Dept. of Public Instruction implements language award program


Showing students the value of learning about multiple cultures and languages, that’s the goal of a new award program through the Department of Public Instruction.

Implemented this year, the Seal of Biliteracy gives school districts the opportunity to award students for proficiency in a second language.

The NDDPI joined more than half of the country in adopting this recognition.

The seal would be pressed onto diplomas of students who have demonstrated their expertise in a language other than English.

It would prove that not only did they pass foreign-language courses, but they can put their skills to use. 

French teacher at Minot High School, Jennifer Kalmbach, says there’s much more to learning a language than simply speaking it.

She says learning about other cultures is a valuable tool in life beyond school walls.
“I think today with everything that’s going on, we need to learn tolerance and patience and understanding of other people.”

When it comes to education, she says it’s one of the best ways to challenge the brain, and some students agree with both aspects.

“I think that studying a second language is just such great brain development,” said Kalmbach. “It’s a complex, complicated task learning to speak in another language. If you can do that, you can probably do calculus.”

“I think it’s important and applicable in all parts of life. You can use it no matter what job you have,” Minot High School senior Allison Lepp, who has taken both Spanish and French, said.

Fellow senior who has formerly learned Hawaiian and now Spanish said, “I’m not going to lie, it is hard. I have been up and down like a rollercoaster with my grade in Spanish, but I definitely do understand and appreciate it more now than I did when I first started the class.”

Lepp added, “I think being aware of other cultures is important.”

That’s where a Seal of Biliteracy stamped on a diploma could come in handy.

The DPI says the acknowledgment would help employers or colleges identify which students are especially skilled in a second language.

“The world and its globalness has become small with the touch of a button. We’re communicating in other countries and languages,” Kalmbach said. “The job market, even, is getting to be a more global thing.”

Susan Ogurek at Job Service North Dakota said there is one local major employer that she knows of–Cognizant–looking for Spanish-speaking candidates. The company’s Fargo location, however, may seek out French-speaking candidates.

Nationally, the demand for workers to know more than one language more than doubled from 2012 to 2017, according to a report by the New American Economy.

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