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Language Resources: Benefits of Language Learning

Resources on language acquisition and development.

Research on the Benefits of Language Learning

ACTFL - Language ConnectsACTFL is an individual membership organization based in the United States of more than 13,000 language educators and administrators at all levels. Their mission is to provide "vision, leadership and support for quality teaching and learning of languages." The ACTFL website has reviews of research related to the different benefits of language learning.

Learn a Language? Why? Which? How?

Why learn a language?
  • Travel - Even a little knowledge of the language can make a difference in attitude when you meet people from other countries. Speaking another language helps to break down barriers.
  • Diverse crowd of people - Britannica ImageQuestWork and business - It can help you give an added advantage in your career if you work for an international firm or a company with international customers or contacts.
  • Music, film, arts and culture - If you like literature, fims or music from other countries, learning the language will help your appreciation and understanding.
  • For a challenge - You can learn a language in short, bite-sized sessions and you'll enjoy a sense of satisfaction from achieving short-term goals, such as learning how to say hello, introducing yourself or numbers 1-10.
Which language to learn? Which is the easiest/hardest?
  • Crowded crosswalk in New York City - Britannica ImageQuestIn general, the more similar a language is to your own in terms of sounds, grammar or vocabulary, the easier you’ll find it to learn.
  • Different languages pose different challenges for each individual.
  • For example, you may find vocabulary easier to learn in one language but its pronunciation harder. With another language you may find the opposite.
  • Have a taste of the 20 languages most widely spoken in the world to help you decide in the BBC's A Guide to Languages (archived web page) - facts, key phrases, and the alphabet in many of the world's languages
How to learn a language

There's no single universal foolproof method to learn a language. Try different ones and use the one that works for you, or a combination.

  • Magazine stand with American and foreign magazines - Britannica ImageQuestLittle and often is best. Ten minutes every day tends to be more effective and manageable than a longer session once a week.
  • Mistakes are part of the learning process. Have a go and you'll learn much more quickly: most native speakers will already appreciate you making an effort.
  • Listen to language learning podcasts or apps during idle times, such as when traveling to school or work.
  • Watch TV and video online in the language you're learning. You may not understand much of it but it will help you get used to how the language sounds and, with the help of the visuals, you'll pick up odd words and phrases.
  • Write words on post-it notes and stick them around the house.
  • Say phone numbers out loud, make shopping and other lists or memorize orders in a bar or restaurant.
  • Repeat activities to consolidate what you've learned.
  • Visit to a place where you can use the language you're learning - if anything, it will keep you motivated.
  • Find a learning partner.
  • Go back every now and again to something you did early on. You may be surprised at how much you've learned.

Adapted from:  BBC. "Learn a Language? Why? Which? How?" BBC, 2014, learn/index.shtml.

How Bilingual Education Changes Lives

"Bilingual education fosters sensitivity to other people’s needs along with language proficiency and cultural competency, and I believe it has a significant impact on creating a caring society."

Noriko Otsuka, Japanese immersion teacher at Fox Mill Elementary School in Fairfax County, Va.

IB Language Policy

The International Baccalaureate® (IB) is committed to supporting multilingualism as a fundamental part of increasing intercultural understanding and international-mindedness, and is equally committed to extending access to an IB education for students from a variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

UNESCO Basic Principles on Language and Education

UNESCO's  International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) has defined three basic principles on language and education:

  • UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP)UNESCO supports mother tongue instruction as a means of improving educational quality by building upon the knowledge and experience of the learners and teachers.
  • UNESCO supports bilingual and/or multilingual education at all levels of education as a means of promoting both social and gender equality and as a key element of linguistically diverse societies.
  • UNESCO supports language as an essential component of inter-cultural education in order to encourage understanding between different population groups and ensure respect for fundamental rights.

UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP). "Language of Instruction." UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning, UNESCO, 29 July 2022, language-of-instruction/#_Glossary_1.

Ñandutí - Center for Applied Linguistics

Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL)The Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) is a non-profit organization, headquartered in Washington DC, has earned an international reputation for its contributions to the fields of bilingual and dual language education, English as a second language, world languages education, and other related fields. CAL conducted a variety of activities for the Iowa State University National K–12 Foreign Language Resource Center (NFLRC) from 2006-2010,  all focused on the improvement of the nation’s capacity for teaching and learning languages by building a strong foundation in elementary and secondary schools.

Ñandutí - Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL)One of these projects was Ñandutí, a leading national website on early foreign language learning. The website has been archived, but still offers a variety of resources for teachers and parents interested in language learning for children and teens.

Learning a second language at an early age

  • Has a positive effect on intellectual growth and 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. (Center for Applied Linguistics)

Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL). "Benefits of Being Bilingual." Ñandutí, Center for Applied Linguistics, 30 June 2009, earlylang/benefits/benefits_of_being_bilingual.html.


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