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Teaching Certification in Chinese


1. What is teacher certification? How does one become a certified teacher in the State of Michigan?

Teacher certification is the process of becoming legally certified to teach certain subjects in public schools in the State of Michigan.* One can pursue elementary certification and be qualified to teach grades K-8, or secondary education, and be qualified to teach grades 6-12. It’s also possible to pursue K-12, that is, elementary and secondary certification.

The requirements that teacher candidates must fulfill can be found here (for undergraduates) or here for candidates interested in pursuing a Master’s degree.

*(Universities can only offer certifications programs for the state that they are located in, but most teachers find that transferring their certifications from state-to-state is a relatively effortless process).

2. What languages does the University of Michigan certify in?

The University of Michigan offers certification in French, German, Latin, Spanish and Arabic. The School of Education is excited to now offer certification in Mandarin Chinese as of this, the 2019-20 school year. 

3.  What pathways exist to certify teachers to teach Mandarin?

There are three pathways that interested candidates can pursue:

  1. A Bachelor’s degree with certification. Information about that program, its requirements, and how to apply can be found here. (Search for Mandarin Chinese under “Endorsement Areas.”) 
  2. A 3-semester certification program. This program is ideal for candidates who already have a Bachelor’s degree (ideally in Mandarin Chinese) or a Master’s degree in Chinese studies and would like to obtain a teaching certification, but are not interested in pursuing a Master’s degree in Secondary Education (3rd pathway listed below). This pathway would essentially confer a 2nd Bachelor’s degree and a certification to teach Mandarin Chinese. Note: this pathway is essentially the same as the one above, so information about the program, its requirements and how to apply, can be found at the same link as above. 
  3. A year-long Master’s degree with certification. Information about that program, its requirements, and how to apply can be found here.

4. Why should I consider becoming a certified Mandarin Chinese teacher?

Mandarin Chinese is the fastest-growing World Language being offered in schools throughout the U.S., with schools hiring increasing numbers of Chinese teachers to teach students of all ages and levels. Many Americans see Mandarin Chinese as the language of the future, and are pushing for Chinese classes in their schools, with numbers expected to increase to 1 million K-12 students studying the language by 2020. Thus, there are an ever-increasing number of professional opportunities for certified Mandarin Chinese teachers throughout the country and the world. Being a Mandarin Chinese teacher can be an exciting, rewarding and lucrative career. And teaching Chinese presents an opportunity to share language and culture and make a positive impact on the lives of young people. 

5. I’ve read that candidates interested in teaching a language are required to take the OPI exam. What is the OPI and how can teacher candidates prepare for it?

The OPI, or Oral Proficiency Interview, is an approximately 30-minute, unscripted interview that all World Languages teaching candidates are required to take in order to receive their certification. As its name would suggest, the interview is designed to measure the candidate’s oral proficiency in the language that they intend to teach. In order to receive certification in Mandarin Chinese, candidates must receive a minimum score of Intermediate High. The exam is usually taken at the end of the student’s academic program and is scheduled with the help of World Languages Director, Dr. Maria Coolican.

6. What study abroad opportunities exist for students interested in increasing their proficiency in Mandarin Chinese?

Non-native or non-heritage speakers are encouraged to study abroad in order to help increase their proficiency in the language and immerse themselves in the culture. Information about opportunities to study abroad, as well as scholarship and financial aid information, can be found at U-M Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies.  Some suggested programs are listed below:

Year-round Programs:

IUP Chinese Center IUP is an advanced Chinese language program in China sponsored by a consortium of 11 elite North American universities. Located in Beijing, IUP offers high-quality intensive Chinese training with a mission of delivering advanced Chinese language competency for academics and professionals. Features small-size classes and individualized instruction. Offers both Modern and Classical Chinese. Suitable for more mature learners with some study abroad experiences.

ICLP One of the best intensive Chinese programs in Taiwan with a similar format to IUP. Has thorough curricula from elementary to advanced level. Offers both Modern and Classical Chinese.

CET Having study centers located in various cities in China including Beijing, Shanghai, Harbin and Kunming and collaborating with Middlebury College in Beijing, Kunming and Hangzhou, CET Chinese program offers a variety of programs of different length and focus (language, culture, business, etc.), allowing students flexibility to choose programs that meet their own needs.

CIEE Similar to CET, CIEE offers a variety of programs in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing and Hong Kong with varied focus on language, culture, sustainable development, business, etc., giving students opportunities to pursue their individual interests.

Summer Programs:

Princeton in Beijing (PIB) Administered by Princeton University, PIB is one of the earliest summer-only intensiveChinese Programs sponsored by a US university. It is located in Beijing.

Harvard Beijing Academy (HBA) Also located in Beijing, this Harvard University sponsored summer program offers intensive Chinese training similar to PIB, but with one more week of field research.

Critical Language Scholarship Program (CLS) CLS is part of a wider government initiative to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering foreign languages that are critical to national security and economic prosperity. Chinese is one of the critical languages. The program includes intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences designed to promote rapid language gains. There are five cities to choose from: Dalian, Suzhou, Changchun, Xi’an and Tainan

Other US-sponsored Summer Chinese Programs in China:

Columbia Summer in Beijing

Duke in China

China Summer Language Program in Beijing of University of Notre Dame

Yale Study Abroad

7. Where can interested candidates reach out if they have additional questions about becoming certified to teach Mandarin Chinese?

Interested candidates should reach out to Dr. Maria Coolican at, or Diane Aretz at