Seal of Biliteracy Tests Allow Students to Test Their Knowledge of A Foreign Language

Isaac Hong, Writer

The biliteracy exams for French, Spanish, and Italian are an offer for language assessment provided by Monroe-Woodbury High School. Through these exams, passing students earn their Seal of Biliteracy award, which is a gold seal on the graduating student’s diploma.
M-W High School provides its students a unique opportunity to expand their linguistic abilities through its world language courses which are Spanish, French, and Italian. These classes range from beginner to more advanced levels.
Students that take these classes will learn how to speak their chosen language as well as the cultures and histories of the countries that speak those languages. Taking a world language course can help students expand their horizons and knowledge of the world, but some students may want to take it a step further.
The biliteracy test gives students a pathway to reaffirm themselves as capable of speaking another language proficiently and being able to comprehend text in that language. Students who pass are awarded their Seal of Biliteracy through organizations that run and sponsor this program locally.
Ms. Saraceno has worked at Monroe-Woodbury High School for 22 years and worked as the world language department coordinator for seven years. She heads the distribution of the biliteracy tests and connects students to companies that provide the exams. She believed that it’s “important for the students that are bilingual to have a measured assessment to show colleges and job interviewers their hard work and talent for language.”
Senior Grace Celaya agreed with Ms. Saraceno’s belief and said, “[The Seal of Biliteracy] goes on the transcript for colleges to see that you are involved in the courses and that you want to continue it into college.”
She added, “I think it’s also good for jobs as well, if you are planning on going into jobs that require a Spanish or biliteracy aspect.”
Another senior, Samantha Apostolico, has a personal reason to be considered biliterate. Her Puerto Rican mother and grandparents spoke Spanish fluently, and she wanted to learn Spanish to speak to them freely. She also said, “I also took this test because I wanted to be able to speak to a larger population of native Spanish speakers, as well as helping me in work by opening up more conversations with coworkers.”
As one can see, taking the biliteracy test can open up more pathways to becoming more interconnected within a culture, and also allows students to increase their prospects of a successful future outside of high school.
Biliteracy tests are also offered in other languages than those solely offered by the school. According to Ms. Saraceno, “This year we tested on Spanish, Italian, and French as well as Korean, Haitian, Creole, Russian, and Ukrainian. In years past, the school tested Serbian, Greek, and Portuguese.”
However, it is worth noting that biliteracy tests for French, Spanish, and Italian are only offered to students in the level five courses of their respective language, which is the highest level of a language course offered at Monroe-Woodbury.
Despite this restriction, approximately 60 students took the biliteracy test this year, and around 60 percent of them passed.
Taking the test was intended to be difficult for the taker, but some students had strategies for getting through the writing, reading, and listening portions.
“My biggest problem was the listening portion of the test because we had to listen to recordings of native speakers, and they talked really fast, so it was hard to really understand what they were saying,” said senior Madeline Williams. “The way I helped myself was that I would pick out keywords that I heard and write those down, and it helped me piece them together and understand what they were saying.”
Although the tests were challenging, senior Gavin Sullivan passed the Spanish biliteracy test. He said it was well worth it because it “was good to get an objective measure of where you are in Spanish because when you’re taking a course you are only being measured based on one unit at a time, so this test provided me a means to give me an objective score to my knowledge.”
Ms. Saraceno also said that the exam “highlights the different cultures and languages we have at Monroe-Woodbury. I value diversity and I value the recognition of hard work and linguistic talent.”