[Maria] Hello everyone. This is Maria Carreira with the National Heritage Language Resource Center at UCLA. This podcast is about the Global Seal of Biliteracy, which is - in my view - one of the most exciting recent developments in the field of foreign languages. And - as we will see in this podcast - it is particularly promising where heritage languages are concerned. And here to tell us about this movement is Linda Egnatz. Linda is the Executive Director of the Global Seal of Biliteracy and she has been a national advocate for the Seal of Biliteracy since 2013, when her home state of Illinois became the third state in the nation to have a Seal of Biliteracy. Incidentally, there are now 36 states that have the seal and the number keeps growing. Linda is also a current board member of the Joint National Council on Languages. And if you attend ACTFL, the name may very familiar to you because she was the 2014 ACTFL National Language Teacher of the Year which is, of course, one of the highest recognitions of our field. Linda, welcome! We are delighted and honored to have you.
[Linda] Excited to be here! Thank you for inviting me.
[Maria] Pleasure to have you here! So, Linda, as Executive Director of the Global Seal of Biliteracy you've been on a campaign to expand opportunities for anyone to earn language credentials. So, I want to start this podcast by asking you essentially: What is the Global Seal of Biliteracy? And how does it expand opportunities to earn language credentials?
[Linda] Thanks. So, similar to the State Seals of Biliteracy, the Global Seal is an initiative that serves to create - based on external testing of two different levels of proficiency - a credential for language learners that are bilingual or multilingual. And so, the idea is that a student can take a test in the second language, can certify through their school in English and then receive a credential that can be used for employment opportunity, or for academic placement, or Advance Placement credit, or - in some cases - even scholarships and internships because it's a document that then serves to tell whoever's listening - in layman's terms - that this personal has language skills in two or more languages.
[Maria] I see. And how is proficiency certified in the Global Seal of Biliteracy?
[Linda] So, similar to state seals, in most cases there is an external test required in the second language, whether that language is English - because the person began with another home language - or it's language they've learned through a classroom, or study abroad, or some other opportunity. And so, outside or external testing is testing that's recognized nationally. So, popular tests would included an Advanced Placement College Board AP test... it would include the Avant Assessment STAMP 4S or the Apple Test, which is administered by Language Testing International through ACTFL. So, there's a number of tests that would measure the proficiency level of the person. And each of these tests that the Global Seal recognizes are tests that are aligned with what we refer to as the ACTFL proficiency scale, which includes the Novice, the Intermediate, the Advanced, the Superior, and - for the very few - the Distinguished Level of Proficiency.
[Maria] And it's done in the four skills, right? Reading, writing, speaking, listening... correct?
[Linda] As much as is possible. That's really what we would like to see. Unfortunately, for some of our less commonly taught or heritage languages there may not always be a four-skill test that's readily available or that is not cost prohibitive. And so, in those cases the Global Seal would accept a combination of an oral proficiency interview and writing proficiency test, or the Avant Assessment WorldSpeak. Both of those languages really expand... or both of those tests, rather, really expand the opportunity for less commonly tested languages to have the same opportunity. They both represent the productive skills. And so, if someone is - let's say - writing at an Intermediate-High level or an Advanced-Low level we can infer that they are reading at that level or even higher.
[Maria] I see. That makes a lot of sense. So, many teachers are familiar with the State Seal of Biliteracy. How is the Global Seal of Biliteracy different? And why is this important?
[Linda] Well, the state seals are incredible and they really are changing what happens in classrooms all across the country, and I'm a very firm supporter of the State Seal of Biliteracy Movement. The difference, however, is that State Seals - in most cases, with just a few exceptions - can only serve the public school student who's in their junior or senior year of high school. And so, in that situation we really leave a lot of people out of the opportunity to access a credential for the languages that they speak and can read and write. So, for example, if someone's enrolled in a private school... if they're in a charter school... a parochial school... if they attend a heritage language community-based school on Saturdays... if they, for example, learned their language outside of a classroom... whether they were in college and really want a work credential for the languages that they speak... [pause] Unfortunately, in most cases the State Seal programs are limiting to those kinds of individuals. Another group that could benefit for the Global Seal would be a language learner in a longer sequence of course work - for example, in dual-language or immersion classes, where they might be able to earn a credential earlier and a second credential later. And for that reason, unlike most of the State Seals that just have one level of proficiency required, the Global Seal offers two. So, we have an Intermediate-Mid level - which is what we refer to as our "Functional Fluency" - and we have an Advanced-Low level - which we refer to as "Working Fluency." And while those aren't particularly academic terms, we chose them intentionally because we want this to not just be a trophy... not something... a one and done... here's your award... you've finished the language learning race. Contrary to that, they are actually at the Intermediate-Mid level finally able to be an independent language user. Albeit, maybe... [pause] They may still struggle a little bit. That's the entry point for having communicative independence. And so, we use that term "Functional Fluency" because they are, in the sense, able to use their language at a functional level. But there are three more levels to go beyond Intermediate and we want them to continue that language learning process. So, for example, maybe an eighth grade capstone in a heritage or immersion program... they might be able to receive their Intermediate-Mid and continue working toward our "Working Fluency" at Advanced-Low as a senior in high school or beyond.
[Maria] And I'm thinking, Linda, for older learners that are interested in entering the labor market - college students, I'm thinking - this might be a very useful test - also from the point of view of potential employers - in that it gives them very precise information about what they can do with the language that they speak.
[Linda] Correct. In fact, we... [pause] Probably about 25% of the current Global Seal recipients are college students. Often times when you apply for work, there's a place to put your... [pause] On the application, you may have a place to indicate the school from which you graduated and a major and minor, but if you don't have a major or minor in language you may not even be able to document your language skills. And so, we think that a document credential is really important and useful. And yes, we are able to transcript each Seal of Biliteracy because we use a serial number code. So, that gives us some further information so we can send that to a university or to an employer but also say a little bit about what kinds of activities that person at that level is able to do in the language.
[Maria] Excellent. This relates to something I saw as I was preparing for this podcast. I came across what I though were three very important descriptors of the Global Seal of Biliteracy. Namely, that's it's consistent, inclusive, and accessible. I think you have, to some extent, addressed these three points already but can you go over them again? In what way is a Global Seal of Biliteracy particularly valuable because... by virtue of it being consistent, inclusive, and accessible?
[Linda] I think consistent is probably one of the most important pieces because each state, for unique reasons, has a different level of criteria... may accept a different kind of qualifying test... [pause] For example, 24 of our states are at Intermediate-Mid level of proficiency but we have 9 states at Intermediate-High... we have some states at Intermediate-Low... and we have a few states that even award a Seal of Biliteracy based on seat time or Grade Point Average. And so, in the case of the Global Seal it is one consistent requirement that crosses not just the 50 states but outside of the boarders of the United States. And so, it is - in that sense - consistent. It's also inclusive because we have not been as strict in the sense that we would provide for a less commonly taught language to be certified, for example, with the two productive domains because we value access and inclusion more highly than, sometimes, the little tiny details. But we still are very, you know, firm on the fact that it does need to be through some external testing. But in that way, we can be more inclusive. We've also included ages. So, it's not what age you are - it's, you know, do you have the skill and can we provide you a credential that is useful to the learner and has meaning for their own personal purposes. In fact, while we did mention that we have certified some college students, we've also certified some teachers that want to access their own language skills...
[Linda] ... as well as some adults that are already out in the workforce. So, it's an exciting opportunity for language learning at any level.
[Maria] Exactly. And I think it's particularly exciting where heritage language learners are concerned. I think these three terms - consistent, inclusive, and accessible - struck me as being particularly important in heritage language teaching. So, can you first start out by telling us what advantages you see for the Global Seal of Biliteracy for heritage language learners?
[Linda] So, I think heritage language learners are probably going to benefit the most from this opportunity because they have the least opportunity in the traditional, you know, public school World Language Department setting. And so, for most heritage language learners there is... they have speaking skills, or writing and reading skills prior to, maybe, that senior year of high school. And so, often... [pause] So, this provides them with an opportunity to document - even as a, you know, eighth grader or sometime in high school - their heritage language learning. That's important for a number of reasons. One of the most important reasons we're discovering is that heritage learners are often precluded from enrolling in a four year university because - especially if they're an English language learner - they've spent so much time in the English language learning class that they have not been able to take advantage of a world language. They have one, it's just not been recognized on a transcript. And so, we're able to provide a document that can serve as that meeting that world language requirement and allow access or entry into a four year university. That's also...
[Maria] So this is something...
[Linda] Go ahead.
[Maria] This is something they can put in a college application - let's say - and boost their chances of being admitted.
[Linda] Absolutely. In fact, you know, if they use the equivalencies, for example, in the state of Illinois... the State Seal of Biliteracy in Illinois counts as meeting a world language requirement. And so, when we can, you know, transfer that same opportunity to other states, that provides those heritage learners in a traditional high school that didn't take a traditional language there an opportunity to have a world language credit. Additionally, we see the opportunity for community-based heritage language programs that may meet outside of the school day or outside of the school week - whether the student is in a public school or in a private school - because these programs often times have not had the opportunity to stand up and be counted... they may not be testing their students... [pause] And this provides them with a reason to retain students who may drop out sooner because they don't see what the value is in continuing their heritage language. There's no reward at the end other than personal satisfaction. So, when you add a credential or a document or an award to that, that really serves to retain those students longer. It's something that parents will be excited about in those programs and - more importantly - it can provide efficacy to the program so that they can prove themselves to be really serving the students and that the students are actually growing and acquiring language at a level that's useful in the workplace and somewhere in the real world. And so, that's a secondary advantage. And I think the third one is that often times, heritage language learners have these incredible home languages that they can speak... they can read and write... but they have no way to document it if it's not their major or minor in college for the workplace. And so, for a number of reasons, heritage learners can really benefit from having a credential. And it's a way to honor their heritage and their language, and give them a reason to be proud of it rather than to shy away from it.
[Maria] Exactly, exactly. I also want to mention that because the Global Seal of Biliteracy is aligned with the ACTFL Proficiency Standards - which are based on functional skills - this is the strong suit of heritage language learners. Heritage language learners may not know how to use grammatical terms or tell you about grammar rules. And they may not be, you know, the most accurate on all grammar features but they have strong functional skills. So, as you say, it's a recognition of what they can do well which is incredible useful in the real world, right? That's what we want out learners to have - functional skills.
[Maria] I also wanted to mention: My college students who are heritage language learners don't necessarily want to be Spanish majors. So, some of them end up taking one or two courses in Spanish because they want to put their language skills to use in another field, you know... typically medicine, business, translation, interpretation... any number of other fields. And what I tell them is that the Global Seal of Biliteracy is something that they can show to an employer to demonstrate that they are highly functional bilinguals. If the employer looks at their transcript... well, it doesn't look so impressive because they'll only have one or two courses in Spanish. But if they add to that the seal, then it just looks much more impressive.
[Linda] Absolutely. In fact, most employers will never even really look at the details of a transcript even if they had even those one or two courses. They tend to find out: What's the major? What's the minor or the specialization? And so, these students that have languages that can add to and differentiate them in the workplace have no way to sort of support that in a visible, tangible way. But almost any application is going to have a place to add awards or certifications. And so, these students now have an opportunity to add their Global Seal along with their other LinkedIn sort of details.
[Maria] That's right, okay. So, now that we've seen that there are significant advantages to individual users and students, as you mentioned... teachers, job applicants, employers... I want to turn to the advantages that the Global Seal of Biliteracy presents for organizations - in particular, language programs or departments. And I kind of see three very valuable uses of this initiative and as I mention them, I want to see what your reaction is... if you want to add to it... or if there are other uses too that you would like to point out. So, one obvious use I see is that the Global Seal of Biliteracy is an externally validated test which means that it's sort of an objective way and consistent way to certify students' proficiency. What departments usually do is use grades, which is kind of an internal way of assessing students. But that has little relevance outside of language departments and, really, means very little in terms of proficiency. So, I see that that's one main advantage that I see of the Global Seal of Biliteracy - that it actually measures proficiency, not just seat time, in a course.
[Linda] That's absolutely true. In fact, testing is probably a better way to do placement for students even if you have transfer students come in. But it also serves not just the program for evaluating a student but it shows the efficacy of the program and the curriculum. And it often times changes the way teachers teach. In fact, a study that was done here in Illinois on the implementation by three different districts of a State Seal of Biliteracy showed that teachers said - the instructors - that there was 38% more use of the "can do" statements... that 65% of them changed instruction and assessment as a result of adopting a Seal of Biliteracy program. So, it really does change those pieces because now there is a practical and, really, a pragmatic through a real world sort of proficiency test to measure whether or not the students are doing those things that will serve them in the work place. But beyond that, we see from the same study - and from others that are just coming out now as well as a lot of anecdotal information - is that it serves to about 30% increase in retention in your language programs. And for heritage programs that could be... or that are often times smaller courses or smaller enrollment... that could be a huge differentiator. And for the high schools that implement these programs, they see a doubling of their Advanced Placement numbers. Students are no longer taking a course to just get seat time or to mark a check off as a requirement met on a transcription but rather they're in it to win it. They're there to actually become proficient and it accelerates their rate of acquisition. And that intrinsic motivation becomes a much more exciting class to teach for the instructor.
[Maria] Those are huge advantages, Linda. And they're really exciting. And, you know, you mentioned that it can help programs evaluate themselves but it can also help them engage in smart curriculum design and smart teaching practices geared towards building proficiency and abilities for using language in the real world - as opposed to, you know, abilities for conjugating verbs in a testing situation... in a classroom situation. A third advantage that I see - and you've already brought this up but I want to bring it up again in a very concrete way - is that it offers a way to be inclusive of languages that are either taught in a very limiting way... the so-called "less commonly taught languages" or that are not taught at all... [pause] And I want to offer an example from my department. Portuguese is a very important language at the global level and yet many departments offer no more than one or two years of instruction in Portuguese, if any. A student who's interested in Portuguese might be able to take those courses and then go on to engage in an independent study to get to a level where they can take the Global Seal of Biliteracy test and perform well. Of course, that's always possible - to learn a lot on your own - but without the incentive of this recognition, it's not as likely that a student will keep going in his or her study of a language like Portuguese or any other number of less commonly taught languages.
[Linda] That's absolutely true. We just see over and over again that students are excited about the award. They see it as an opportunity piece. In fact, in that same study that I references that was published in the Foreign Language Annals... that said... the students said that 65% of students interviewed - both language learners and non-language learners at the high school level - saw that a Seal of Biliteracy would be important for work. And so, they see that as a credential. And that makes all the difference because it does take... you know, there does take individual effort to move sort of past those introductory levels of intermediate to get to a higher level where you'd actually be work proficient. And for our learners that are often tasked at the college level with having major or minor course work in sciences, or technology, or law, or whatever business that might be... many of those benefit from study abroad opportunities on their resumes and could really enhance that opportunity for an internship, or scholarships, or study abroad pieces had they a document to certify a language skill in addition to all the other, you know, things that they might have to offer.
[Maria] As a matter of fact, as I'm listening to you I'm thinking some departments could even consider... [pause] If they're only going to offer two years of a language - let's say Portuguese... having an accelerated Portuguese course that prepares students to take the Global Seal of Biliteracy... [pause] And I'm thinking, in particular, Spanish heritage language speakers can probably - with two years of targeted instruction - go quite far.
[Maria] So, Linda, as we approach the end of this podcast I want to focus on more practical matters such as where to get information about this test, who can take the test, how to go about making arrangements, you know... all these practical bits of information that are important. Can you share some of those with us?
[Linda] Absolutely. Well, the easiest place to find most of that information, as well as information about State Seals of Biliteracy, is only our Global Seal of Biliteracy website and that address is www.globalsealofbiliteracy.net (now https://theglobalseal.com/). And on that page we have information about the process, which is fairly simple. There's an application for the school or organization that would be administering the test. The test is externally validated, which means that it is proctored at this point in time. So, that saves the cost of an additional proctoring service. But it allows the student, then, to take that test in a test-safe environment to be able to certify their skills. There are eight different test combinations that we are currently accepting for that second language. And so, there's a lot of opportunities for the variety of languages that are taught, as well as the availability of the test or the type of test that a learner would like to use to demonstrate their skills. And all of that information is also located on our website. So, once the application is completed and the testing has been done, all we do is we ask that the scores... a copy of the original score report - a group report or an individual report - be sent to us along with a roster form so we can get the spelling of each and every candidates name correct on that transcript and that serial-numbered certificate. And then we send that certificate with the embossed seal... and all to the school directly or to that individual organization. And we do it all for free. So, we don't include the cost of testing but the program is free because we really are about providing access and being able to due that through a language credential for anyone.
[Maria] Wonderful. And you mentioned there was an article that was published in the Foreign Language Annals. Do you remember what year? Or, anything you can tell us about so that our listeners can access it...
[Linda] Yes - 2018, and it is called "The Seal of Biliteracy: Successes and Challenges to Implementation..." or maybe it's "Implementations, Successes and Challenges." It's co-authored - Kristen Davin and myself, and it was published, again, in the Foreign Language Annals. There's a link to the webcast on our www.globalsealofbiliteracy.net website to that. We have a number or research articles posted there.
[Maria] Oh, wonderful! That would be great. Well, this brings us to the end of this podcast, Linda. Thank you so much for sharing this information with us. It really is exciting. I know it'll grow foreign language capacity in this country. It's exactly what is needed. So, that you for all your work on this important initiative.
[Linda] Thank you for letting me share! It's exciting.
[Maria] Bye bye.