A report commissioned by the Atlantic Provinces Education Foundation, which NB is a member, examined the effects of second language learning on first language literacy skills.
Their conclusions were clear:
- There is no negative effect of second language training on first language proficiency, and
- Second language training seemed to actually boost proficiency in first language literacy skills.
See excerpt from their report below:
"The effect of learning a second language (e.g. French) on first language skills has been positive in all studies done. Furthermore, the loss of instructional time in English (first language) in favour of the second language has never been shown to have negative effects on the achievement of the first language. Cummins' interdependence hypothesis, which maintains that language skills are being transferred from one language to the other, can be assumed to be true for the core French situation as well. One can confidently assume that cognitive abilities acquired in the learning of one language can be put to use in the acquisition and proficiency of the other language. Numerous studies about the relationship of second language learning to first language skills support this claim. In these studies the first language skills did not suffer. On the contrary, in many studies first language skills were shown to be enhanced, even if instruction time in L1 [first language] was reduced in favour of L2 [second language] instruction.
The literature gives us this very positive evidence about the value of learning a second language. These advantages have been shown in the above studies to be in the cognitive area; but another important educational factor is the positive attitude and understanding it creates for other cultures. Lapkin and Swain (1984, p. 52) report on a study of compositions that grade 5 and 6 students had to write, about "Why I like being Canadian." The immersion students gave on average two to three times as many reasons than did the English comparison groups. They commented especially on the rich and varied cultural and linguistic composition of Canada. This was seen to be a very positive and encouraging consequence of learning a second language." (pages 30 and 31).