Languages in Washington State
What Languages are Spoken in Washington State?
Washington state is home to speakers of dozens of languages. Based on the data from OSPI Migrant and Bilingual Education,
the top 15 languages most frequently spoken by students who qualified for
English Language Learner services in 2009-10 included: Spanish (61,558), Russian
(4,150), Vietnamese (3,592), Somali (2,260), Ukrainian (2,197), Chinese (all)
(1,773), Korean (1,603), Tagalog (1,237), Arabic (971), Punjabi (902), Cambodian
(788), Chinese-Cantonese (729), Marshallese (607), Samoan (596), Amharic (546),
Chinese-Mandarin (508), Chinese-Unspecified (499), Japanese (480), Rumanian
(398), French (392), Nepali (345), Mixteco (316), Lao (306), Hindi (301).
To find out about other languages spoken in our state, visit the Modern Language Association Language Map and select Washington.
What Languages are Taught in Washington State?
For data on languages taught in K-12 schools in Washington state, visit the Mapping and Enhancing Language Learning (MELL) project at the University of Washington, which is surveying schools to learn what languages are taught where in our state. This project offers Reports on the Data from Surveys collected, as well as Maps showing which languages are offered by county. MELL also sponsors Events, such as the World Languages Summit, then posts presentations and handouts on the site.
Which districts require world language credits for high school graduation?
As of November 2012, the State Board of Education reports that the following
districts require world language credits for high school graduation (# of
credits required is in parentheses): Highland (4), Inchelium (2), Kalama (1),
Klickitat (1), Mabton (2), Toledo (2), Tukwila (2), Valley (4), Wahluke (1),
Waterville (2), Wilbur (1), Wishram (2). To help you locate these districts, view a
district map. To learn more about them, view the
School District Directory (PDF).
Are kindergartens required to offer World Languages?
Washington schools that receive state funding for full-day kindergarten are
required to provide experiences in a world language other than English. For more
information and ideas for getting started, see
World Language Experiences or
download the brochure
Kindergarten World Language Experience (PDF). Or feel free
to contact the World Languages Program Supervisor
What is Dual Immersion?
A Dual Immersion program is an instructional program model that provides content-based instruction to students in two languages. The goal is for the students, over a number of years of participation in the program, to become proficient and literate in both languages, while also meeting high academic standards in all subject areas. Other terminology that you may have heard used for one of the variations of this type of program model is Dual Language, Two-way Dual Language, One-way Dual Language, Partial Immersion, Full Immersion, etc. To learn more, visit
How do I become a World Languages Teacher?
Prospective world languages teachers need to earn a Washington State Teaching Certificate with a P-12 Designated World Language Endorsement in order to teach in a public K-12 school in Washington State and be considered “highly qualified.” Here are some steps to guide you:
- Review the OSPI Teacher Certification page to understand the requirements.
- Check the Residency Certificate requirements (if this is your first certificate).
- Identify which College/University Educator Program offers an endorsement in your World Language.
- Consider whether
Alternative Route Certification might be appropriate for you and your
language. (Currently, Chinese and Arabic are designated as “high needs”
subjects in Seattle Public Schools.) For more detailed information, visit
Pathways to Becoming a Teacher in Washington.
- Review the
World Language Endorsement Competencies – what you’ll need to know and be able to do to earn your World Language Endorsement.
- Review the Teacher Assessments required for the endorsement. In
particular, you’ll need to complete:
- WEST-E (Washington Educator Skills Test – Endorsement) for
Designated World Languages offered by Pearson Education, Inc.
(Information about qualifying scores, frequently asked questions, test dates, testing centers in Washington and test registration for the WEST-E can be found at
- ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview and Writing Proficiency Test offered through
Language Testing International (or for
Latin, the WEST-E for
Note: If you want to teach in an elementary language immersion program, you’ll also need to earn a K-8 Endorsement so you can teach content subjects like Math, Science, and Social Studies in the immersion language.
Download the handout
How do I become a World Languages Teacher? (PDF)
I am already a certificated teacher in Washington State. How can I earn a P-12 Designated World Language Endorsement?
If you are already certificated, then the process is much shorter. Here are some steps to guide you:
- Review the information on
Adding an Endorsement to determine which
Pathway applies to you.
- You will likely need to take both the WEST-E for World
Languages and ACTFL OPI and WPT (see links above).
- If Pathway 1, submit an
- If Pathway 2, contact a
college that offers the Pedagogical
Assessment for World Languages.
Note: If you have trouble locating a college, contact email@example.com.
What are the World Language Standards, EALRs, and GLEs?
OSPI has adopted Learning Standards for World Languages. These standards are intended to provide general guidance for districts as they develop their world language programs. The state has not defined Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs) or Grade-Level Expectations (GLEs) for World Languages.
Are there any State Tests in World Languages?
There are no required state tests for students in World Languages. However, OSPI is beginning to work with schools and districts to make use of a variety of World Language Assessments.
Can students earn high school credits for a language that they learned outside of school?
Quite likely. Visit Competency-Based Credits to learn more.