This article discusses the validity of the bonus for languages other than English (known as the Language Bonus) established in Australia to boost participation in language education. In subjecting this incentive plan to empirical investigation, we not only address a gap in the literature, but also continue the discussion on how to ensure that the efforts made by governments, schools, education agencies and teachers to support language study in schooling can have long-term success. Using data from a large-scale investigation, we consider the significance of the Language Bonus in influencing students’ decisions to study a language at school and at university. While this paper has a local focus – an English-speaking country in which language study is not compulsory – it engages with questions from the broader agenda of providing incentives for learning languages. It will be relevant especially for language policy in English speaking countries.