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Biliteracy Becoming an Increasingly Desired Skill by Employers, Study Finds

Biliteracy Becoming an Increasingly Desired Skill by Employers, Study Finds

A new study from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA and Educational Testing Service (ETS) has found that individuals who are bilterate- or the fluent in two or more languages in addition to English- experience better educational outcomes and are highly sought after by America's workforce.

The study found that immigrants who are able to read and write in more than just English experienced significant gains in the labor market over immigrants who are limited to speaking only English.

According to a statement from Educational Testing Service, "'[b]alanced bilinguals,' those who understand, speak, read and write in both English and the language of the home:

  • earn more, whereas monolinguals lose $2,000–$5,000 annually as a result of losing their home language.
  • go to college at higher rates, which dramatically increases earnings.
  • have more social networks.

The report, titled "Is There Really a Labor Market Advantage to Bilingualism in the U.S.?," and authored by Patricia Gándara, looked at immigrants just entering the labor market today to arrive at the report's conclusions.

Gándara says her findings indicate the need for schools to embrace instructing multiple languages.

"Our findings that balanced bilingualism or 'biliteracy' pays and results in better educational outcomes is good news," says Gándara. "Equally important though is the finding that transitional bilingual instruction that leaves behind the native language is not where the payoff is; it is in maintaining immigrant languages. Bilinguals may not always be paid more, but they often are and frequently get hired over monolinguals with similar credentials."

The report is one of a series commissioned by the Civil Rights Project in partnership with ETS to "investigate, "from different disciplinary perspectives, the labor market implications of bilingualism in the United States. Those studies are published in a new book titled, 'The Bilingual Advantage: Language, Literacy and the US Labor Market.'"

While some of the studies found either no wage difference for biliterate workers or even a small wage penalty, "those studies were all based on census data that did not reveal the level of bilingualism held by individuals," the company's statement said.

To find out more about Gándara's findings, she will be hosting a free webinar today, Oct. 13, for which registration is available here


Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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