Benefits of Bilingualism
The benefits of Dual Language Immersion and bilingualism include the following:
Second Language Skills: DLI students achieve higher proficiency in the second language than with traditional Foreign Language instruction.
Cognitive Skills: DLI students typically develop greater cognitive flexibility, demonstrating increased attention and memory, superior problem-solving skills as well as an enhanced understanding of their primary language.
Performance on Standardized Tests: DLI students perform as well as or better than English-only students on standardized tests in English, including students from a range of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, as well as with diverse cognitive and linguistic abilities.
Intercultural Competency: DLI students are more aware of and generally show more positive attitudes towards other cultures and an appreciation of other people.
Long-Term Benefits: DLI students are better prepared for the global community and job markets in the 21st century.
Higher Attendance-Rates and Fewer Drop-Outs: Students from DLI programs have higher attendance rates and lower drop-out rates compared to regular programs.
In the past two decades, research has provided dramatic new insights into how young children acquire language, and how this affects their brain development. In fact, neuroscientists who studied images of the human brain have found that learning a second language actually increases brain density (Mechelli, Crinion, Noppeney, O’Doherty, Ashburner, Fackowiak, & Price, 2004). Young bilinguals show advanced skills in non-verbal executive control skills, inhibitory control (ability to resist a habitual response or information not relevant), working memory or updating (ability to hold information in mind and mentally manipulate it), and cognitive flexibility ability to adjust to changes in demands or priorities and switch between goals (Barac, Bialystok, Castro, & Sanchez, 2014; Kuhl, 2011). This means that dual language learners possess the kinds of skills that are increasingly critical to 21st century college and career success—thinking flexibly, focusing attention when there is conflicting information, selecting relevant over irrelevant information, and switching strategies if a solution is not forthcoming.
In fact, in a recent publication by the U.S. Department of Education and the Office of English Language Acquisition (2015, p. 97) put forth the statement concerning DLI benefits to students and society:
There are, without doubt, many benefits—for students and society—that come from having command of more than one language, and from the interaction between cultures that language learning brings. Developing proficiency in more than one language enhances career opportunities, promotes cross-cultural understanding, and improves communication skills (Tochon, 2009; Rumbaut, 2014). Students benefit cognitively as well; numerous studies have shown the cognitive benefits associated with bilingualism (Esposito & Baker-Ward, 2013; Ball, 2010; Espinosa, 2013; Sandhofer & Uchikoshi, 2013; Barac et al., 2014).
In light of the consistent research findings that purport multiple advantages for dual language learners, it is no surprise that the number of DLI programs is increasing exponentially across the U.S. over the past few years (Center of Applied Linguistics, 2011).