Harvard researcher Nonie Lesaux’s study, published in the journal “Developmental Psychology” in November 2003, tracked 1,000 children speaking native English and English as a second language (ESL) in mainstream English classrooms from kindergarten through second grade. With participants from across an entire school district in North Vancouver, Canada, the research is the first-ever longitudinal study to look at a population-based sample that took in a citywide sweep of social classes, immigrant populations, and native languages – 33 of them. “The ESL group as a whole did better in grade two on a number of reading and language measures … than their native-speaking counterparts,” says Lesaux, adding that the achievement of the ESL students “stunned” some of her professional colleagues. The implications on the expectations of ESL students could be far-reaching, she says. Lesaux credits what she calls a metalinguistic awareness of the bilingual kids that exists precisely because they are learning English as a second language. “They’re much more tuned into language than the other kids,” she says. “In many ways, they were doing a lot more work around language than the monolinguals, for whom language is much more unconscious.”