A Review of the Literature on Second Language Learning

July 19, 2010

Written Dr. John Archibald,  Dr. Sylvie Roy and other researchers at from the Language Research Centre (LRC), of the University of Calgary, A Review of the Literature on Second Language Learning, 2nd ed. Published in 2006, this study examines 4 key areas:

  1. Effects of a second language on a person’s first language
  2. The role of content instruction in offering a second language
  3. Effects of second language learning on students with special needs
  4. Effects of learning and third language on students for whom English is a second language.

Some key findings of this research are:

  • Exposure to a second language can enhance non-linguistic skills such as divergent thinking, attitudes towards others and math skills.
  • Acquiring knowledge in a second language does not impede first language development.
  • Significant time investment is required to acquire full fluency.
  • Content-based language teaching (e.g. teaching math or science in a second language) can increase students’ ability to make connections between second language study and the outside world.
  • Students with special needs can learn second languages.
  • Acquiring a third language is a common occurrence around the world.
  • It helps to learn a third language if you have a strong proficiency in a first language.


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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

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