Did you know you can receive up to 4 high school credits just for speaking a language besides English? That includes your home language!
Great question! Millions of students around the country are maintaining home language, so there is no shortage of people to meet and connect with! A few ideas to get you started:
+ Locally: Talk to other students at your school. You’d be surprised how many other students speak two or more languages. Since schools in the U.S. tend to focus on English, students don’t often have a chance to discuss what goes on at home. At the very least, students who are taking English Language Learner (ELL) classes are definitely fluent in their home languages and may appreciate other students welcoming them.
+ Attend community events. Your ethnic community may have events where you can meet others who are trying to keep your home language specifically!
+ Sign up for our newsletter. The SPEAK YOUR LANGUAGE newsletter is written for students, their families, and the educational community. In it, we often list area events celebrating bilingualism (specific language communities, and cross-community events, too). If you get a chance to attend bilingual events, you will meet other students and families who care about home language as much as you do.
+ Follow #SpeakYourLanguage and #BilingualPride, two of our popular hashtags on twitter. Here, we post news and ask others to share their stories, so we can celebrate bilingual life together. If you post about your home language experiences, you may find that others respond to you and share their experiences, too!
To study for your exam, remember that every bit of practice helps. In addition to formally studying with a textbook or other language learning materials, remember that some of your best teachers are around you!
+ Ask your family to speak with you in home language only. This might be a challenge at first, but you’ll find that pushing yourself to answer in your home language instead of flipping to English will make your language muscles work harder. You’ll find ways to express yourself using the words you do know!
+ Make language flash cards. Carry them around with you and practice them when you are waiting in line!
+ Look online for language apps. Apps like DuoLingo may help you practice in 5-10 minute increments whenever you have time.
+ Attend community events. As much exposure as you can get to your home language right now will help. Anywhere that allows you to listen or speak will help you strengthen your language skills.
+ Watch films in your home language. (Use it as a fun family activity!)
+ Listen to popular music in your home language. If you don’t know where to find some, consider using a resource like Radio.Garden (http://radio.garden/) to find a radio station in another country!
There are so many ways to do this!
+Join our campaign by signing up for our mailing list. We’ll notify you when there are opportunities to celebrate bilingualism with us.
+Start a Bilingual Club at your school, including students of all different backgrounds!
+Encourage your school, community center, or church to host a school event to talk about home language. Offer to speak about your own experiences and why keeping home language is important to you!
+Post on social media. Use hashtags like #SpeakYourLanguage and #BilingualPride to spread awareness
+Share your story. Consider coming to one of our public events to give a testimonial about how being bilingual has helped you.
+Spread the word to other members of your community, parents and students alike, so that more students take advantage of the World Language Credit program
Your ability to speak more than one language will help you in a number of ways. First, retaining your home language provides a strong connection to your family, your community, and your culture. So there are personal reasons to maintain your home language!
Bilingualism will also give you new and different skills. Research shows us that bilinguals are great problem solvers and have a number of other skills as a side benefit of their bilingual brain!
Speaking more than one language will make you even more desirable to employers when it’s time to find a job. This is true for jobs of all kinds, whether they are highly skilled, professional jobs or other service positions. Companies that require customer interaction need employees that can communicate well with a wide range of customers – and that means they need employees who know different languages. In fact, a recent report stated that the demand for bilingual workers has doubled recently! Some states, like California, Oregon, Texas, and Colorado, have an even higher demand for bilingual workers than elsewhere in the nation.
Finally, not that you’re thinking that far ahead, but some research is showing us that bilingualism may also slow down negative aging effects on the brain.
Every language is important, not just the most popular ones! You may know a language that fewer people in the world know, which makes it prized and it would seem even more important to guard and protect that language. If we do not take care to protect home languages, we risk losing them completely.
There are a number of wonderful resources to help you maintain and improve your home language skills. Many communities have Saturday schools or similar weekend/evening programs to help students of all ages practice home language. UW and community colleges also offer a wide range of language classes (you may even be able to earn credit for these!) There are also local meetups of individuals who want to practice a language together; they may meet at a coffee shop or community center to work on their language skills in a conversational setting.
If you are comfortable doing so, start at home! Ask your family members to speak your home language with you. While doing simple chores around the house or eating a shared meal, you will have countless opportunities to practice and develop your home language. Attend community events, speak with your elders, listen to music, watch movies in your home language with your family, and find other ways to do day-to-day activities in your home language. Before you know it, you will feel your language skills getting stronger!
It’s difficult to speak a language perfectly; few people do! You do not need to speak completely fluently in order to receive the benefits of being bilingual. And you don’t need to be perfect in order to get World Language Credits – you may not get all four, but you may get some, and every credit counts! You’ll want to practice as much as you can before the exam, but it may be worth testing. If you don’t get the test results you want, take some more time to speak and read and write your home language, then come back and retest again later.
Most students will find they improve their home language fluency through simple practice such as talking with your family or friends in the home language while doing chores such as washing dishes after dinner. Ask your parents to tell you stories in your home language. Transitioning your day-to-day activities into the home language will probably help you improve your home language fluency immediately. While speaking perfectly is a wonderful success, you do not have to speak your home language fluently to get the benefits of bilingualism!
You should do what makes you most comfortable. However, many adults who gave up their home language as a teenager later regret doing so. Why? Because there are so many benefits to speaking your home language: brain benefits, academic recognition, better job opportunities, and of course a secret language you can speak anytime!
If you maintain your home language, you may be eligible to test for up to four (4) World Language Credits and receive a Seal of Biliteracy, if applicable. These are huge educational benefits that move you closer to graduating high school on time (and World Language Credits are required by most four-year colleges).
Speaking your home language may make it easier for you to learn other languages (including English). More and more people are speaking multiple languages in the United States – over 21% of students are speaking something other than English at home, so speaking your home language is cool again. Don’t miss out!
No! Studies show that if you maintain and learn to read and write in your home language, it may make learning a second language (here: English) easier for you. The research also shows that you will succeed in learning English whether or not English is what you speak at home.
There are actually a lot of other benefits to being bilingual, too. Did you know bilingual people are more creative? That they’re better at problem solving than monolingual speakers? There are many benefits to having a bilingual brain, from physical benefits to job market benefits, so if you can keep up your home language, you will be glad you did!