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School of Education

Overview: World Language Education Programs (Currently Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Latin, and Spanish)

The mission of the World Language Education (WLE) certification program is (1) to promote a community-based approach to world language instruction; (2) to educate teachers who understand different cultures, are proficient in their languages, routinely visit other countries, and can build bridges across nations, races, socioeconomic groups, cultures, and languages; and (3) to certify teachers who are prepared to serve the global needs of increasingly multicultural and multilingual schools and are strongly committed to act for a world in which shared understanding through conflict resolution, negotiation and communication are guiding principles.

There is a growing need for multilingual teachers from diverse backgrounds. The WLE faculty encourages qualified applicants from under-represented groups to apply for admissions to the program.

The objectives of the K–12 WLE program are

  • to provide a philosophy of action designed to promote thoughtful curriculum development and classroom teaching in WLE;
  • to provide regular contacts with the global community and in-service teachers in schools through field evenings, workshops, conferences, and other professional meetings;
  • to provide clinical settings which enhance opportunities for beginning teachers to develop skillful practice and build bridges across languages, cultures, races, and nationalities;
  • to help student teachers use multilingual educational technologies and document their experiences in electronic portfolios and implement research-based practices in their teaching;
  • to provide university instructors and supervisors who are well-versed in WLE, who have an international orientation, and who are both approachable and helpful to student teachers.

Program majors include Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Latin, and Spanish, and may also include Italian and Portuguese if field placements are available in these subject areas (see the text describing these specific programs). Completion of these programs leads to a Bachelor of Science degree in Education with a major in the specific subject area. Wisconsin state licensing regulations require that students are licensed to teach at the early childhood through adolescence (approximately kindergarten through high school) levels.

Program Structure

These programs have four components:

  • Liberal studies/General Education courses expose students to a broad range of academic disciplines
  • Prerequisite coursework prepares students for work in the major.
  • Major coursework offers in-depth study of the subject students will teach.
  • Education coursework includes professional education and teaching methods courses as well as experience in the schools through practica and student teaching.

The four semesters of professional coursework are followed sequentially and taken in consecutive semesters. Because of the program structure, students are expected to have completed most of their major and liberal studies coursework by the start of the professional sequence.

Students interested in World Language Education usually begin their academic careers as School of Education students with a "pre-professional" designation. Current on-campus students wishing to transfer to the School of Education can submit a pre-professional application form at any time during the year. Pre-World Language Education students enroll in liberal studies, general education, and major courses during their freshman, sophomore, and sometimes junior years. Education coursework is reserved for the four-semester professional sequence.

Students generally apply to the professional program during their sophomore or junior years and begin the four-semester professional sequence as a junior or senior in the subsequent fall. Many (but not all) students require five years to complete their degree program.

Immersion Experience 

Participation in an intensive immersion experience is one of the most important and meaningful ways of developing competence in a language. In preparation for the proficiency exam, students seeking certification in a language (except Latin) must participate in an approved immersion experience that emphasizes prolonged and intensive interaction within the target language and culture. 

French, German, and Spanish Education students must complete and document a full-semester (or minimum four-month-long) immersion experience as a prerequisite to being admitted to the professional program. Students seeking certification in Chinese and Japanese must spend at least one academic year living in China or Japan, respectively—also a prerequisite to being admitted to the professional program.

Oral and Written Proficiency Examinations 

Oral and written examinations are required for all world language teacher candidates enrolled in Wisconsin educator preparation programs. Students admitted to the program must provide evidence of completion of an American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) prior to beginning their first student teaching experience in the second semester of the professional sequence. The required proficiency level for student teaching and eventual licensure in Wisconsin is Intermediate High, or above. Latin Education students are exempt from this requirement, see below. 

Since 2011, the Writing Proficiency Test (WPT) has also been required for licensure in Wisconsin and must be completed no later than the third semester of the program. The required proficiency level on this test is also Intermediate High. Students must take and pass the exam for their program area and the scores must be received by Education Academic Services before beginning the final student teaching semester. Students who do not take and pass the exam will not be permitted to student teach. The WPT meets the Department of Public Instruction's content exam requirement, a requirement usually met by taking the appropriate Praxis II test. 

Both the Oral Proficiency Interview and the Writing Proficiency Test are administered by Language Testing International (LTI).

Note: Latin Education students must take a proficiency exam administered by the Classics department prior to beginning their first student teaching experience in the second semester of the professional sequence. This exam will take the place of the OPI and WPT required for certification in other languages.

Program Admission

Limited and competitive admission to these programs occurs once each year in the summer. Students apply between October 1 and February 1, usually during their sophomore or junior years. Applicants must meet minimum eligibility requirements to be considered for selection. Currently these include 54 total earned credits by the end of the spring semester of application; all but six credits in the major completed; a minimum 2.75 cumulative grade point average and also a 2.75 minimum major grade point average (on a 4.0 scale); scores submitted for the Pre-Professional Skills Test (PPST; also called Praxis I); and completed application materials, including verification of the immersion experience, submitted by February 1. Students are admitted each summer to begin the professional sequence in the fall.

For selection purposes the files of all applicants will be individually and holistically reviewed by a panel of world language professionals. The criteria used for evaluation include academic qualifications, career maturity, ability to relate to youth, commitment to all students, and interpersonal skills. See Admission and Application Information: World Language Education for more details.


Students are encouraged to meet regularly with their advisor at Education Academic Services (EAS). All students interested in a School of Education program are assigned a specific EAS advisor. Advisors are located in Room 139 Education Building, 1000 Bascom Mall (call 608-262-1651 to make an appointment). Faculty in the World Language Education program often want to meet with prospective applicants; for contact information, see specific majors.

New freshmen discuss program options with advisors during the Student Orientation, Advising and Registration (SOAR) Program. At SOAR, advisors help students select courses and plan their first semesters at UW–Madison. Recognizing that students often have many academic interests and more than one possible career goal, School of Education advisors help students explore options and maintain academic flexibility. Prospective off-campus transfer students and on-campus students considering teacher education usually meet with an advisor in an individual advising session.

Once admitted to the professional program, students work closely with the program advisor for the specific world language area.