Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Seal of Biliteracy: A much needed opportunity for bilingual students

I just learned a piece of news that makes me extremely happy. The governor of Colorado just signed a bill establishing a  Seal of Biliteracy program in that mountain state where I used to live, joining 18 other states that have already adopted it. Beginning in the 2017-2018 academic year, schools in Colorado can voluntarily adopt the Seal and recognize students who have attained proficiency in two or more languages by high school graduation.

As explained in the document in the link below, the program values language as an asset that prepares students for college and career. Online job postings in Colorado for bilingual candidates nearly doubled in recent years and the demand for languages such as Spanish and Chinese has increased exponentially.
Pagosa Springs, Colorado
As a translator and interpreter trainer, I am thrilled that language acquisition and development is encouraged in high school.  In recent years, I taught translation and interpretation in college. A large number of the students taking my classes were heritage speakers; that is, young people who grew up speaking a language other than English at home but did  not have a formal education in the language. These students knew that their language skills could increase their marketability when looking for a job and that they could pursue a career as a language professional. However, the lack of formal education in their heritage language was hard to overcome at the college level and in a program in which excellent language skills are required.  Heritage speakers in my classes seemed to be conscious of their lackings and would tend to not take full advantage of opportunities such as class discussions and providing and receiving valuable peer feedback on how to improve. This bill is also important for other students who are trying to learn a second language. It is a clear message that learning a second language means more work and life experience possibilities.
This link leads to a document that explains the Seal of Biliteracy, its purpose and benefits, and the path to follow for attaining it. It  is worth noting that students who obtain the Seal must be academically proficient in English and in a language other than English, which means that they have a strong academic background, which, of course, increases their chances of being successful in college.
I do hope that both parents and students are informed about this program well in advance so that students can be prepared to take this challenge that might change their lives forever.  

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