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The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

Gabrielino honors three bilingual seal bearers

    By Annie Phun

    Editor in Chief

      This year, seniors Dylan Rojas, Sohaib Usman, and Shwe Win will graduate from Gabrielino High School with special designations on their diploma honoring their fluency in a language other than English. Rojas and Win have been tested for proficiency in Spanish and Mandarin, respectively, while Usman’s native tongue is Urdu.

      Created in 2008 by the educational advocacy group Californians Together, the Seal of Biliteracy can be obtained in 35 states, along with the District of Columbia. However, the award is still largely unknown.

      “I didn’t know that I was going to get the Seal of Biliteracy until [our principal] Ms. Heinrich called [Sohaib and Dylan] and I into her office to tell us,” stated Win.

      Win speaks Burmese at home with her family but learned Mandarin in order to better understand her the culture and the country she is originally from, China.

      “Learning how to read and write [in Mandarin] were my biggest challenges because, while I get to speak to my parents and friends regularly, I don’t get chances to read and write as much,” explained Win. “There are also thousands of characters to memorize.”

      Similarly, Rojas also faced obstacles while mastering Spanish but did so for the same reasons as Win.

      “At a young age, it was hard to find the motivation to [learn Spanish],” said Rojas. “But I wanted to learn it because I live in a Spanish household.”

      Rojas knows that being fluent in Spanish will help him in the future as he pursues a career in the medical field because Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world next to Chinese. He will be able to communicate to native Spanish speakers and also form a better connection with the people he helps.

      On the other hand, although Usman is from Pakistan and has been speaking Urdu since birth, he still feels immense pride in receiving the Seal of Biliteracy.

      “I always like to talk in my native tongue just to make sure I never forget it,” stated Usman. “My parents also don’t like me speaking English at home.”

      Usman feels that talking in Urdu is an integral part of his culture and plans to pass down his knowledge of the language to future generations.

      “It’s important for me to embrace who I am and where I came from,” said Usman. “Getting this seal reinforces my belief that I should never forget that.”

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    Gabrielino honors three bilingual seal bearers