The Difference Between Speaking English “Well” and “Very Well”

By Mary Ann Zehr — March 04, 2008 1 min read
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Some researchers have tried to figure out how much one can increase one’s salary by mastering a foreign language, according to a Feb. 28 article posted at ABC News.

The article, “Learn a Language, Get a Raise,” cites research by Aimee Chin, an associate professor in the economics department at the University of Houston, that found immigrants to the U.S. who transition from speaking English “well” to “very well” increase their wages by 30 percent. (That’s a statistic some of you teachers might want to show your English-language learners who are trying to move to an advanced level of language proficiency.)

I find it interesting that the article says the income gains for native English speakers, like me, from learning a foreign language are small compared with the gains for non-English-speaking immigrants who learn English.

Personally, I have to say that I don’t think my years of studying Spanish on the side, so that I could manage to interview parents of school children in Spanish, resulted in a higher salary for me here at Education Week. But it definitely did help me to land what I consider to be a very interesting beat at the newspaper, reporting on English-language learners.

Even so, those Spanish skills that I acquired always seem to be deteriorating rather than improving, as I don’t use them frequently. It’s time for me to find a Spanish tutor again or start tuning regularly into BBC Mundo to sharpen those skills.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.