Multilingual Initiatives

Two states—Utah and Delaware—have launched their own programs to promote multilingualism. Further, 22 states (including Utah) and Washington D.C. recognize bilingualism when a student graduates from high school, and several more are developing similar initiatives.


In 2007, Utah passed Senate Bill 80, creating the Critical Languages program—a first step toward various initiatives focused on creating multilingual citizens, based on the idea that multilingualism comes with added social and economic benefits. To this end, Utah passed Senate Bill 41 in 2008—the International Initiatives bill—that amended Bill 80 by creating an elementary Critical Languages program. The program was named the Utah Dual Language Immersion (DLI) program and offers incentives to schools and districts to implement mandatory one-way and two-way bilingual immersion programs in the elementary school years. The DLI program also offers a continuation into the secondary years, for which students must take two courses in the immersion language in grades 7–9.


In 2012, Delaware launched the World Language Immersion Program, a K–12 initiative that funds one-way and two-way bilingual immersion programs in Spanish and Mandarin Chinese, with an emphasis on providing students with multilingual skills to be competitive in the global workforce. The program, spearheaded by Governor Jack Markell, began an ambitious Expansion Initiative in 2012, which aims to expand the scope of the program by reaching more schools and adding additional languages. Additionally, in 2006, the Delaware State Board of Education approved a two-unit minimum world language requirement

for all students graduating high school, starting with the 2015 graduating class.

Seal of Biliteracy

As of July 2016, 22 states and D.C. formally recognize students’ bilingualism at graduation (California among them), and six more states, including Massachusetts and Delaware, are in the process of developing similar initiatives. The Seal of Biliteracy is a relatively new campaign that seeks to support student biliteracy by recognizing students who are proficient in two or more languages by high school graduation. The campaign was initiated by Californians Together in 2010 as a way of shifting education conversations to treat students’ multiple languages as assets, rather than deficits by highlighting the benefits of achieving biliteracy. The Seal is intended to make bilingual students more attractive to universities and employers, to entice students to study other languages, and to protect the cultural heritage of ELLs’ native languages.