Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bilingualism is no advantage when studying foreign languages at upper secondary school, Swedish study finds

Date:
May 9, 2011
Source:
University of Gothenburg
Summary:
Today, in Sweden a large proportion of school pupils have a foreign background and switch between their home language and Swedish on a daily basis. However, bilingualism in itself does not bring any advantages when it comes to learning a foreign language. A new thesis shows that bilingual upper secondary school pupils perform somewhat below average in language tests, compared with those who only speak one language.

Today, in Sweden a large proportion of school pupils have a foreign background and switch between their home language and Swedish on a daily basis. However, bilingualism in itself does not bring any advantages when it comes to learning a foreign language. A new thesis in German from the University of Gothenburg shows that bilingual upper secondary school pupils perform somewhat below average in language tests, compared with those who only speak one language.

Research into how bilingual pupils learn foreign languages at school is not unequivocal. Many results show that bilingual pupils have advantages, but this applies primarily in countries where the pupils being studied speak two national languages, such as in Spain (Spanish and Catalan/Basque).

The author of the thesis, Johanna Klawitter Beusch, has monitored and tested a group of pupils from foreign backgrounds who learnt German as a beginner's language at three different upper secondary schools in Gothenburg over a period of one year. A group of pupils from a Swedish background completed the same tests, and acted as a control group. In order to provide an accurate picture of the pupils from foreign backgrounds, Johanna investigated as many background factors as possible.

"It turned out that the pupils from foreign backgrounds often achieved poorer grades in English and Swedish, and had studied fewer foreign languages at school. Their parents also had a somewhat lower level of education, but these pupils generally took a more positive approach towards foreign languages, and towards German in particular. They were also more motivated."

All the background factors studied showed a significant correlation with the test results achieved in both the study groups. The strongest correlation was noted between foreign language proficiency (i.e. the number of foreign languages that the pupils studied at school and their grades in these subjects) and the test results.

When only average results were compared, the pupils who only spoke one language performed somewhat better than the bilingual pupils. However, when taking the abovementioned background factors into account, these differences were evened out and the bilingual pupils even achieved slightly better results.

"My study shows the complexity of language learning. I have tried to keep a number of background factors constant in order to ascertain whether bilingualism in itself brings any advantages when learning a foreign language, and have found very little to suggest that this might be the case. One possible explanation could be an insufficient degree of bilingualism among the pupils being studied."

According to relatively unequivocal research findings, the cognitive advantages do not become apparent until the bilingual pupil has a high and age-adjusted level of proficiency in both his or her languages. According to Johanna, this shows how important native-language teaching is for first and second generation immigrants, as well as the importance of good Swedish language proficiency.

Some of the groups of pupils were also asked to explain how they dealt with completing the tasks in the word comprehension and reading comprehension tests. The aim here was to get a better insight into whether bilingual individuals use different strategies when confronted with linguistic problems.

"Both the monolingual and bilingual pupil groups used similar problem-solving strategies," says Johanna. "However, the bilingual pupils were more inclined to explain how they arrived at a particular solution, and also thought that their solution was the correct solution. But problem-solving strategies that stood out in this way as being more conscious and explicit didn't lead to better results, which could suggest that this type of propensity for verbalisation is culturally conditioned."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Gothenburg. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Gothenburg. "Bilingualism is no advantage when studying foreign languages at upper secondary school, Swedish study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110509113300.htm>.
University of Gothenburg. (2011, May 9). Bilingualism is no advantage when studying foreign languages at upper secondary school, Swedish study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110509113300.htm
University of Gothenburg. "Bilingualism is no advantage when studying foreign languages at upper secondary school, Swedish study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110509113300.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Science & Society News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boeing Ups Outlook on 52% Profit Jump

Boeing Ups Outlook on 52% Profit Jump

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 23, 2014) Commercial aircraft deliveries rose seven percent at Boeing, prompting the aerospace company to boost full-year profit guidance- though quarterly revenues missed analyst estimates. Bobbi Rebell reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands Who Can't Afford Medical Care Flock to Free US Clinic

Thousands Who Can't Afford Medical Care Flock to Free US Clinic

AFP (July 23, 2014) America may be the world’s richest country, but in terms of healthcare, the World Health Organisation ranks it 37th. Thousands turned out for a free clinic run by "Remote Area Medical" with a visit from the Governor of Virginia. Duration: 2:40 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Six Indicted in StubHub Hacking Scheme

Six Indicted in StubHub Hacking Scheme

AP (July 23, 2014) Six people were indicted Wednesday in an international ring that took over more than 1,000 StubHub users' accounts and fraudulently bought tickets that were then resold. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
9/11 Commission Members Warn of Terror "fatigue" Among American Public

9/11 Commission Members Warn of Terror "fatigue" Among American Public

Reuters - US Online Video (July 22, 2014) Ten years after releasing its initial report, members of the 9/11 Commission warn of the "waning sense of urgency" in combating terrorists attacks. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins