Foreign Language Learning and SAT Verbal Scores Revisited


Foreign Languages

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2008


The purpose of the study was to investigate the relationship between foreign language learning and verbal ability in English as measured by the verbal section of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) Reasoning Test. Comparing foreign language students to nonforeign language students in this study, the effect of taking a foreign language on SAT verbal performance differed depending on how a student scored on the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) verbal subtest. Students with lower PSAT verbal scores had the greatest benefit from taking a foreign language, while students with higher PSAT verbal scores had smaller benefits. At the same time, within the range of possible PSAT verbal scores, students who took a foreign language outperformed students who did not. When the focus was on the language taken and the highest level attained by the end of junior year; the main effects for both foreign language taken and highest level were statistically significant though their partial eta squared measures suggested they had relatively low effect sizes. Pail-wise comparisons indicated that outcomes for students taking Spanish were somewhat less than those for students taking Latin and German, and that students who took level III of their foreign language by the end of their junior year outperformed those who reached only levels I or II.