The Cognitive Benefits of Language Learning

This project is distinctive in its focus on the evidence for the cognitive benefits of language learning, as opposed to the better known benefits of bi- and multilingualism.
Project status

The project provides a systematic review of the academic evidence base, supported by fresh research on public attitudes towards language learning. The study highlights where research findings apply especially to different age, gender and social economic groupings and to different types of learning experiences, and includes sign languages as well as spoken languages.

The project comprised:

  • A systematic review of peer-reviewed UK and international academic publications on cognition and cognitive functioning of bilingual and multilingual language learners and users across the lifespan, including informal as well as formal language learning environments (home, nursery, school, supplementary school, on-line, and other settings)
  • Meta-analysis and synthesis on two themes: the relationship between language learning and academic achievement across the curriculum, and with creativity
  • Surveys of attitudes towards language learning of 740 adults and 40 young people
  • Focus groups with educators and a stakeholder interview with a policy maker

The project was funded by the British Academy, and led by Professor Bencie Woll FBA, UCL and Professor Li Wei, UCL Institute of Education.

Project outcomes

Cognitive Benefits of Language Learning: Broadening our Perspectives

Professor Bencie Woll FBA and Professor Li Wei

Read the full report on the project's findings.

Cognitive Benefits of Language Learning: Findings and Implications

Professor Bencie Woll FBA and Professor Li Wei

This summary defines the scope of the project and meaning of cognitive benefits, our findings, public attitudes to language learning and implications for future research.

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