Studies Supporting Increased

Academic Achievement

Language learning correlates with higher academic achievement on standardized test measures.

The effectiveness of double-immersion (DI) programs, in which English-speaking children receive curriculum instruction in 2 second languages (Hebrew and French) before or along with 1st-language instruction, was examined in this study. French second-language proficiency of Grade 5 DI students was as good as that of comparable students in single-immersion programs in French only and better than that of non-immersion students with conventional French-as-a-second-language instruction. None of the DI groups showed deficits in 1st-language development or academic achievement. It is concluded that DI, especially if begun early, can be an effective means for English-speaking children to acquire functional proficiency in 2 non-native languages and that instruction in the 1st language in the beginning of the program has no long-term benefits to first-language development but may slow down second-language learning.

Genesee, F., & Lambert, W. E. (1983). Trilingual education for majority-language children. Child Development, 54(1), 105-114. from PsycINFO database.

One study randomly assigned third-grade students to receive 30-minute Spanish lessons three times a week for one semester. These lessons focused on oral-aural skills and were conducted entirely in Spanish. Students in the Spanish classes scored significantly higher than the group that did not receive Spanish instruction in math and language on the Metropolitan Achievement Test (MAT).

Armstrong, P. W., & Rogers, J. D. (1997). Basic skills revisited: The effects of foreign language instruction on reading, math, and language arts. Learning Languages, 2(3), 20-31.

This study describes the planning, development, implementation, and assessment of the foreign language magnet plan in schools in the Kansas City, Missouri Public School District. The program outcomes appeared to support the contentions found in research that, over time, second language learners (1) have improved test scores; (2) are able to think divergently; (3) achieve in their first language; and (4) attract and maintain parent involvement.

Cade, J. M. (1997). The foreign language immersion program in the Kansas City, Missouri Public Schools, 1986-1996 [Abstract]. Dissertation Abstracts International -A 58(10), 3838.

This study looked at the effects of foreign language study on the verbal achievement of middle school students as measured by three subtests of the Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills. The students were compared with students who did not have language study but were enrolled in the Challenge Reading program. The study concluded that performance in reading comprehension, language mechanics, and language expression was significantly higher in favor of the experimental group (foreign language study) when such variables as academic aptitude and level of performance in the treatment were statistically controlled.

Carr, C.G. (1994). The effect of middle school foreign language study on verbal achievement as measured by three subtests of the Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills [Abstract]. Dissertation Abstracts International -A 55(07), 1856.

In this pilot study, two third-grade classrooms were used to compare the effects of foreign language instruction on basic skills. One classroom received Spanish instruction for 25 minutes per day for the spring semester, while the other class followed the regular curriculum with no foreign language instruction. Analysis of the results showed the groups receiving language instruction had higher mean scores than the control group in arithmetic and English grammar.

Johnson, C. E., Ellison, F. P., & Flores, J. S. (1961). The effect of foreign language instruction on basic learning in elementary schools. The Modern Language Journal, 45(5), 200-202.

Classes from six schools were used with the experimental groups devoting 15 minutes per day to Spanish instruction over a three-year period. The Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and the Stanford Social Studies test served as measurements. The conclusions drawn were (1) deletion of time from arithmetic, language and social studies had no detrimental effect upon measured achievement in subject areas from which the time was taken; (2) measured intelligence is positively correlated with measured achievement in the learning of Spanish.

Haak, L. A., & Leino, W. B. (1963). The teaching of Spanish in the elementary schools and the effects on achievement in other selected subject areas., 100. from ERIC database.

114 third-grade students from four classrooms participated in a study in which experimental groups received daily 15-minute French lessons from their classroom teachers, who were both described as “fluent” in French. (Students were “equated” for grade placement, age, intelligence, and socio-economic status, and teachers were “equated” for fluency in French.) The French instruction was aural-oral and did not include reading or writing in the target language. The Stanford Achievement Test was given as a pre-test at the beginning of the school year, and an alternate form of the test was given at the end of the school year. At one of the school sites, the experimental group scored significantly higher than the control group on the average arithmetic scores and at the other site, students receiving foreign language instruction scored significantly higher on the average arithmetic and spelling sections.

Lopato, E. W. (1963). FLES and academic achievement. The French Review, 36(5), 499-507.

A statewide study in Louisiana revealed that third, fourth, and fifth graders who participated in 30-minute elementary school foreign language programs in public schools showed significantly higher scores on the 1985 Basic Skills Language Arts Test than a similar group that did not study a foreign language. Further, by fifth grade, the math scores of language students were also higher than those of students not studying a foreign language. Both groups were matched for race, sex, and grade level, and the academic levels of students in both groups were estimated by their previous Basic Skills Test results and statistically equated. The results of the analysis suggest that foreign language study in the lower grades helps students acquire English language arts skills and, by extension, math skills.

Rafferty, E. A. (1986). Second language study and basic skills in Louisiana. U.S.; Louisiana, from ERIC database.

A project was begun in 1973 in the Indianapolis Public School system based on the hypothesis that English language skills and the control of syntactic structures can be measurably improved through participation in a specially designed Latin FLES program stressing the importance of Latin root words. Goals of the project were to assess whether or not the study of Latin and classical civilization will: (1) expand the verbal functioning of sixth grade children in English, and (2) broaden their cultural horizons and stimulate an interest in humanities. The project was directed towards approximately 400 sixth graders in six schools, all studying Latin and classical civilization in a program coordinated with their regular classes. They received a 30-minute lesson each day, 5 days per week, taught by a Latin specialist. The present program evaluation report shows overall gains in word knowledge, reading, language, spelling, math computation, math concepts, math problem solving, and social studies after the first year, and gains in spelling, reading, and math concepts following the second and third years of the program, as seen from results on subtests of the Metropolitan Achievement Test.

Sheridan, R. (1976). Augmenting reading skills through language learning transfer. FLES Latin program evaluation reports, 1973-74, 1974-75, 1975-76. From ERID database.

A multilingual study compared the academic performance of 719 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd graders in a foreign language partial immersion program with that of 1,320 students in the same grades and with similar demographics, but not in an immersion program. All students were tested to determine performance in mathematics and English language arts, and immersion students were additionally examined for oral proficiency in the target language (Japanese, Spanish, or French). Immersion students scored at least as well, and to some extent better than, non-immersion students. There was no evidence that the immersion experience hampered academic and cognitive development. In target language proficiency, immersion students made steady progress toward oral proficiency in the target language, reaching the upper end of the midlevel proficiency range by the end of the 2nd yr.

Thomas, W. P., Collier, V. P., & Abbott, M. (1993). Academic achievement through Japanese, Spanish, or French: The first two years of partial immersion. Modern Language Journal, 77(2), 170-179. from PsycINFO database.

One study assessed a Canadian French immersion program in which English-speaking pupils attending English schools are taught partially or completely in French. The program involved nearly 33% of the children who entered the Ottawa public school system in kindergarten. Two groups were matched according to socioeconomic status characteristics and were generally from a middle to upper-middle-class background. Students were administered several measures, including the Canadian Cognitive Abilities Test and Canadian Tests of Basic Skills. French immersion pupils were also given a set of achievement tests in French and tests of reading comprehension in French. Results indicate that immersion group students were in general on the same level with or ahead of the regular English in most academic areas considered (e.g., work-study skills and mathematics) and were performing satisfactorily in French.

Barik, H. C., & Swain, M. (1978). Evaluation of a French immersion program: The Ottawastudy through grade five. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 10(3), 192-201. from PsycINFO database.

An analysis dealing with data from Ontario’s provincial testing program strove to ascertain if the reading, writing, and mathematics skills of grade 6 immersion students were comparable to those of regular English program students. The analysis confirms the results of earlier program evaluations that any lags in immersion students’ achievement in reading, writing, and math disappear by grade 6.

Turnbull, M., Hart, D., & Lapkin, S. (2003). Grade 6 French immersion students’ performance on large-scale reading, writing, and mathematics tests: Building explanations. AlbertaJournal of Educational Research, 49(1), 6-23. from PsycINFO database.


Language learning is beneficial in the development of students’ reading abilities.

This study analyzes the reading abilities of 81 English-speaking Canadian-born children (ages 9-13) who had been exposed to Italian at home, where both languages were spoken by their middle-class parents. The children attended an Italian heritage language class every day for 35 minutes, starting in the first grade. English and Italian monolingual comparison groups of students were used, which matched students on age. English monolingual students were comparable to bilingual students in that they lived in same geographical area, were taught using similar methods, and had comparable socioeconomic status. The Italian monolingual students from northern Italy were similar to the bilingual group in socioeconomic status and family background. A series of word reading, pseudoword reading, spelling, working memory, and oral cloze tasks were administered in each language. Findings indicate significant similar levels of performance in both languages, with correlations between English and Italian word reading, pseudoword reading, and spelling. In comparing 9-10 year-old bilinguals to English monolinguals on tasks in English, the bilingual skilled readers scored higher on word-reading and spelling tasks than the monolingual skilled readers.

D’Angiulli, A., Siegel, L. S., & Serra, E. (2001). The development of reading in English and Italian in bilingual children. Applied Psycholinguistics, 22(4), 479-507. from PsycINFO database.

This study revealed that Puerto Rican students recently arrived in the United States who participated in a bilingual reading program in Spanish and English performed significantly better than did similar students who did not participate in the program.

Diaz, J. O. P. (1982). The effects of a dual language reading program on the reading ability of Puerto Rican students. Reading Psychology, 3(3), 233-238. from ERIC database.

This study examines the effect of language study on the English reading skills of sixth-grade school children. Achievement in reading skills of a control group of students receiving no foreign language instruction was compared with that in the Latin instruction group. Differences in scores of pretests and posttests of the more than 1100 students in three categories of reading achievement–vocabulary, comprehension, and total reading skills–were used as the data in determining average achievement in each group. Results of the study indicate that there is a significant difference between reading achievement scores of sixth-grade students receiving foreign language instruction and students with no foreign language instruction.

District of Columbia Public Schools, Washington, D.C. (1971). A study of the effect of Latin instruction on English reading skills of sixth grade students in the public schools of the district of Columbia, school year, 1970-71., 18. from ERIC database.


There is evidence that language learners transfer skills from one language to another.

Effects of Spanish immersion on children’s native English vocabulary were examined in this study. Matched on grade, sex, and verbal scores on a 4th-grade Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT), 30 5th- and 6th-grade immersion students and 30 English monolinguals did 60 consecutive Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) items. The CAT and conventionally scored PPVT revealed comparable verbal ability between groups, but on 60 consecutive PPVT items, immersion did better than control because of cognates. On SECT, immersion significantly outperformed students in the control group. Findings support the idea that Spanish immersion has English-language benefits and that positive transfer (cross linguistic influence) occurs from Spanish as a foreign language to native English receptive vocabulary.

Cunningham, T. H., & Graham, C. R. (2000). Increasing native English vocabulary recognition through Spanish immersion: Cognate transfer from foreign to first language. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92(1), 37-49. from PsycINFO database.

This study analyzes the effect of one year of daily Latin instruction (15- to 20-minute lessons) on academic achievement, as measured by the vocabulary section of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. 34 fifth- and sixth-grade experimental subjects were matched with an equal number of control group subjects on measures of Iowa test score (from the previous year), grade level, and neighborhood. Results indicated that fifth-grade students in the experimental group were functioning on grade level (sixth month of fifth grade) on the English vocabulary measure, while the control group scored one year below grade level. The authors concluded that Latin instruction was effective in building English vocabulary of experimental group students.

Hoffenberg, R. M., et al. (1971). Evaluation of the elementary school (FLES) Latin program 1970-71.R7202, Report: R-7202. 53.

This article examines the linguistic benefits of Latin in light of recent research which seems to document the relevance of Latin in building English vocabulary and reading skills. Evidence is cited from eight educational projects in which an experimental group of students taking Latin, and a control group not taking Latin, were pretested, post-tested, and compared with regard to English verbal skills. In each case, the Latin students showed significant gains over the control group. Other studies supporting these findings are cited, as well as projects presently being conducted.

Masciantonio, R. (1977). Tangible benefits of the study of Latin: A review of research. Foreign Language Annals, 10(375), 382. From ERIC database.


There is a correlation between language study and higher scores on the SAT and ACT Tests.

Comparison of verbal Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and California Achievement Test (CAT) scores of high school students who had or had not taken at least one year of foreign language study supported the conclusion that length of foreign language study was positively related to high SAT verbal scores.

Cooper, T. C. (1987). Foreign language study and SAT-verbal scores. Modern Language Journal, 71(4), 381-387. from ERIC database.

Students in the eleventh grade in three Maryland high schools were the subjects of a study to determine the effect of foreign language study on performance on the verbal section of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). The study showed that when verbal ability is controlled, students who study foreign language for longer periods of time will do better on various SAT sub-tests and on the SAT-Verbal as a whole than students who have studied less foreign language and that there is some evidence that higher grades in foreign language study will increase the effect of this study on SAT scores (particularly the reading and vocabulary sub-scores).

Eddy, P. A. (1981). The effect of foreign language study in high school on verbal ability as measured by the scholastic aptitude test-verbal. final report. U.S.; District of Columbia, from ERIC database

Analysis of the American College Test (ACT) scores of 17,451 students applying for college admission between 1981 and 1985 found that high school students who studied a foreign language consistently scored higher on ACT English and mathematics components than did students who did not study a foreign language in high school.

Olsen, S.A., Brown, L.K. (1992). The relation between high school study of foreign languages and ACT English and mathematics performance. ADFL Bulletin, 23(3), from ERIC database.

School records of 7,460 students at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale were analyzed to assess the extent to which foreign language study correlates with ACT scores. Students were selected on the basis of having ACT scores on file and having answered survey questions about their previous foreign language study. To control for intelligence, students were divided into a “more gifted” group (GPA of 3.0 or higher, college preparatory program, top quarter of their class) and a lower group not meeting the stated requirements. The authors explain that the more gifted students were more likely to take foreign languages, but that for each group, years of study led to improved composite ACT scores, with the highest effect on scores in the English subsection of the test.

Timpe, E. (1979). The effect of foreign language study on ACT scores. ADFL Bulletin, 11(2), 10-11.


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