Companies need people who speak a second language well enough to engage a customer or negotiate a contract. But fluency is hard to measure and tough to achieve, area educators say.
A seal of multilingual proficiency for the region's high school students aims to provide some measure — and assurance — of bilingual proficiency, according to program officials, but achieving it still will be tough.
The program was developed in 2008 by Long Beach-based Californians Together. Ceres Unified adopted its own version more than a year ago, said Jay Simmonds, Ceres assistant superintendent of student support services.
Irma Bravo Lawrence of the Stanislaus County Office of Education spearheaded an effort to spread the program throughout the county.
Monday is the county office's first informational meeting about the program. It is open to the public but targets language teachers and school district decision makers, officials said.
School districts in the county interested in the program must opt in to offer it to their students.
The goal is to provide bilingual high school graduates with a seal on their diploma and a notation in transcripts "that these students can really navigate that language," said Sue Rich, assistant superintendent for instructional services.
"Our kids at 17 or 18 will have to speak more than one language," county office administrator Rick Bartkowski said. "Look at the technology. You may be interacting with people all over the world through (Internet phone) or your laptop."
The seal is available to English speakers who become fluent in a foreign language and speakers of other languages who become fluent in English. Either way, the hurdles are high.
In Ceres, students must take four years of a foreign language and earn a B grade or better each year. They also must pass an Advanced Placement exam, Deputy Superintendent Mary Jones said.
Each district can modify its program, Rich said, but the basic format requires students to submit an essay-style application. The school verifies their scholastic credentials. Then students must pass an interview in the target language and an on-the-spot essay.
If students can clear those hurdles, they'll earn a seal of approval.
On the Net: www.californianstogether.org.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2339.