How Studying A Foreign Language Can Help On ACT, SAT College Admission Manual

Many American high schools require students to take a year or more of a foreign language. While this may seem like a downside to some, knowing a foreign language is actually beneficial. In fact, it can translate into improved performance in other academic areas.


Not convinced? Here are three ways that studying a foreign language in a field like Latin or Spanish can work in your favor on ACT or SAT.

Increased aptitude with vocabulary

Vocabulary goes hand in hand with reading comprehension – each skill is complementary. If you are a good reader, you can probably determine the meaning of unfamiliar words using context clues. Likewise, if you have a large vocabulary, you can usually better understand the texts you read.

There are high frequency vocabulary words that you can study before ACT or SAT to improve your reading comprehension and, if applicable, your writing skills.

Another way to indirectly strengthen your vocabulary is to learn common prefixes, roots, and suffixes, many of which come from Latin. Thus, studying Latin or a closely related Romance language such as French, Italian, or Spanish may make you better able to deduce the meaning of words in ACT and SAT texts that are new to you.

Consider this example: Suppose you come across the word “ambivalent” in a SAT reading passage. You don’t know what it means, but its prefix reminds you of the Spanish word ‘ambos’, which means ‘both’. Since the passage describes a character’s state of mind, you might conclude that ambivalent means experiencing two emotions, which is not far from the true meaning of having mixed or conflicting feelings.

By understanding that the prefix “amb” or “ambi” means “both”, you can also understand the meaning of other words that begin similarly, such as “ambiguous” which means to have a double meaning or s ‘open to more than one interpretation.

Improved critical reading skills

When students read texts in a foreign language course, it is often for a specific purpose, for example to locate instances of a verb tense or to find answers to accompanying questions. Unless you’re genuinely in love with the language you’re studying, you probably don’t read passages written in a foreign language purely for entertainment.

Also, most of the time, you can be given texts that you find quite difficult because they exceed your current level. This is a deliberate approach taken by foreign language teachers to encourage students to move forward on their language journey. As a result, you can get into the habit of reading “the gist” – just to understand the main idea of ​​the passage.

Since reading in a foreign language at the secondary level is usually done with a specific goal in mind and to understand the main ideas rather than the details, it shares a lot of commonalities with the type of reading required of students on ACT and the SAT. This is because practicing reading comprehension inside and outside of a foreign language class can train you to read critically, just as you should on ACT and SAT.

Better memory recall

Foreign language is a discipline which, at least in the early stages of study, involves a decent amount of rote memorization. Sometimes the easiest way to learn verb conjugation, for example, is to practice with graphics and flashcards. If you are studying German, you may also have had to memorize declensions of adjectives. ACT and SAT also require a fair amount of memorization of content.

Memory is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. Seen from this objective, learning a foreign language can improve your memory. In fact, the cognitive benefits of studying foreign languages ​​have been documented for a long time, with some research indicating that those who speak more than one language have a significant delay in the onset of symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. .

More than just training your recall skills, studying foreign languages ​​can lead you to discover mnemonic devices – tips for working your memory – which you can then transfer to other content areas. For example, those who have studied the Spanish subjunctive may know that acronyms like “WEIRDO” work particularly well when it comes to making associations.

As you get to know yourself as a student and experiment with different study tips, consider applying your results to your test preparation efforts. The benefits of studying foreign languages ​​are numerous, one of the most notable being improving the skills needed for ACT and SAT preparation and your official exam day.

About Norma Wade

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