Humans Of Venice: The First Venice Student To Receive The Global Seal Of Biliteracy

Ellie Zamir, Co-Managing Editor

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Mia Eliaz is a senior at Venice High School and a World Languages and Global Studies Magnet student. 

She will be the first Venice student to receive the Global Seal of Biliteracy, learning Italian for four years now with Italian teacher Carolyn Wilcox. She also understands Hebrew and English fluently. 

The Global Seal is currently not available in LAUSD and will be piloted next year. Mia is receiving her award through study abroad, taking the ACFL proficiency test, which requires mastery of language and completion of college coursework. She is the first to receive this seal in the district. 

What is the biliteracy award? And how is the Global Seal different from the regular seal? 

In order to be considered biliterate, you need to take a test to prove that you are proficient in the four areas of a language—speaking and producing, understanding, listening, and writing. If you prove proficient or above proficient, you are considered biliterate in that language. 

In my case, I think that the difference was how I received the award and the test being slightly different. I also took it in Italy and the program tested me on all four sections. 

How did you receive this award?

Over the summer, I studied abroad in Italy with CIEE. Before I went to Rome, Italy, I had to take a test so they could see our base level to put us in the correct class so that students can learn and gain from the experience. 

My class was not the highest level class but the one right under.  The lessons were completely in Italian so I learned a lot. On the last day of class we re-took the exam in the Study Center. Since I learned more in the program, I was able to receive a higher score, proving I was proficient in writing, speaking, listening and understanding Italian. It is kind of like the proficiency aspect used in the U.S. for English or for math in state testing.

Has your experience in Italy strengthened your Italian and your understanding of Italian culture—beyond the classroom or beyond what you’ve learned in class?

Learning Italian in Italy is very different from the normal school environment because in class, Ms. Wilcox caters to everyone because not everyone is 100% at the same level. 

While studying abroad all the lessons were fully in Italian. A main part of our course work was to have conversations with the community. During those conversations you  have to ask yourself, do I actually know how to navigate a conversation with Italian locals? At the beginning, I didn’t, but by the end I could.

Who encouraged you to study abroad?

Ms. Wilcox has been talking about studying abroad since our freshman year. During that time someone came to present to my class, and it kind of struck me and I was like,”Whoa—imagine I learn Italian and then go speak Italian in Italy. That would be so cool!”

And in my junior year, she was talking about it a lot, encouraging us to go and telling us to apply. You can tell how much Ms. Wilcox loves the language and the culture and you can tell she loves teaching it to us. So her being this excited that we have this opportunity made me want to go even more, I was craving the experience. And after coming back I understood it helped me insane amounts and it was really fun and cool. I’m very grateful she encouraged us to go and that I was able to have this incredible experience.

Whether it be an entire career focused on the language or just to communicate with others, how do you plan on using Italian (along with Hebrew or English) in a future career? 

I was talking to Ms. Wilcox about it a little when I was applying to colleges. I wasn’t planning on majoring in it, but I am interested in continuing to take Italian classes in college.

So maybe you don’t plan on centering your career around Italian—but when you go to visit Italy, or even decide to work there for a period of time, you will be able to use your knowledge to do your career outside of the United States.

Not everyone speaks Italian—but being given the opportunity to learn a language and be good at it, I obviously want to use it to my advantage and continue to learn and use it along with Hebrew and English.

Do you feel that language learning in schools is important, just as any other subject is? I know that in other countries, even Italy, children are learning English from a young age. Should that be more focused on in schools in the U.S.?

I see the World Languages and Global Studies magnet we have as a gift because a language class is never too stressful and difficult—it’s more relaxed and fun. I feel like my Italian class is connected and we have gained more than just learning a language. 

I think learning a language at a young age would allow students to reach a higher level much quicker. Offering more languages and encouraging students to take multiple years of a language is important—overall just inspiring kids to learn something new. There are lots of crazy job opportunities. For example, if you speak French, you could move to France to work in architecture. You are able to do your job in many places with prior knowledge in the language.

Out of all four components of knowing a language—speaking and producing, understanding, listening, and writing—which do you feel you are strongest in? 

After coming back from Italy, and even the year before, I have noticed that I have become really good at comprehending Italian speaking. Especially this year, because a main assignment in AP Italian is that we have to  listen to an audio recording that later gets incorporated into your argumentative essay. I have also gotten much better at writing and understanding conjugations.

Do you have any advice for someone who hopes to receive this award?

I would say to really pay attention in your language class and gain from the opportunity you have to study another language–and if you put in a lot of hard work over the years it will pay off and you could also receive the award.