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Published by under categories Bilingual Baby, From Lina | comments Comments (1)

After finishing the post Bilingualism and cognitive development, via the Internet I happened to run across a detailed bibliography, which listed a number of studies and articles, published recently in academic journals, books, magazines, newspapers, and brochures, about the relationship between bilingualism and children’s development.

Thanks to Elizabeth L. Webb, a program Specialist for Foreign Languages and International Education in Georgia Department of Education, this bibliography makes it easy for parents like me to get better understanding about this issue. And the best part is: all these resources are compiled and put together neatly, each with a brief introduction or summary.

Here is a sampling of the resources I looked into. You can find the PDF document prepared by Elizabeth at http://www.uwyo.edu/fled/documents/FLAnnotatedBibliography.pdf.

Cooper, T. C. (1987). Foreign Language Study and SAT-Verbal Scores. The Modern Language Journal, 71/4, 381-387.
Data from the College Board’s Admission Testing Program revealed that SAT-verbal scores of students who had taken four or five years of any other subject.

A large-scale study conducted by Eddy in 1981 concluded that students who study foreign languages for longer periods of time did better on various SAT sub-tests and on the test as a whole that students who studied less foreign language, even when the variable of verbal giftedness was controlled.

Cooper’s own study of 23 metropolitan high schools in the southeast revealed that students who take a foreign language in high school scored significantly higher on the verbal portion of the SAT than those who do not. Economic background, which was measured by the number of students receiving free and reduced lunches, did not affect students’ performance. Even those who came from lower socio-economic backgrounds, but took foreign language, performed “basically just as well as their more fortunate peers.”

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Saunders, C. M. (1998). The Effect of the Study of a Foreign Language in the Elementary School on Scores on the Iowa Test Of Basic Skills and an Analysis of Student-participant Attitudes and Abilities. Unpublished dissertation, University of Georgia.
Saunders specifically examined the performance of third grade students enrolled in the Georgia Elementary School Foreign Language Model Program. She compared students who had not received any foreign language instruction with students one year younger who had received four years of instruction, five days each week, for thirty minutes per day.

She found those students in the ESFL program scored significantly higher on the Math portion of the ITBS than the older students had scored. They also performed better on the Reading portion, but the difference was not statistically significant.

Armstrong, P. W. and J. D. Rogers. (1997). Basic Skills Revisited: The Effects of Foreign Language Instruction on Reading, Math and Language Arts. Learning Languages, Spring, 20-31.
This carefully constructed study demonstrated that third graders who were taught Spanish for thirty minutes, three times per week showed statistically significant gains in their Metropolitan Achievement Test scores in the areas of math and language after only one semester of study.

This study verifies two earlier studies that showed that foreign language instruction either had no detrimental effect on basic sills or a positive effect on students’ achievement in basic skill areas.

The results of this study are particularly interesting since one class of students in the experimental group had actually received one-and-one-half fewer hours of math instruction per week, yet still outperformed the students in the control classes in math.

Robinson, D. W. (1992). The Cognitive, Academic and Attitudinal Benefits of Early Language Learning. In Met, M., ed. Critical Issues in Early Language. Learning. White Plains, NY: Longman.
Starting in the 1960’s and continuing into the 1990’s, some 12 dozen studies were conducted on the relationship between learning a second language early in life and cognitive ability. Robinson summarized many of them in this article, concluding, “the picture that emerges is . . . a youngster whose experience with two language systems seems to have left him or her with a mental flexibility, a superiority in concept formation, and a more diversified set of mental abilities.”

The studies also demonstrated that children who have studied a foreign language perform better on standardized tests and tests of basic skills in English, math and social studies. Data from the College Board’s 1992 edition of College Bound Senior revealed that students who had had four or more
years or foreign language scored higher on the verbal section of the SAT than those who had had four or more years in any other subject area. This information corroborated Cooper’s conclusion in 1987.

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Dumas, L. S. (1999). Learning a Second Language: Exposing Your Child to a New World of Words Boosts Her Brainpower, Vocabulary, and Self-Esteem. Child, February, 72, 74, 76-77.
Recent brain research indicates that learning a second language is a powerful experience that helps the brain of young children develop. The young brain will actually grow the connections needed to learn the language. That is no longer possible after age 12. Seven states have instituted a second-language requirement for all children in elementary
school: Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Montana, New Jersey and Oklahoma.

A study of 13,200 third and fifth graders in Louisiana public schools revealed that regardless o race, gender or academic level, kids taking foreign language classes did better in the English section of the Louisiana Basic Skills Test than those who did not.

Winslow, R. (1997). How Language is Stored in Brain Depends on Age. The Wall Street Journal, July. (Summary of Distinct Cortical Areas Associated with Native and Second Languages, Nature, 388, 1997)
A study of 12 healthy bilingual volunteers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York revealed that the capacity to speak a second language is stored in different areas of the brain depending on when in life a person becomes bilingual.

Children who learn a second language store that capacity, together with their native language, in one sector of the brain. Adults language learners store each new language learned in a separate area. This finding helped explain why children who learn two languages develop the ability to speak both with native proficiency and supported the argument that foreign language instruction should be part of the elementary and middle school

Met, M. (1991). Foreign Language: On Starting Early. Educational Leadership, September.
Met summarized both the advantages and the shortcomings of three different approaches to early language learning: immersion, FLES and FLEX.

In immersion, the content is taught through the foreign language. Since the classroom teacher is also the language teacher, this is a cost-effective model that achieves excellent results, but teachers with the
language skills and certification to teach such classes are rare.

FLES programs are sequential programs beginning at any grade K-6 that meet for a minimum of 90 minutes two to five times per week. If a FLES program is part of a well-articulated, long sequence of study, students will typically gain useable levels of proficiency in the language and also improve their knowledge of and attitude toward other cultures.

FLEX programs are short-term classes that focus primarily on culture. These programs can provide students with strong motivation to continue their language study later, but do not result in any meaningful level of language development.


Related posts:
How babies acquire languages?
More resources on bilingualism and its effects
Bilingualism and cognitive development
Being bilingual boosts brain power
Never too early to learn second tongue
Pre- and perinatal education
Parents: child’s life-time teachers


  1. 1
    Laurie // April 22nd, 2009 at 6:19 am

    Interesting to know.

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