Critical Language Scholarship Program | Homepage
U.S. Flag   State Department Seal   A Program of the U.S. Department of State

The Application for the 2023 CLS Program is closed. The deadline for applications was November 15, 2022 at 8pm Eastern Time.

The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is an immersive summer opportunity for American college and university students to learn languages essential to America's engagement with the world.

The CLS Program provides opportunities for American college and university students to study languages and cultures essential to America's engagement with the world. 

Each summer, American undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities across the country, spend eight to ten weeks learning one of fourteen languages at an intensive study abroad institute. The CLS Program is designed to promote rapid language gains and essential intercultural fluency in regions that are critical to U.S. national security and economic prosperity.

CLS Spark, an initiative of the CLS Program, provides opportunities for American undergraduate college and university students to study Arabic, Chinese and Russian virtually at the beginning level. 

Designed to leverage best practices in online language learning, CLS Spark provides students with the opportunity to study critical languages virtually when they may not have access to studying these languages on their campuses.

The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government. It is supported in its implementation by American Councils for International Education.

What Alumni Say About the CLS Program

Key Benefits

Speech Bubble Icon
Develop Key Expertise

The CLS Program provides its scholars intensive language and cultural instruction in an environment designed to maximize their language gains at every level.

Two People Icon
Career Ready Skills

Alumni apply their critical language skills in a variety of professional fields in public and private sectors as well as government, helping to support America’s competitiveness across the board.

United States Map Icon
Citizen Diplomacy

CLS scholars represent the breadth and diversity of the United States. Through personal engagement they help to spread American values and develop mutual understanding with the people of other countries.

  • Just having conversations with people and being open with them about what we did culturally where I’m from; I’ve always wanted to share that with people.
    Marcus Dunn, Korean 2011
  • Diplomatic representation of the monolith that is the United States military is very similar to the citizen diplomacy aspect of the CLS Program. You cannot begin to understand culture without the language component. With the CLS Program, you gain authenticity by learning the language.
    Andrea Howard, Azerbaijani 2015
  • "I had always been interested in learning about Brazilian culture and Portuguese language and CLS made that a reality for me."
    Max Courval, Portuguese 2020
  • "The Persian language opens a door to a universe of wonders within the collective history of humankind."
    Shabbir Abbas, Persian 2020

CLS News and Stories

CLS Alumni Selected for Marshall, Rhodes, and Schwarzman Scholarships
At the end of December, the CLS Program was thrilled to learn that several CLS Alumni were selected for highly competitive awards to support their graduate studies.  Kyra Jasper (Indonesian 2021) was named one of the 40 individuals selected to be 2023 Marshall Scholars. With approximatel…

January 06, 2023

2022 Alumni Ambassador Year in Review
In 2022, Alumni Ambassadors brought enthusiasm, expertise, and generosity of time to their roles supporting the CLS Program and promoting language study in their communities. We are always grateful to Alumni Ambassadors for their commitment to the program and enjoy preparing this overview of acco…

December 30, 2022

Alumni Spotlight: Emma Tobin
Communications Officer Rori DiFiore had the opportunity to speak with 2019 Arabic alumna Emma Tobin on how learning a critical language has allowed her to become a stronger advocate for women’s issues.  Emma talks about growing up as a third culture kid, where her interest in Arabic orig…

December 21, 2022

Forging Connection through Art and Language in Korea
Submitted by Channah Lohman (Korean 2022). Channah studies Communications and Anthropology at University of Central Florida. She hopes to one day channel her love for art and Korean language into a career fostering mutual understanding between different cultures and countries. Channah participated …

December 15, 2022

CLS in the Press

Critical Language Scholarship winners Donika and Hannah discuss their experiences

Community College of Philadelphia students Hannah Mc-Kay Simmons (Chinese 2022), an International Studies major, and Donika Campbell (Arabic 2022), a Respiratory Care Technology major, talk about why the CLS Spark program is a worthwhile opportunity for students.

Shared from Community College of Philadelphia, November 22, 2022

Podcast: Introducing Drum Tower

Alice Su (Arabic 2013) co-hosts the Economist's new weekly podcast "Drum Tower," in which correspondents from the Economist analyze the stories at the heart of China and its changing role in the world.

Shared from The Economist, November 14, 2022

‘Cultural excursions’ in South Korea | Penn State student shares experiences studying abroad, regaining his heritage

Juntae Rocker (Korean 2022) talks about his experience on the CLS Program in Busan.

Shared from Daily Collegian, September 22, 2022