Elements of Successful Language Programs

Teachers see the impact successful language programs have on students every day. Timid students break out of their shells and connect with their peers through a new language. Sparks of inspiration flash across students’ faces when they learn a new cultural perspective. Not everyone is fortunate enough to see these tangible results of effective programs.

We partnered with the New Jersey Department of Education to document how to achieve optimal student outcomes and thus create successful language programs. Our research explored how program model and student factors such as socioeconomic status and race impact language learning. With this data, New Jersey policy makers formulated concrete plans for improving world language education across the state.

Our research showed:

  • Language learning defies the achievement gap. Given equal amounts of instruction, students in lower socioeconomic areas score similarly to students in higher socioeconomic areas.
  • Consistent, yearlong programs are more effective. Students perform better when instruction time is evenly distributed across the school year.
  • Students gain speaking proficiency more quickly than reading proficiency. They consistently score higher in speaking sections than reading sections.
  • Learning a new language takes time. Most non-heritage students require approximately 540 hours to reach Novice-High by eighth grade.