a universal human attribute, language is hardly simple. For decades, linguists’ main task was to track and record languages. But, like so many areas of science, the field of linguistics has evolved dramatically over the past 50 years or so.




  Learning a second language at an early age...


Has a positive effect on intellectual growth.

Enriches and enhances a child's mental development.

Leaves students with more flexibility in thinking, greater sensitivity to language, and a better ear for listening.

Improves a child's understanding of his/her native language.

Gives a child the ability to communicate with people s/he would otherwise not have the chance to know.

Opens the door to other cultures and helps a child understand and appreciate people from other countries.

Gives a student a head start in language requirements for college.

Increases job opportunities in many careers where knowing another language is a real asset.


- American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages,


(reprinted with permission from the Center for Applied Linguistics.)




 Quotes on the benefits of learning a foreign language



"I wish life was not so short," he thought. "Languages take such a time, and so do all the things one wants to know about." J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), English Professor & author of the "Hobbit," "Lord of the Rings"



"It is the ambiguity of language only which can make this proposition appear either doubtful or paradoxical. When properly explained and understood, it is almost self-evident."


Adam Smith, An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, [Book 2 Of the Nature, Accumulation, and Employment of Stock], Chapter 2 Of Money considered as a particular Branch of the general Stock of the Society, or of the Expense of maintaining the National Capital pg. 123


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