The relationship between language learning and academic success.

Sep 14, 2016 6:23:00 PM / by Britta Wilhelmsen

Student studying at computerIn a recent blog post, we examined several benefits of introducing young children to a second language while they’re still in the K-8 stage. Parents, if there are still any lingering doubts, we’re here to squash them - it’s been proven that language learning not only means increased standardized test scores, but directly correlates to overall higher academic achievement. In fact, dabbling in another language improves cognitive function in areas you might not realize (we’re talking math and science, people!) Read on to discover even more about the academic power of language learning, but be warned: you might just find yourself enrolling your student in a Mango course by the end.

 

Increase your reading ability.

Reading is an inevitable part of learning any new language, but not necessarily everyone’s favorite (it’s ok, we can all admit it). New learners tend to focus more on speaking and listening - as these are typically the most obvious ways to measure progress - and reading or writing skills can therefore fall behind. Did you know that learning a second language is actually linked to increased reading skills in your native language? That’s right - the more you practice reading in your target language, the better you’ll get at your own.

But don’t just take our word for it. In a study done in 2001, researchers analyzed the differences between a group of monolingual English-speaking children and bilingual English/Italian-speaking children. They presented them with various tasks and evaluated  abilities such as word reading, spelling, and working memory. We bet you can guess what the results were: bilingual 9-10 year olds scored better on English language reading and spelling tasks than the monolingual English speakers.

What does this mean for academic success? Well, it goes without saying that efficient and accurate reading skills will undoubtedly go a long way. From mastering reading comprehension on the SATs to writing a college paper analyzing the works of Tolstoy, it pays off to study another language early on in life.

 

Struggling with math or science?  Learn a language.

We know you’re probably thinking, “Wait, what?” - but hear us out. Our ability to solve numeric math problems actually comes from the same DNA as do our language skills as do our language skills. That is, if students spend more time deciphering complex vocabulary and sentence structures, they will have an easier time tackling abstract concepts found in math. Consequently, that same symbolic processing system is sharpened even more when we learn additional languages.

Being bilingual has its advantages when it comes to science, too. Bilingual children, compared to children that grow up speaking just one language, have been shown to formulate higher quality scientific hypotheses and explain them using more complex sentence structures. Learning languages teaches us to synthesize information in a more efficient way - a skill that’s applicable to subjects like these that might seem completely unrelated.

Bottom line: if you worry that your language-obsessed student is spending too much time on words and not enough time on numbers, you may be in for a pleasant surprise. It’s more than likely that their math and science abilities are increasing at the very same time.

 

Feel good about yourself.

This is probably our favorite part: learning a second language actually increases your levels of confidence and self-esteemincreases your levels of confidence and self-esteem. What does this have to do with academics? Essentially, higher overall confidence means higher levels of motivation when it comes to completing tasks, including academic work. Confident students also tend to be more willing to tackle new problems, even if they are unsure about the correct answer.

If you’re like many of us and you’ve already started learning a second language, you know that the process can certainly test your confidence at times. It can be intimidating to keep a conversation going in broken French, or present a project in Portuguese to a room full of Brazilians. The more you practice your target language, however, the quicker you’ll overcome these feelings of intimidation and your confidence levels will start to soar. Encourage your young students to do the same, and watch their academic performance reflect it.

Here at Mango, we want to make the journey to achieving academic success as easy as possible - after all, our students really are the future. Check out our variety of language courses tailored perfectly to ages K-12, honing in on the four main components of language learning: vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, and culture. You can even track your students’ progress and usage through an easy-to-use admin portal feature. And remember, any student can always access Mango courses for free at participating local libraries. Find yours by clicking below. Happy studying!

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Topics: Higher Ed, Public Libraries, Language Learning and Culture

Britta Wilhelmsen

Written by Britta Wilhelmsen

Britta is a University of Michigan graduate, currently living and working in the vibrant city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. When she's not busy teaching English to business professionals or writing for Mango, you can find her enjoying the sun in one of Buenos Aires' beautiful parks and/or studying Spanish in her free time. Like many mangos, she believes that language consistently makes life more colorful.

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