The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

Seal the deal on language fluency with biliteracy exam

WCHS+student+Thao+Nguyen+reviews+French+on+Duolingo+while+at+lunch.+Taking+the+biliteracy+exam+helped+Nguyen+understand+her+French+skills+and+work+to+better+them.
Photo by Rebecca Dean
WCHS student Thao Nguyen reviews French on Duolingo while at lunch. Taking the biliteracy exam helped Nguyen understand her French skills and work to better them.

As the silver confetti streams down, some WCHS students in blue graduation robes can receive a gleaming medal in addition to their diploma. Students desire the sparkling medal that those who have earned the Seal of Biliteracy receive at graduation. However, not many know what this medal means and how they can earn it. The Maryland Seal of Biliteracy gives students the invaluable opportunity to be recognized as bilingual.

The Maryland Seal of Biliteracy is an award that recognizes a student who is fluent in both English and another language. At WCHS, this test is available for juniors and seniors to take during school hours; normally, students take the exam in the auditorium on their Chromebooks either in the fall or in the winter. There are many different languages available, meaning that many different students can be officially recognized for their linguistic abilities.

“We have at least 19 different languages available to test for and over 70 students [this year] who have qualified [for the Seal of Biliteracy],” Teresa Volonte, a Spanish and World Languages Resource teacher who helps organize and proctor the exam for WCHS said. “Students can also qualify through the AP exams for AP Spanish, French and Chinese — if you get a four or five on the AP exam, you can also get the Seal.”

The biliteracy exam is different from AP language exams, but just like the AP language exams, it is usually organized into four different sections: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. The reading and listening sections are composed of multiple-choice questions while the writing and speaking have free responses. Although the long exam can be tiring for students and takes up most of the school day, there are countless benefits to passing or even just taking it.

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“It lets students know where they are doing well in their language and where they are not,” Volonte said. “Colleges love to see this and so students love being able to get this done before or right at the beginning of senior year. It is also something that can be put on a resume for jobs; letting people know that you speak another language can be very valuable.”

The exam is scored out of nine, and a student has to get an average of six from the four categories in order to pass. A score of six is considered high intermediate, and any score above that is considered advanced. After a student takes the test, they will receive a score sheet that explains how they did in each section. Additionally, the test has proven to be a great resource for students to use to learn how to improve their language skills.

“I signed up for the exam because I wanted to test my French knowledge,” WCHS junior Thao Nguyen said. “Once I got my score sheet, I figured out which areas I was familiar with and which I needed to work on. This has motivated me to become a better French student.”

The biliteracy exam is easily accessible to WCHS students; The exam is given during school hours. For juniors, it costs 20 dollars, and for seniors, it is free. This system is very different from an AP language exam as despite exams now being free, students are still often required to take a year-long language class to take the exam.

Although the window for testing is closed this year, interested rising juniors and seniors should plan to take the exam next year. It is a simple and valuable way for students to build their language skills, be recognized for their knowledge of other languages and receive the coveted medal at graduation.

“After taking the exam, I feel confident in certain aspects of my French knowledge and motivated to improve the aspects I struggle with,” Nguyen said. “Don’t be afraid to sign up — it’s a great learning experience whether you pass or not.”

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Rebecca Dean, Assistant Arts Editor
Rebecca Dean is a junior and the Assistant Arts Editor of the Observer. This is her second year taking journalism. She loves to read in her free time. This year, she is excited to further develop her writing skills and meet new people.

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