Young Latinos with a good command of English and who converse easily with non-Latinos improve their academic performance and raise their self-esteem, because these social skills allow them to access resources and information that promote their economic and social mobility, according to a recent studay.

"Cross-cultural Adaptation of Hispanic Youth: A Study of Communication Patterns, Functional Fitness, and Psychological Health," published online in the National Communication Association's journal, Communication Monographs, studies a sample of young Latinos from South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska.

Researchers led by Kelly McKay-Semmler, assistant professor of communication studies at the University of South Dakota, interviewed 112 young Hispanics and concluded that young people who are best able to communicate reap greater psychological and educational rewards.

"We also found that Hispanic youth feel less alienated and more satisfied living in the U.S. as their English competence and connection with non-Hispanics grow," McKay-Semmler said.

"This was true whether the Hispanic students represented a small or large portion of the population of their school," she added.

To take the study, the researchers interviewed young Hispanics both from rural areas and from cities, immigrants and born in the United States, some who prefer communicating in English and some in Spanish.

The authors believe their conclusions are important for minority students who run into cultural differences every day between their homes and schools.

"These kids are crossing cultures every day," McKay-Semmler said. "Situated at the intersection of cultural diversity and the cultural mainstream, U.S. schools are uniquely able to provide children from multiple and varied backgrounds the communication opportunities and cross-cultural learning experiences that assist all youth in becoming successful members of the larger society." EFE