While many are aware that culture and family attitudes strongly influence student achievement, I wonder if many are aware of linguistic impacts on early mathematical proficiency? And I do not mean how learning in a non-native language impacts learning, as that has been clearly documented and discussed in great length for the good of all second-language students. My question is broader and applies only to native language speakers. Specifically, the etymological basis for certain languages potentially offers a competitive advantage to speakers of those languages when it comes to mathematical proficiency.
I find this possibility fascinating. As someone who grew up reading, chose as his CB radio handle “Bookworm,” and was often called the same by his friends, I love words and their origins. Academic vocabulary, content vocabulary, and higher level vocabulary, and even idioms regularly flow from me during class. Each use provides an opportunity to explain the word, or phrase, to students while connecting it among and between mathematics, other subjects, or life circumstances. , 
Now, back to the mathematical proficiency advantage of certain languages. David A. Sousa (2008), in “How the Brain Learns Mathematics,” states that “cultural differences in computational ability may have their roots in the words that different cultures use to represent numbers.” He goes on to explain that given the brain’s limited ability to keep information in short-term memory, native speakers of languages that use more compact words to represent numbers have up to a 50% increase in number memory span. Sousa (2008) cites the people in Hong Kong who speak the Cantonese dialect of Chinese “have a number memory span of about ten digits, as opposed to the seven in speakers of English and other Western languages.” He goes on to explain that brain imaging studies of native Chinese speakers “process arithmetic manipulation in areas of the brain different from those of native English speakers.”
Sousa also illustrates how English has “many inconsistencies in its number words,” which make it more complex than Chinese and Japanese whose “number syntax is easy to learn and remember” and the “syntax perfectly reflects the decimal structure,” whereas English does not. This syntactic difference becomes most apparent around the age of four, when “Chinese children can generally count up to 40, while American children of the same age can barely get to 15, and it takes them another year to get to 40.” As someone who knows how to count in several languages, to include Chinese and Japanese, as well as French, Spanish, and German, not to mention binary, octal, and hexadecimal back in my engineering days, I appreciate the impact language has on number sense. The Chinese and Japanese languages follow a logical system when it comes to numbers, which uses the same linguistic algorithm for all numbers whereas English does not. As an example, the number 15 in Chinese is shi wu, or ten ‘plus’ five, while the number 25 is er shi wu, or two times ten ‘plus’ five. Both follow a pattern where multipliers such as 10 (shi) are preceded by a factor, such as the two (er) in 25, formerly called a multiplicand, and followed by an addend, such as the five (wu) in 25. 
What all of this brings to mind for me is to what extent does this linguistic advantage accelerate the development of mathematical proficiency for students who speak these languages natively? Does the advantage fade over time? Do students born in the US, but whose parents speak Chinese, as an example, at home have the same advantage, assuming they initially learn Chinese? What about those who do not initially learn Chinese, but do so shortly afterwards, or not at all?
I am fascinated by this topic and line of inquiry. Anyone who has further information about how native language impacts the development of mathematical proficiency, please comment away! CB radios, also known as Citizen’s Band radios, were popular in the 1970’s when I grew up.  While the use of idioms is discouraged when instructing English-language learners, I find that their inclusion, when explained, expands the richness of a students’ experience with our society, language, and words. Most of my English-only students are not familiar with my sayings, or idioms, so all require a refresher or explanation anyways. The use of idioms when the listener does not understand its meaning, and no explanation is provided, is not an effective means of communication, hence, discouraged.  All is not overly simple when counting in Japanese. The Japanese language makes a distinction for cardinal numbers based on the object being counted, which confused me to no end when visiting Japan.