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Graduate student works to preserve language diversity

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Bilingualism leads to a host of cognitive benefits, including creativity, concept formation, social sensitivity, problem solving, and memory. But the cognitive benefits associated with language proficiency are only seen in those who have a high level of proficiency in both languages.

"Nevertheless,"said Will Mira, a doctoral student in Educational Psychology, "language diversity in the United States is at risk due to assimilationist ideologies and the push for monolingual education."

Mira, a child of immigrants from El Salvador, understands first hand the challenge of maintaining proficiency in his first language, let alone advancing it. In his work with the Center for Latino Achievement and Success in Education Tutoring and Mentoring program, Mira works with third- to fifth-graders to help maintain their heritage language at school.

"In fact," Mira explains, "a 10-year study with 5,000 participants found that only 27 percent of second-generation immigrants remained fluent bilinguals – supporting the idea that most immigrants will lose their heritage language within three generations."

Upon learning this, Mira knew he wanted to do something to help preserve this valuable, disappearing resource.

"Right now there is a focus on conducting achievement testing for English-language learners in their native language, but little attention is paid to assessing and tracking ability in their native language itself," Mira reports.

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