The Benefits of Second Language Learning: An annotated bibliography

Allen, M. (2004) Does French immersion improve reading achievement? Canadian Social Trends; 74 (3) p. 7-11

The purpose and problem of this quantitative research study is to establish a correlation between exposure to a second language program and increased performance in the areas of literacy, mathematical literacy, and scientific literacy. The hypothesis claims that students who are exposed to second language programs will be exposed to two decoding and encoding systems of language. The result of this exposure would be that they will obtain the decoding, encoding, inference, and contextual reading skills that are needed to excel at tasks in all areas. The background of the study is the premise that all subject areas in academics require the essential skill of understanding what is read as a foundation. An example from the study was Mathematical literacy: A student who is not a good reader or cannot perform good inferences skills will not be able to understand the language and vocabulary in a Math tasks, therefore, will not be able to fulfill what the problem requires regardless of the student’s computation skills.

The research was performed in 2004 by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in combination with delegates from countries who participate in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECF). These two organizations collaborate regularly in assessing a sample of 30,000 15-year-old students who are randomly selected from over 1,000 schools in national and provincial Canada. The group aims to assess the levels of achievements of this particular population in literacy, math, and science.

There were several different tools used to measure the data. The first was a standardized test produced by the group, which contained questions about the skills to be assessed. They also used questionnaires to obtain demographic data and background information on the students with the authorization of principals and the parents.

The data acquisition process consisted on taking the students who are part of the French immersion program, and compare them to a sample of randomly-selected students of the same age who have not been exposed. Both groups would be tested using the data measuring tools mentioned previously, and then their scores would be compared to see who performed best in the areas to be assessed. The result of the study showed that “ in all 10 provinces,

students in French immersion programs performed at levels equal to or better than the Canadian national reading score average (534)” (p. 10), which supports the central hypothesis of the study.

The threat to the validity of these results may be that in French immersion programs as the investigators claimed, the students come from higher socioeconomic backgrounds where the parents have a post secondary education, which could result in their motivating the students to expand their learning through being ample and better readers. Another threat to the validity is that more girls than boys participate in the French immersion programs in Canada and, according to research, girls are more cognitively developed than boys at that age level. However, the researchers counter argue that these factors alone do not account for the ample difference in scoring. In fact, the researchers say that it would be null to try to correlate affluence and family schooling to the results because there are French immersion programs more readily available in the less- affluent countries due to government grants, and the students.

Another threat to the validity of the data was the possibility that French immersion programs in some counties screen the students prior to entering and, mistakenly, assume that a student who already possesses high reading skills are entitled to participate, while those who are not as skilled are left out. That also accounts for the fact that more girls than boys participate in the French immersion program, making the distribution of the sample unequal. Another possible threat was that students at that age level tend to transfer out of the second language program when they are not doing too well (either not to be embarrassed, or to try another elective course), and only those whom are skilled and successful will remain after the “natural selection” type process that took them there in the first place.

The impact of this study is, however, that the researchers point out clearly the need for further research in the areas of cooperative learning, and free-learning environments. French immersion programs are known for their tendency to allow the student to freely determine their learning needs, to select their own books, to work in cooperative groups, and to model the learning styles of each other. This could be influential in the student’s learning processes.

In conclusion, this study applies the Banduran view of social learning as a process to acquire academic skills. It also credits Vygotsky’s cooperative learning, and MKO’s as a successful way to integrate language and information in the learning process; It also grants validity to Krashen’s free-based learning by pointing out the importance of the student as the center of the learning. Most importantly, the study denotes underlying influences of Chomsky’s view of language as a skill that is inherited and developed through further exposure and consistent interaction that would increase the cognitive abilities. The results, both theoretical and empirical, show that students will be successful thanks to a combination of both cognitive and social abilities that could be the key to ensure success in other academic areas. Second language learning is a very influential conduit to allow for these elements to occur.

Barcroft, J. (2007) Effects of opportunities for word retrieval during second language vocabulary

learning Journal of Multicultural Education 57 (2) p. 35-56

This study correlates literature and research in the areas of linguistics and psychology, particularly those pertaining to target-word retrieval during second language acquisition. The process of target-word retrieval involves recalling words learned in a second language. It does not limit itself to merely remembering the word, but also to apply the word within a context. The ability to perform this latter process implies a deeper knowledge of the term, and a demonstration of learning. According to the study, the process of word retrieval is proportional to memory skills, that is, one works with the other, and retrieving actually shows to improve memory skills. On and all, the exposure to word-retrieval tasks might enhance memory skills and retrieval for additional subjects. This premise guided the methodology and data collection process of the research. The study also advocated for picture-based instruction in a foreign language, therefore, the materials to be applied to the methodology was also correlated to this premise.

The participants were English-speaking students who were learners of Spanish as a second language. The students were selected randomly, and a pre-test was first given to diagnose their current level of cognitive ability and language recognition. The students first studied 24 word-picture pairs of new Spanish words. After their first post-test, they were given 12 out of the 24 original pairs of new words, but out of that group 6 pictures were not matched to a word. The students were asked to retrieve information from the old and new words as they learned them in the beginning. Finally, the rest of the 12 matched words were given with no pairing at all. Each group of students spent the same amount of time in each of these tasks, and a post test was provided after each one. The three posts tests that were administered were the main variables, as the first one was given immediately after the task, the second one waited two days, and the third one waited one week. Another important note from this research is that none of the new words came with translation- they were all paired up to pictures; this means that the activity was done in full-immersion without the aid of English words.

The results of the study come with several implications to second language learning. For once, the students performed at a much higher level in this task using picture words than in their regular school tasks using Spanish to English translations. Secondly, the post tests that allotted more time for the students to retrieve words also noted a consistent high rate of recognized words- the students did not show extinction of language, in fact, they did retain the words they learned. Finally, the study invited to further research in the area of neuropsychology and linguistics, to conduct more brain-imaging research showing factual correlations between the assumed synergism between memory and word-retrieval, and whether they indeed enhance each other.

Chee, M. (2006) Dissociating language and word meaning in the bilingual brain Trends in cognitive science, 18 (12) p. 527-530

The purpose of this study is to analyze the adaptation paradigm of second language acquisition as it relates to the left caudate, an area of the brain which is thought to intermingle with the prefrontal cortex during the process of language discrimination, and hence in the process of code-switching. The study aims to implicate these two regions as mirror areas of brain activity during language reproduction.

The study shows a new method which dissociates brain regions sensitive to words meaning and brain regions sensitive to both word meaning and language. The examination of the subcortical brain areas in language research pertain to the exploration of how humans choose to identify different code systems and languages from its processing to its application in the proper context. To this day, neuroscientists continue to investigate and isolate the areas which are most active in processes like these. Yet, this study demonstrated that there are specific language-dependent neuronal responses that activate during tasks where word meanings were asked one at a time.

The paradigm under which the study is based is language adaptation. The adaptation paradigm conveys that during certain tasks, specific neurons respond in a similar way in different areas of the brain under the same type of stimuli. Some of these neurons live within the same brain region, and show a different sensitivity from one task to another. For the purpose of this study, semantics were tested in different individuals, where they had to make a decision between two words shown as prime-target pairs. Words were shown and controlled in a way that the word pairs would entice thinking in different ways within the same parameters. For example, the different pairs of words were tasked in these four limitations a) semantically related in the same language, b) semantically related in a different language, c) semantically unrelated in the same language, and d) semantically unrelated in a different language. The sensitivity in the cerebral zones that would be activated in the response process of word recognition was measured with neuro imaging.

As cited previously, the left caudate of the brain was the area which showed the most activity during these processes, making it a prime candidate for the control of language production. Since this is a subcortical structure of the brain, Chee mentions that studies often leave the area undiscussed. The author opens an invitation to further exploration of the left caudate area, its interaction with the prefrontal and frontal cortex, and its role in the production and discrimination of languages.

The implications of this study to the dept component of this KAM are the clear additional brain activity that occurs when a second language is learned. Although this KAM portion will not discuss the effects of lack of activation of specific brain events, it will point out the fact that second language acquisition doubles brain activity and expands activity in areas that will not be used by monolinguals. Therefore, for the sake of individuals and their brain activity, second language learning is the solution to, perhaps, a most-active and healthier brain.

Bialystok, E. (1999). Cognitive complexity and attentional control in the bilingual mind. Child

Development, 70(3), 636-644

The purpose of this study is to determine the level and amount of activity required for selective attention and analysis as part of the process of acquiring language. A group of monolingual and bilingual students of the same age level in the elementary school were to be contrasted in these two areas which are also referenced as representation (analysis) and control (selective attention). The hypothesis of the study is that bilingual children will demonstrate a higher ability for control and analysis than the monolingual students based on the fact that in bilingual students these abilities tend to develop these skills earlier than their monolingual counterparts. The theoretical foundation of this investigation is the Cognitive complexity and control (CCC) theory by Zelaxo and Frye. This theory offers that during cognitive development

in the preschool years there is a conflict that results from lack of conscious representation and executive functioning (mostly due to lack of exposure and prior knowledge). Therefore, the study aims to see whether there is an advantage in these areas with bilingual children parting from the premise that their exposure to a second language grants them more prior knowledge upon which they can build new information and establish stronger learning connections. Another goal for this study is to investigate whether the advantage in control (attention) found in bilinguals can also occur in situations where no language is involved, and only non-verbal tasks are available.

The participants of this study were sixty students in the preschool of which half of the group is bilingual. After being divided into younger and older they took an English proficiency test with working memory tasks (cue-cards). The tasks were statistical and empirical ways to measure the level of ability. The students were selected from a homogeneous pool, but randomly for purposes of pure quantified results.

The results of this study showed that the bilingual children were better able than the monolingual students to solve experimental problems , which would normally require a certain amount of prior knowledge to build knowledge upon. The implications of this study go together with the next research review also by Bialystok which shows that both children and older adults seem to have an advantage in terms of working memory, retention, attention, and recalling if they are exposed to a second language for sustained and long periods of their lifetimes. This means that for the field of education, this is evidence of the many additive benefits of second language program in the academic life of students.

Bialystok, E., Craik, F. I. M., Klein, R., & Viswanathan, M. (2004). Bilingualism, aging, and

cognitive control: Evidence from the Simon task. Psychology and Aging, 19(2), 290-303

The purpose of this study was to determine whether aging adults who are bilingual show a decrease in attentional cognitive abilities in comparison with people their own age who are monolingual. The foundation of this study is research that points that in a bilingual brain, the two languages are in constant interaction, and that both remain equally active even if one of the alone is being activated the most. This axiom grants that, though both languages are active together, there is a mechanism that sets a boundary between them so that there is no cross-linguistic intrusion from one language to another. In other studies, such mechanism was proposed as a possible center of inhibition control that puts the non-relevant language in a secondary position while making all cognitive functions accessible to the language of choice. These cognitive functions include attention and inhibition. Although this is a proposed model for cross-lingual interaction, it is still an accepted theoretical and research-based fact the assumption that attention control, language inhibition, and representational functions (crystallized intelligence, concrete notions of something) are essential skills that manifest themselves throughout the bilingual’s life.

This study assumes that such same skills will continue even during late adulthood, but the research question is basically whether the normal decline of executive control functions that happen with age include the skills that come with bilingualism. Studies have pointed that when older adults show a decline in the effectiveness of executive control, this situation can be stopped if the task performance is dependent on strong, conditioned habits. Aging individuals, therefore, do decline in their effective control of attention, but not in their ability to maintain habitual behaviors, and there is not a decrease either in their knowledge of represented elements (unless there is an illness of the brain).
For the purposes of this study, the methodology that was used was the Simon task. This task is suitable for all age groups, because the task is content-free, but dependent on the cognitive process of each individual. The Simon task is based on stimulus–response compatibilities.
The increased time needed to respond to the incongruent items is called the Simon effect, this effect is more evident according to the study in adults around 61 years of age, contrastingly from a comparable group of older adults of a mean age of 25. This means that the Simon task measures the thinking process as it declines with age.

The results of the study determined that the bilingual advantages in controlled processing continue to be sustained from childhood into adulthood. Adult bilinguals performed better adult monolinguals in all the tasks. The study also concluded that bilingualism does provide a defense against a decline of the executive processes that occur during cognitive aging. It is important to note that the study was also able to determine that the Simon effect was substantially less for those aging participants who were bilingual. The last proven hypothesis of the study stated that bilingualism might not only prevent the loss of inhibitory control, but that it could even boost it. In addition to that, bilingualism showed to be an advantage in tasks related to working memory costs. This leads to the additional expectation that the additive effects of bilingualism are directly related to executive control functions which act to reduce the negative impact of aging. Bilinguals were faster in both congruent trials and under conditions requiring greater working memory control than monolinguals, possibly because the executive processes that are involved in attention and selection are central main elements that continue intact throughout life. The advantages of bilingualism were most obvious in tasks requiring controlled processing. The monolinguals had to go through a series of practice tasks in order to reach a close-enough score to the bilingual learners.

The implications of this study to the teaching and implementation of foreign language programs is more evident in that the bilinguals present at these studies were using both languages essentially every day for their entire lives. The study cannot be expanded to bilinguals with limited experience with their second learned language, yet, this lets us know that a fully-immersed program that begins in the elementary school and continues consistently throught high school could foster the interest and the habit in the child that would allow him or her to explore diverse venues in which they can apply the use of their second language, and obtain the evident benefits that such abilities bring to the social, communicative, and now even biological life of the student.

De Zubicaray, G., McMahon, K., Wilson, S., Muthia, S. (2001) Brain activity during the

encoding, retention, and retrieval of stimulus representations. Learning Memory, 8 (1)


The purpose of this study is to identify specific brain activity during the processes of encoding, retention, and retrieval. These three processes are key elements of the learning process as previously discussed in the Breadth component of the Knowledge Area Module, and coincide with Albert Bandura’s philosophy of learning. According to Bandura, an learning involves a series of steps which, in this theory of social learning, are: a) attention, b) retention, c) reproduction, and d) motivation (Bandura, 1977, p. 31). The research by deZubicaray, McMahon, Wilson, and Muthia helps to correlate Bandura’s theory to cognitive and specific neurological processes.

This study examined brain activity under a Delayed Non-Matching to Sample (DNMS) task. It used the premise that imaging studies performed in humans indicate that the human supplementary eye-field is involved in learning new tasks, namely new languages. Secondly, the process of retention was attributed to the central lateral prefrontal cortex o the brain. After encoding, their research proposes that the ventral lateral prefrontal area receives cortical signs selectively in such an area during the process of retention which was mostly shown under cognitive testing tasks. Also, in the left brainstem, the inferior parietal lobule plays a role along with the right lateral pre-motor cortex in the process of keeping information stored.

This study also made a reference to recent studies performed in the supplementary eye-field area. The supplementary eye-field is a topic of research that has become a hot topic in the field of neurology, as it tries to identify learning processes with working memory as they relate to eye movement. In this study, it was determined that this supplementary eye-field is indeed involved in the process of knowledge acquisition. However topographic mapping research still cannot point out the precise function of this particular area other than it is in control of the saccadic eye movements that are often associated with retrieval of memories.

This study has great implications in the field of education, particularly in the areas of second language teaching. The neurological areas associated with learning are clearly activated with memory tasks, inference tasks, and slot filling exercises that often require the saccadic eye movement of the student to retrieve stored information.

Fritz, C; Morris, P., Acton, M., Voelkel, A., Etkind, R., (2007) Comparing and combining retrieval practice and the keyword mnemonic for foreign vocabulary learning. Applied Cognitive Psychology 21 (4) p. 499-526

This study explores two methodologies in the teaching of foreign languages which are retrieval practice and the keyword mnemonic. Retrieval practice is the process through which people obtain previously learned information, recall it, and act on it as they remember it. It is gathering past information from the depths of the brain and forward. The keyword mnemonic is one of the methodologies used to aid in the retrieval of information. It consists on making a connection between the new word and an image. The image may or may not be that of the words itself, but of an object whose name is has a key word that makes the student remember what it is called . An example for a foreign language course would be (if teaching Spanish) to show a picture of a sun (sol, pronounced in Spanish “sole” or “soul”) to teach the English words sole and soul.

The purpose of this study is to compare the effectiveness of keyword mnemonics versus retrieval practice which is a testing-based technique for learning. The methodology consisted on three experiments testing the results of mnemonics versus retrieval testing. Mnemonics are associated with higher skills by the teacher who is assumed to be full certified in the second language to the point that he or she could provide the correct vocabulary cues intended for such mechanisms. It is theorized that the keyword method requires a myriad of cognitive mechanisms to achieve task. This study aims to determine the long-term and concrete effectiveness of the use of this strategy to determine the extent of its additive nature to a second language program.

The methodology of this research involved asking participants to retrieve the names of items into three schedules : categorized in mass, categorized uniformly and uniform spacing, and categorized within an expanding spacing. Theoretically, asking participants to retrieve and recall terms in an expanding schedule which allots for more exposure is more beneficial than a uniform schedule that exposes the student to the term only once. Immediate recalls also seem to prove more effective in the process of memory activation than a delayed effort with intervening events. The results showed also that the best retrievals were those in which representations were shown along with the task. Therefore, retrieval practice and keyword mnemonics are thought to need spacing in the retrieval attempts that is not too short for it to be discarded early, nor too long to be endangered by the intervention of other events that will lose focus.

The implications of this study are that in a second language program, for it to have its additive benefits for learning, and for it to instill another way to approach good study habits, a retrieval practice and keyword learning process should be: a) accompanied with visual representations and, b) spaced in a way that the student can maintain focus and attention on the task. Retrieval practice , according to the study is an effective learning strategy for any subject, and a prime strategy for foreign language learning.

Ginsburgh, V., Ortuño-Ortín, I., Weber, S. (2007) Learning foreign languages: Theoretical and empirical implications of the Selten and Pool model. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 64 (4) p. 337-347.

The distribution of foreign language skills as a game equilibrium is a model that represents the reasons behind why people learn foreign languages, or why they opt out of learning them, and sometimes even reverse the process to the point of purposefully forgetting it. The model was proposed by Selten and Pool, two economists who used a game as a paradox of a challenge to learn a second language, and the players to represent the learners. According to their idea, in the game, the players speak different languages and can learn others. The theory behind this states that knowing the other languages would give benefit to the players. One particular benefit is the communicative superiority. Having this added to social abilities that would enable the player to connect with more than his own group of language speaking colleagues. Yet, Selten and Pool determined that if a person has a language aptitude that includes the willingness to communicate, embrace diversity, and become a social equal to different groups, they will also acquire a higher potential to learn more languages, no matter how hard they are. As a result, becoming a polyglot will create even more benefits to the life of the individual, as keys that may open doors to better employment, stronger community connections, higher communication skills, a deeper sense of culture, and a bonafide sense of self-efficacy (Selten, Pool, 1993)

The research by Ginsburgh, Ortuño-Ortín, and Weber uses the Selten and Pool model to experiment characterizing a linguistic equilibrium in a non-linear setting, and then determine the percentage of demand to acquire a second language among the participants. In their experiment, they varied the Selten/Pool model in their axiom that if one population who speaks a specific language is higher in numbers than another, the lesser group will be prompted to learn the language, but the higher population might not be included to learn the language of the smaller group. The study hypothesizes that the concrete benefits of learning the language will supersede the motivation of learning it for communicative reasons. Also, if the languages are relatively similar or come from the same root, like in the case of English and German, or Spanish and Portuguese, the study theorizes that the likely result will be that the higher member group will not learn the lesser group language under the premise that they can figure it out.

The results of the study concluded the reasons why, according to this model, people were motivated to learn a second language, even without incentives: The larger the native population that speaks the language, the less speakers are prone to learn another language. Inversely, the more the foreign language is spoken, the more it attracts others to learn it, and finally, the larger the distance between the two languages, the smaller the proportion of people who will learn it. Other determinant factors that motivate people to learn a foreign language includes ancestry, historical interest in the cultural background of the language.

The implications of this study for the Depth component of the KAM pertain to the social additive benefits of second and foreign language learning. The Selten/Pool model and this present research, can be used in a school district as a foundation to establish an initiative for creating new second language programs. Based on these models, the propaganda in favor of new foreign language programs could focus on the cultural and historical points of interest of different countries. The rationale of promoting the Steele/Pool model for the creation of foreign language programs can be the speed and ease by which students can access information and even virtual entrance to any country in the world through the World Wide Web. Taking this momentum along with all the free, available technological resources, a foreign language program would have the participation of many interested students. As long as the program is properly advertised and correctly correlated to academic areas, its benefits will translate into added social, academic, communicative, historical, and personal interest skills among students. All these elements, as proposed by the philosophers in the Breadth component, led to effective and productive learning experiences.

Kormi-Nouri, R., Moniri, S., & Nilsson, L. (2003). Episodic and semantic memory in bilingual

and monolingual children. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 44(1), 47-54

This study grants the premise of a connection between memory activity and second language learning. Concrete and sufficient empirical research is still needed to determine how memory works during the process of word-retrieval in second language learning. More research is also needed to determine if there is any advantage for the preservation and use of memory between bilingual and monolingual students. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to intends to provide one more piece of evidence that might serve to establish the relationship between bilingualism and memory. In this case, two groups of participants were compared in the areas of episodic memory and semantic memory.

Episodic memory and Semantic memory are discussed in full in the article as full-fledge neurocognitive processes. An episodic memory is the immediate exposure to an event, and its instant recall. This memory occurs in the medial temporal lobe. In the left hemisphere of the brain, people recognize an object they see, but it is the pre-frontal cortex which gives it form and meaning. Semantic memory is retrieved to get general knowledge facts. Episodic memories are connected to personal experiences and carry with them the emotions and connections made by individuals. Both semantic and episodic memories collaborate together, and one does not necessarily supersede the other. These two types of memory retrieval were compared and contrasted among bilingual and monolingual students who were randomly selected and tasked.

The participants were a total of 120 children. Sixty of the children were bilingual, and the other 60 were monolingual. To support the validity of the findings, each group of 60 children was divided into 30 boys and 30 girls in each the bilingual and the monolingual groups. Their mean ages ranged from 8.5 to 10.5 to 12.5 to enable the comparison among groups by a set age level of 2.5 years in between. Each of the groups was asked to perform tasks involving episodic memory and semantic memory. The same amount of activity and the same activities were given, only the bilingual children did them in their two dominant tongues. For the episodic memory, the students were asked to do free and cued recall, student-performed tasks using realia, and verbal exercises. The semantic tasks involved word tests, spelling, and telling what words mean.

The results of the research showed that both the monolingual students and the bilingual students at the youngest age levels were able to perform with high efficacy the retrieval of personal experiences and the recall of events as they were asked. However, bilingual students of all age levels demonstrated an ability to categorize, organize, retrieve, and reproduce the information that was asked from them in both their mother and their second language.

The implications of this study show that second language acquisition experiences expose students to twice the amount of opportunities for neurological activity and memory retrieval. The study also demonstrates that there is a connection between memory and second language acquisition learning processes, which was already deemed in need for further research. However, this study can be used as yet another piece of evidence to support future investigations in the area of memory and language learning, and underlies the benefits of second language learning in schools.

Larazuk, W. (2007) Linguistic, academic, and cognitive benefits of French immersion. Canadian Modern Language Review 63 (5) p. 605-627

The purpose of this article is to summarize the additive benefits of second language acquisition programs based on research conducted specifically in the French immersion (FI) student populations. The foundation of the study is that surveys have established a clear and concrete linguistic, academic, and cognitive advantage of French immersion students over monolingual students. This advantage shows student proficiency in language (English and French) across the board in all academic subjects, denoting a connection that second language acumen and allows for enhance decoding skills.

Lazaruk lists several cognitive and social reasons to support the establishment of more language immersion programs among schools. In terms of academic achievement, he confers that bilingualism is a conduit to heightened mental flexibility, increased creative skills, and other expansive and additive skills that lead to success in all other areas. In social terms, Lazaruk correlates bilingualism to metalinguistic awareness, social tolerance, the increase of communicative sensitivity and multicultural openness. The proficiency in both languages enhances the students’ sense of self-efficacy and establishes one more social bond that they can use to learn from their peers.

Larson-Hall, J (2008) Weighing the benefits of studying a foreign language at a younger starting

age in a minimal input situation Second Language Research, 24, (1) p. 35-63

The purpose of this study was to establish the importance of earlier versus later exposure to a second language. The study hopes to find out whether age makes a difference in the second language learning process, and to counter argue research that favors earlier exposure to second language, claiming that “younger is better”. According to Larson-Hall, previous second language research favoring exposure to younger students had only focused on immigrant populations that become fully immersed in the new language as means of survival in the new country, or as a way to blend in the new culture focused on The implications of the investigation will also conclude on what elements should be taken into consideration when establishing a new second language program in schools, based on the collected data.

The null hypothesis of this study is that students who are exposed to a second language at an earlier state will acquire the same amount of language as a group exposed to a second language at a later developmental state. The hypothesis of the study is that age will play a role in the amount of language acquired, and that there is an advantage to be exposed to a second language earlier in life. Such hypothetical statements are based on the premise that both groups of students will receive the same amount of contact hours (4 hours per week, which is considered “minimal exposure”) and will be tested in the same language acquisition skills after a period of exposure. The author was clear to specify that the parameters of the study did not include a focus on prime age for language learning, but that it would specifically compare the results of older and younger learners with similar inputs without emphasizing on particular ages as “best” times for learning second languages. She based this on the fact that, although studies continue to suggest that an earlier age will allow for more malleable learning experiences, still the specificity of the areas in which students are prime during second language learning are to be determined with more research.

The participants for these students were Japanese college students whose exposure to English as a second language happened earlier in their life, from ages three to twelve. In comparison, the study also tested a sample student population who had been exposed to English during middle school, receiving the same amount of English language input at minimal exposure rates. The students were assessed on a test based on phonemic discrimination and grammaticality judgment task. The variables to be controlled included the language aptitude of the students, and the amount of language input and exposure to which the participants will be faced. The results were measured quantitatively using the scores of the test and the correlations were made based on what was found using ANCOVA analysis.

The results of this experiment showed that there were indeed correlations because the students who started earlier scored higher in the grammaticality judgment. Phonemic ability was also higher on the earlier learners, but not on the morphosyntactic assessment. The author attributes these abilities varying from group to group because of the level of linguistic maturity and development that the students have attained cognitively, and physically.

The most important result of this study lays on the fact that it consistently showed that the amount of input continues to be the key element regardless of the age level that is being assessed. In other words, in a minimum-exposure scenario, regardless of the age of the student, the group that gets more input, more exposure, and more interaction to the target language will inevitably be the one who which acquire it first. The study did show differences in the processing of the earlier learners, as seen before, but those results merely pointed at the way that they learn at this particular level of development, and not at the amount of language acquired.

The implications of this study to the thesis of the depth component is that it shows the phonetic and grammatical branching of the individual’s brain throughout these processes at both the earlier and the later learning levels. This means that exposure to a second language program indeed triggers additional and expansive thinking tasks which will inevitably intensify the learning engagement and experience of the student. A learning system of this nature can be used as a conduit to integrate other subject areas; the methodology through which it is taught, even at the minimal exposure level, demonstrates that it still entices the student to engage in higher level thinking. Therefore, this is yet another research-based evidence on why second language programs should either be instituted or should remain in effect in the American school system.

Lindholm-Leary, K. (2005) The rich promise of two-way immersion Educational Leadership 62

(4) p. 234-246

This article is a compilation of research-based findings that support the additive value of second language education, particularly that of two-way immersion programs. Although the article is not a quantitative or qualitative research itself, it does serve as a reference point from which to argue in favor of further studies in neurology, psychology and education that would support and insist on the establishment of second language programs throughout American schools in the form of immersion.

The author emphasizes on two reasons to be taken into consideration for establishing two-way immersion programs. The first is the changing demographics in the United States and its effect on the economy. The second is the proven additive benefits of second language learning in cognitive development. The case for changing demographics pertains to the influx of large numbers of immigrant groups. The study mentions the prospect of the American population by the year 2050, which is expected to be made up of at least 24% Latinos and 10% Asians. The influx comes complete with its own language systems, idiosyncrasies, traditions, and mannerisms which are behaviors that, as explained in the breadth component, are expected to infiltrate in the mainstream population, borrowing and introducing new terminologies. As the previously explained Steele- Pool model states, a majority group will be most likely to learn the minority group’s language with the motivators of language proximity, code similarities, or the incentive of career opportunities and making money. Therefore, in a growing population of added diversity, two way immersion in a language which is increasing in use would be a decision that will bring economic and professional growth to a growing nation. The academic achievement premise is backed up by every research article presented in the depth component of the KAM.

The article ends with an explanation of how to implement a successful immersion program. Most importantly, the two models of common Two-Way Bilingual Instruction are analyzed in detail. The 90:10 program appeals to students in the Kindergarten and 1st grade level. The instructional day is delivered in the second language for 90 percent of the day. Ten percent of the day is dedicated to the first language, reading, and fluency. In grades 2nd and 3rd, the systems change to 80 percent target language, and 20 percent first language. Eventually, the student is expected to perform well in both languages to the point that school subjects can be divided evenly across the board and taught in either of the two languages.

The 50:50 method is different, but aims towards the same goals. The instructional day is divided into the two languages throughout the curriculum. The simultaneous model has the students learning in both languages in kindergarten, while the successive model starts out in the native language. Once their levels of literacy are achieved in their first language, they receive instruction in the second language beginning in the third grade.

The article calls for careful preparation and assessment of available resources and cites for rewarding outcomes that result from Two Way Bilingual Immersion exposure. One of the most salient is the fact that children exposed to these programs not only scored higher in standardized testing in the areas of literacy, but also in Math. This success is attributed to the ease in acquiring literacy coding, which allows for better language comprehension. This ability leads not only to better abilities to understand verbal problems in literacy, but also in Math. This ensures higher academic achievement, and a possible better attitude towards school and learning.

Maurits W., Van den Noor, L., Bosch, P., Hughdahl, K. (2006) Foreign language proficiency and

working memory capacity. European Psycholigist , 11, (4) 289-296

The field of linguistics has an association with the field of neurology and psychology due to the synergism between brain activity and the production of language. One of the most researched topics in second language learning is the role of working memory. The main theoretical backgrounds that are the foundation of this research are that: a) working memory is a main element of second language aptitude, b) working memory is a second language aptitude and c) the capacity for working memory is interrelated to the capacity to acquire and maintain a language. The theory of working memory capacity is similar to Krashen’s hypotheses of natural input, monitor language, language acquired, and language learned. In the capacity theory, it is thought that during the processing of a word or a sentence, the capacity that is already inherent to an individual will incur in the role of building the syntactic and semantic connections that are required to comprehend it. However, in order for these connections to be achieved, there had to be a set of representations of the word or sentence.

Another theory that drives this investigation is the Separate Sentence Interpretation Resource (SSIR) by Waters and Caplan (1996). This theory states that there are two ways in which the brain recognizes sentence structures. One is the process of building the actual representation in the brain and then giving it a “theme” to make sense of it. The second is a type of monitor system that evokes Chomskyan’s generative language processes, where the information is processed and then categorized and stored in the working memory. Therefore, the purpose of van den Noort study is to take the inconsistency of the capacity versus the SSIR theories and take verbal span measures to determine the role of both simple and complex verbal working memory measures.

The hypothesis of this study is that there is an interactive synergism between foreign language proficiency and working memory capacity. The methodology of this study consisted in a sample group who was fluent in three Germanic languages. The participants were selected at random, and within a homogeneous group.

The results of this study showed a dynamic set of responses in working memory tasks that varied from the first, to the second and third languages. The differences applied to both simple and complex memory tasks, and were consistent throughout the languages, making it clear that there is indeed a connection and correlation between working memory capacity and foreign language acquisition.

Mestres-Misse, A., Rodriguez-Fornells, A., Münte, T.,(2007) Watching the brain during meaning acquisition. Cerebral Cortex, 17(8), p. 1858-1866

The purpose of this research is to empirically quantify level of neurological activity through the process of foreign language acquisition. The aim of the investigation is to determine which parts of the brain become engaged in neurological processes during second language learning, and to which extent. The data collected aspires to solidify the claims that second language learning enhances cognitive ability. Recent research has produced enough data to determine that there are specific parts of the brain that are engaged in the process of language learning and that brain activity is higher during this type of learning. The investigators of this study offer that, in spite of this, there is still is not a final answer, nor one absolute empirical evidence, that shows the exact processes that take place during second language acquisition. The information that is currently available comes close to breaking down a learning code, but it is still considered an “approximate” rather than a rule. This study is one of those approximates.

The methodology of this research was selected based on the rationale of the study: That second language acquisition occurs either through rote memory (learning with patterns and creating a habit), or with the use of context cues (extracting meaning it from context). For this reason, the investigators used event-related brain potentials (ERPs). ERPs are neurobiological responses produced by the brain during the thinking process. As with all ERP’s, these responses are measured with electroencephalography (EEG), which in turn would obtain the electrical activity through the skull and scalp. It is important to note that using these resources is in itself a delicate process, since the EEG reflects multiple possible brain activities taking place at the same time. However, EEG’s are specifically reliable in measuring brain activities under unexpected stimuli. The exposure to a foreign language is to be considered unexpected stimuli, therefore, EEGs and ERPs are valid methodologies to employ in the data collection.

The results of the study reflected in the EEG imaging showed a brain signature, or a pattern related to activity, specifically lexical and semantic processing during contextual word learning.

They asked the participants to discover the meaning of a new word from context during silent reading. They were exposed three times to determine brain potentials to novel words. After three exposures, the investigation showed indistinguishable potentials when the words were not shown in a meaningful context. When the words were to be drawn from a meaningful context, the brain patterns were clear and distinguishable.

This solidifies the claim that tasks of this nature can help increase brain activity among students, therefore allowing for more extended periods of focused activity, the activation of inferencing skills, and the creation of connections to prior knowledge. Standardized tests under the NCLB act are designed to test these very skills that are obviously enhanced during second language acquisition. Therefore, the implications of this study are that second language programs allow for a productive learning experience based on increased brain activity, and the activation of essential study skills that are quantifiable through standardized testing.

Proctor, C.; August, D.; Carlo, M.; Snow, C; (2006) The Intriguing Role of Spanish Language Vocabulary Knowledge in Predicting English Reading Comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology (98) 1 p. 250-263

This study intends to solidify the theory of automation at a cross-linguistic level. This axiom grants that individuals with dual language systems will tend to correlate the sounds, symbols, and meanings of one language to understand the other, hence performing higher-level thinking skills than individuals who only speak one language. In detail, the cross-linguistic interpretation of the automaticity theory is that as when a student learns a second language (L2) and becomes more fluent, there will be a decrease in attention to detail (because the language is already learned). Therefore, the newly-bilingual student will be able to shift his or her attention from the L2 all the way to both L1 and L2. Since the student is at a more comfortable level after learning the language, the theory of automation says that more cognitive energy can be spent making cross-linguistic connections between L1 and L2.

The participants of this quantitative study were 135 Latino students who were bilingual in Spanish and English. The investigators explored the effects of Spanish language alphabetic knowledge, fluency, vocabulary knowledge, and listening comprehension on English reading comprehension. The results revealed the students who were more fluent in both languages had a tendency to take the graphic information that they got from their tasks, and converted it into a linguistic corpus of meaning with more accuracy and speed. Although the sound/symbol connection could have played a part in the students inferencing of meanings, faster English readers benefited more from Spanish vocabulary knowledge than their less fluent counterparts. This study demonstrates the existence of literary skills transfer from the 1st to the 2nd language, as well as limits on such transfer.

There is one significant finding that gives strong implications to the field of education: When a variable was controlled and the L2 component skills were controlled, the study found that Spanish vocabulary knowledge only enhanced the English reading outcomes minimally. When there was open English/Spanish input regardless of level of fluency, orthography and print recognition compensated for the increase in English reading outcomes. The implications to the field of education is based on how a second language or bilingual program should be planned, so that it can serve the dual purpose of helping children learn a foreign language, and also become better in other academic areas. The process of decoding cross-linguistically is evident in this study, yet, the focus of a second language program should then target not only spoken but also written and graphic elements so that the process is complete.

Stewart, J. H. (2005). Foreign language study in elementary schools: Benefits and implications for achievement in reading and math. Early Childhood Education Journal, 33(1), 11-16. from PsycINFO database

The purpose of this article is to present a case for the implementation of more Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES) and Foreign Language Experience (FLEX) programs. Stewart uses both theoretical foundations and recent research to solidify the claims that exposure to a second language enhances Math and reading skills. The article is based on the current pressure of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act by President G.W. Bush, which states that all school should demonstrate achievement in reading and Math via higher scores in state-based standardized testing. Stewart presents FLES, FLEX and second language immersion as an alternative to enhance these areas, and she shows ways in which this alternative might serve as the appropriate solution, according to the information she analyzes.

Stewart proposes that a FLES/FLEX or second language immersion program should be implemented in a sustained way, similarly to the way in which it is used in Canada. She uses the case of French immersion students in Canada as an example, because studies performed in that population show that these students perform higher at standardized testing than students who are not immersed. In this case, the second language is used inclusively to teach different subjects. The second language is introduced in the second or third year at a conversational level, taking later the center stage and a conduit to learn other subjects. The role of the teacher is essential as the introductory conduit to the second language. Therefore, the teachers who will teach the subject in a second language should be certified in the language, or bilingual themselves. This creates the role model persona that student astride to imitate in a cooperative classroom environment. The teacher is more of a guide and a coach, rather than a lecturer.

This is a relevant article for Depth purposes because it specifically lists and explains each of the claims in favor of the implementation of second language programs, and cites the research references which solidify the theories. Among the main reasons that Stewart cites in favor of the FLES/FLEX program, she particularly addresses studies that concluded that children who study a foreign language tend to develop a deeper sense of making connections and understanding context cues due to the consistent exposure to words and patterns that allow them to compare their first language to the second one.

Service, E.; Simola, M.; Metshanheimo, O.; Maury, S. (2002) Bilingual working memory span is affected by language skill European journal of cognitive psychology, 14 (3) 383-408.

The purpose of this study is to establish another possible connection between memory and second language learning. The researchers part from the premise that anything that is not automatic language would enter the thinking stream and trigger and extra amount of activity in the brain, which would surface as an extra load if input in working memory capacity. A foreign or second language is not automatic language, for it needs to be comprehended by the listener, decoded, and connected to current knowledge. This process is presumed to occur with the aid of memory, both episodic and semantic. The participants were college students of English or Psychology. A correlation was tried to be established as to whether their performances as a whole was in itself proportional to their skills and intelligences (linguistic versus scientific).

The methodology involved showing the participants pictures connected to sentences. The first step was to determine the working memory capacity (sustained memory span) of each participant to compare it to their performance after the specific tasks. To do this, participants were asked to memorize the last word of each sentence. These words were either in their natural language, or a second language that the participant mastered. As the tasks expanded and the sentences became longer, the researchers still asked for the last word of each sentence to be memorized, and then asked the participants to call out all of the last words that they memorized as a whole.

When the experiment was conducted in a foreign language, the psychology students group did not perform as good as the English students group in terms of their working memory spans and decision accuracy. From this data, the study tried to correlate whether the difference in performance among the participants was related to phonological short term memory or word processing, but no correlation was found. In another use of the data, the languages and groups were put again to the test to determine if there were any systematic trade-off differences, in other words, does their experience in language learning matter to their ability to recall data and use their working memory capacity. No correlation was found in that aspect either.

The results of the study determined that practice, even in areas that are unknown to certain groups, can still serve as the conduit to awake working memory capacity. In other words, working memory capacity is possessed by all individuals. In the case of foreign language, exposure and consistent practice can still assure the development of the skill, needing less working memory.

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