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Why Study a Foreign Language?

Why Study a Foreign Language?

The study of a foreign language is an important component of a good education.  Many studies have been done that confirm this.  A research report “Regarding World Language Education: The Benefits of Second Language Study,” was published in 2007.  This report is a summary of many scientific studies concerned with the general question “Is the study of a second language beneficial?”.  This report summarizes these findings and gives the citations.  The various studies that were reviewed looked at ‘foreign language study’ from different angles.  Some looked at whether foreign language study helps with other academic disciplines.  Other studies looked at such things as cognitive development, abstract thinking, creative thinking, and higher order thinking.  Still other studies examined the relationship between foreign language study and standardized test scores.

The overwhelming results of dozens of studies were that the study of a foreign language was significantly beneficial in all of these areas, and the earlier the student starts the study of a foreign language, the better the results were.

Four studies were specifically cited which found that foreign language students developed improved resourcefulness to solve complex problems, increased cognitive flexibility, better higher order thinking ability, and greater divergent thinking skills.  Other studies found that foreign language students outscored students who never studied a foreign language on both verbal and non-verbal intelligence tests, and developed better memories as well as enhanced listening skills.

In practical terms, students who studied a second language scored higher on standardized tests like the S.A.T. and the A.C.T., and showed improved understanding of all other subjects including English literacy, structure and vocabulary, social studies, math, and virtually all other subjects.

Seton highly recommends Latin to meet the foreign language requirement.  The S.A.T. has done studies for many years and consistently finds that students who study Latin in high school get the highest average English Verbal scores on the S.A.T. college entrance test.  The average for all students is usually around 500.  Students who study Spanish or Italian average about 570 on the Verbal test.  French and Germans students average about 610, while Latin students consistently score about 660 on this test.  There is also evidence that students who study Latin first, learn other romance languages faster and easier and more completely.  Finally, Latin is still the language of the Church, Law, Medicine and Science.  For all of these reasons, Latin is a recommended first choice in foreign language study.

The improved cognitive skills and subject mastery led to higher acceptance rates by colleges, higher grades in college, and enhanced career opportunities.

Seton requires foreign language study for college bound students, and recommends it for non-college bound students, because foreign language study is highly beneficial by improving memory and thinking skills.  This results in better overall learning, better college entrance exam scores, and improved high school and college learning achievement.  The consequences of foreign language study are so powerfully positive, that all students will benefit greatly from the effort.

About Deacon Eugene McGuirk

Deacon Eugene McGuirk directs the Academic Counseling Department at Seton Home Study School. Married for over 30 years, he is the father of 4 children homeschooled through Seton. He was ordained a deacon in 1988. Meet Deacon Eugene
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