When we think about language, most of us probably think about the words we use to speak to each other. However, did you know that there are more than 7,000 languages spoken around the world? Some of those languages aren't even words spoken out loud at all! Many people around the world use sign language, hand signals, writing, images, or other unspoken forms of communication. But language is so much more than just spoken or unspoken words: it's how we communicate and interact with one another, how we express our emotions, build relationships, create a sense of community, and it's part of almost everything we do throughout our daily lives.
The United States is one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world - more than 350 languages are spoken here! In fact, approximately 21% of the U.S. population, or nearly one in every five adults, speaks more than one language. Furthermore, many of these individuals are biliterate - meaning they can speak, read, and write in more than one language.
The Department of Education (PDE) Secretary Dr. Noe Ortega and Second Lady Gisele Fetterman recently celebrated Pennsylvania's rich cultural heritage during a visit to Dallastown Area High School, where they announced the Pennsylvania Seal of Biliteracy (PASB). The PASB is an award presented by a school or district to recognize students who have attained intermediate-high proficiency in English and one or more additional languages upon high school graduation.
The purpose of Pennsylvania's Seal of Biliteracy is to:Recognize the value of world language and dual language programs in Pennsylvania schools
- Affirm the value of cultural and linguistic diversity in our schools and communities
- Encourage family and community support for the development of home languages other than English, as well as the study of additional world languages and cultures
- Encourage all students to acquire proficiency in English and another world language
- Certify intermediate-high proficiency in English and another world language
- Provide employers with a method of identifying candidates with biliteracy skills
- Provide universities with a method to recognize biliterate students
- Promote civic and global engagement
Language gives us the opportunity to form connections and relationships with the people around us. Being bilingual or biliterate only expands these opportunities and helps us forge deeper connections. Think about all the ways you communicate in your daily life, with both spoken and unspoken language, and imagine how knowing two or more languages could broaden the scope of your communication with new friends and neighbors. It's never too late to learn a new language!