Students say “¡hola!” to the biliteracy exam

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Emma Caplinger

Junior Sara Albarcha practices her Spanish. On top of learning the Spanish language, Albarcha is proficient in both English and Arabic. “Learning new languages is important, and we shouldn’t stick to the only language that we speak because it’s really not what everyone else is speaking,” Albarcha said.

By taking the biliteracy exam, students had the opportunity to achieve the Seal of Biliteracy, a seal that demonstrates achievement in both English, a language other than English (LOTE) and sociocultural awareness. 

Junior Ulaa Kuziez chose to take the exam for Arabic, a language she grew up speaking. 

“[Arabic] means a lot to me because it’s my family’s language and my country’s language, so I hold those close to me because they are part of my identity,” Kuziez said. “Not only is my country part of my identity and my religion, but also the language I speak and the culture I come from and my heritage.” 

Arabic is one of many languages offered, along with French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Junior Sara Albarcha chose to put her Spanish skills to the test after taking the class for three years. 

“Hopefully, it gives me more opportunities in college to go more into Spanish and learn more about languages and other cultures. I hope to become fluent in Spanish, more than I am now,” Albarcha said. “It’s always good to know more than one language and to know more about other cultures than just your own. I think that it helps you to be more open.”

The test consists of four parts: reading, speaking, listening and writing and takes an estimated four hours. 

“It felt good to practice something I loved and review something that I hadn’t done in a while. I feel happy that there is a program like this that exists, a program that tries to honor students’ languages and their heritage, instead of only helping them assimilate to the American culture and language,” Kuziez said. 

Despite feeling nervous before the test, after completing the exam, Albarcha felt ready to grow in her Spanish knowledge. 

“[I would encourage other students to take the test] to test [their] abilities in the language that [they’re] taking because it might help you realize that you should study more in your class or help you know that you’re ready to go speak out in public in that language,” Albarcha said. “I learned I should practice more, but that doesn’t matter because I can go back to Spanish class and learn.”

Spanish teacher Francisco Navarro understands the importance of learning languages and emphasizes the benefits that it can have on students. 

“[It is important to learn languages] so that you can communicate with many more people–double the number of people that you can talk with. It makes you a more open-minded person in general. You [become] less close-minded, and you are willing to learn new things,” Navarro said.

Navarro believes that earning the Seal of Biliteracy can allow students to prosper in college and in future careers. 

“If a student speaks more than one language, it’s nice for it to be recognized on your transcript. I think it could be something on a transcript that you have that someone else doesn’t,” Navarro said. “It could make you stand out. You can potentially let future employers know that you’re bilingual and can speak another language and can read a language other than English.”

We should not be ashamed of our language; rather, we should be proud of it, and we should continue to pursue it in order to hold onto our identities. It’s really important for immigrants and students from different backgrounds to continue to hold tight to their identities,”

— junior Ulaa Kuziez

As an immigrant, Kuziez feels that language is an important cultural element and the biliteracy exam is a way to embrace it. 

“We should not be ashamed of our language; rather, we should be proud of it, and we should continue to pursue it in order to hold onto our identities. When I was learning [English], I felt that I had to let go of Arabic to be fully assimilated in American society. I’ve come to realize that Arabic is part of my identity, and I’m not going to let go of that to please other people,” Kuziez said. “There is a norm in America for immigrants to completely assimilate to American culture, but that doesn’t mean we need to lose a core part of our identity and an important part of our lives. It’s really important for immigrants and students from different backgrounds to continue to hold tight to their identities.”