Latin students score better on critical reading on the SAT

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dead Poets Society - un bon film ma li studie de latin posse semblar tre enoyant a un person qui save solmen ti film!

Most people with any familiarity with the subject know that Latin students seem to score best on the critical reading portion of the SAT:

In 2004, the latest year provided on the Westminster brochure, students of Latin scored an average of 674, whereas students of French scored 642, students of German scored 627, and students of Spanish scored 575.
and stats from the year 2008 also bear this out as well:

Alana Klein, a communications and marketing representative of The College Board, which is responsible for SAT testing, disputed those exact numbers, but scores listed in The College Board’s 2008 report seem to come to the same conclusion.

In it, students of Latin had an average score of 557 in critical reading, which topped the average scores of students of all other languages measured in the report.

According to the College Board, the overall average critical reading score in 2008 was 502.

It's always possible of course that this higher score doesn't result from anything to do with the language itself but the fact that Latin classes tend to include a lot more reading than other more conversation-oriented language classes, or the fact that since there are no native speakers of Latin anymore it's usually much slower and easier to understand, but it then again derivational endings in Latin resemble those in English more than other Romance languages so that could be the reason as well:

veritas vs. Spanish verdad for truth/verity
aqua vs. Spanish agua for water
agricola which corresponds to argiculture, etc.

However, as a natural language studying Latin also involves a lot of verb conjugation and memorizing grammatical gender and cases too, which provide a relatively low amount of information for understanding vocabulary in English. I'd be curious to see whether a language like Occidental has an advantage there in being able to spend only a short amount of time on grammar after which it's pretty much just learning vocabulary and practicing it until you become fluent.


Anonymous said...

Aren't you overlooking issues of self-selection -- students more likely to do well on the SAT may be more likely to take Latin -- and also that schools with excellent resources for equipping students to take the SAT are more likely to offer Latin?

I took Latin and scored pretty close to perfect on the reading section of the SAT, but I don't think it really had anything with taking Latin instead of Spanish.

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