Multilingualism a growing skill among OC students

California’s schools are quickly realizing the benefits of helping students become fluent in a second language besides English.

In Orange County, this growing trend can be seen in the rapid increase of students graduating with a State Seal of Biliteracy stamped on their diplomas.

The Seal of Biliteracy was established in 2011 to “recognize high school graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing in one or more languages in addition to English.”

The latest state figures show of the 35,390 OC students from the high school Class of 2017 who graduated, 7,349 earned a Seal of Biliteracy. Just five years ago, fewer than 1,000 students earned this Seal upon graduation.

It’s part of a growing educational movement to encourage students to master a second language upon graduation, with researchers and education experts concluding that brain development can improve when students learn a new language. This also provides them with the ability to better communicate with and understand others around the globe.

“Students who speak more than one language and are fluent do better in school and have stronger college admissions test scores than those who are not,” Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares said in a video on the subject posted last year.

“They are more apt to pursue higher education and complete a college degree than students who are monolingual,” he said.

Districts across the county have been adding new dual immersion programs almost every year. They include programs in Spanish, Chinese Mandarin and Vietnamese.

A goal of dual immersion programs and the Seal of Biliteracy is to help the U.S. catch up with other countries, where multilingual students are far more common. Currently, only 20 percent of the United States population speaks a second language in addition to English, whereas 55 percent of the population in Europe speak a second language.

“Students are now facing a global market,” Mijares said, “and as future entrepreneurs, their chances for success will be greatly enhanced by their ability to speak not only English but a second language.”