Advocacy - Purpose
The Seal of Biliteracy is given by an educational or governmental unit to honor and recognize a language learner who has demonstrated proficiency in English and one or more other world languages. Its purpose is to encourage lifelong language learning, motivating students to develop and showcase their biliteracy in English plus at least one additional language1 . The Seal of Biliteracy recognizes the linguistic resources that students develop in homes and communities as well as through a range of educational experiences. The Seal acknowledges and communicates the value of the nation’s diversity in language assets. It encourages language learners to maintain and improve their first or heritage language while also acquiring proficiency in additional languages. The Seal of Biliteracy builds upon strong research about the benefits of mastery of two or more languages for individual students, and the increasing awareness of the need in our communities, state, nation, and world for people with biliteracy and cross-cultural skills. It will benefit learners in the labor market and the global society while strengthening intergroup relationships and honoring the multiple cultures and languages in a community.
The Seal of Biliteracy is awarded based on demonstrating proficiency in at least two languages. All languages should be eligible, including sign languages such as American Sign Language. Proficiency describes what a learner can do in a specific language and is not dependent on acquiring the language through a formal course of study. The term “language learners” includes native speakers of English learning additional languages and native or heritage speakers of languages other than English adding English to their native or heritage language.
Key elements of the Seal of Biliteracy are:
- All human languages qualify for the Seal of Biliteracy
- Proficiency at a level specified by each state (or school) is to be demonstrated in two or more languages, one of which is English2
- Qualifying for the Seal is possible regardless of when, where, or how people learned the languages in which they are seeking to obtain the Seal of Biliteracy
- Collectively and collaboratively, educational institutions need to ensure that all learners, including English language learners, have access to high-quality progms that support the development of proficiency in English and other languages
- Community-based language programs can be integral to help their students develop learners’ home, heritage, or native languages other than English to the level of proficiency needed to qualify for the Seal of Biliteracy
- Individual student initiative is encouraged to help students qualify in languages they are passionate about regardless of whether or not they have a heritage connection to that language.
Eligible educational institutions or school districts – which may include public, private, independent, charter, community-based, or weekend schools3 – are generally the vehicle for confirming the qualifications of learners to achieve the Seal of Biliteracy. To ensure equity of access, schools need to be proactive in promoting the Seal of Biliteracy to ALL learners and offering a variety of options for achieving and confirming the level of proficiency required in English and one or more additional languages. Schools should make a strong effort to recruit all students for the Seal of Biliteracy, Guidelines for Implementing the Seal of Biliteracy – October 2020 regardless of their home language(s). English native speakers should be encouraged to develop proficiency in another language besides English. English learners should be encouraged to maintain and improve proficiency in their home or heritage language(s) and be provided access to high-quality English language and literacy development programs. Schools should support heritage language development with additional instruction or after-school activities, and, whenever possible, enlist the support of community members, businesses, and non-profit groups. Further, schools in partnership with state and local educational agencies should ensure that families and heritage communities are informed about the Seal of Biliteracy. Communications could be translated into the heritage languages relevant to the local community. Schools and districts should make a special effort to publicize and celebrate the achievement of language learners in their community. Such celebrations will change the culture of deficit thinking to recognize language learners – regardless of their first or second languages – are an asset to schools, communities, and the workforce.