The SATII foreign language tests are incredibly difficult.
I cannot comment for Italian and French, as with the former I have the native speaker bias and, because of that, with the latter I have too much of a "discount" to be able to assess it objectively, but some time ago I reviewed the Hebrew sample and had my girls take it, and I honestly thought it was perfectly on the track.
Do not get me wrong - I generally do not
believe that one can "assess" one's knowledge of a foreign language this way (without considerable written and spoken production), and I generally loathe
this type of multiple choice tests which rarely "prove" anything (as standardized tests in general), but here, for once, I thought they did a pretty good job, at least in estimating what is supposed to be known, and what not. One of my kids is not even what I would call "particularly good at Hebrew", and had that sample been an actual SATII test, she would have passed it. Now, to be fair, she did
have more opportunities than your average kid to use
Hebrew over the years, but then again, she is only 13 and could care less about it, so I suppose it "evens out", i.e. by 18, somebody without her opportunities, but with more interest and zeal and solid high school knowledge would be in pretty much the same situation and thus be able to pass. There were
a few questions I would consider quite tricky, but there were also questions I would consider very basic (as in, "Hebrew I" type of questions), and the questions were voweled (frankly, if the test were up to me, they would not
be voweled). So my impression, at least for Hebrew, was that the test was very passable, actually.
I am not sure how different the tests for different languages are, though. They are not "supposed" to be on a significantly higher or a significantly lower level, but that is a hard balance to keep up with so diverse languages that they offer.
IMO language is meaningless if not connected to history/literature/culture and that's why connecting the two is so valuable. (Easier said than done, I know).
Absolutely, I agree. The point is, in a way, twofold: you want to learn the language itself, but you also want to use that language as means
to learn about the culture "carrying" it, which then again also reinforces the first goal. It can be done if approached in small, digestible chunks, but I also recognize it is very hard to accomplish that outside of the institution or expert oversight and help. Foreign languages are one of the trickiest areas to homeschool, because of that, if you yourself are not rock solid in what you teach. They can
be self-taught to an extent, like everything else, but it is difficult to make up for spoken practice or even to check one's written production (often there are hiding little mistakes which one is not even aware
of, like in music, where you often do not hear
your mistakes unless they are pointed out to you by somebody who does hear them), so such ambitious goals are often not going to work if the whole process is not guided by somebody who knows the language, knows which works and passages to pick when, what would reinforce a particular grammatical content, etc.