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CLS Scholars in Okayama, Japan learn about the traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is a summer study abroad opportunity for American college and university students to learn languages essential to America’s engagement with the world.

The CLS Program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand dramatically the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. Students of diverse disciplines and majors are encouraged to apply. Participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship period, and later apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers.

Each summer, CLS provides rigorous academic instruction in fifteen languages that are critical to America's national security and economic prosperity. CLS participants are citizen ambassadors, sharing American values and promoting American influence abroad.


Why You Should Study Abroad with the CLS Program


Key Benefits

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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.

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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.

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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.


  • 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
  • The CLS Program was instrumental in getting me to the proficiency level required for my career. My employer cited my language skills as one of the main traits that made me an outstanding candidate.
    John Krzyzaniak, Persian 2016
  • 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

CLS News and Stories

Announcing the CLS 2021 Finalists

The CLS Program is pleased to announce the results of its 2021 summer competition. We applaud all applicants for the 2021 CLS Program for their commitment to language learning and congratulate the finalists and alternates selected from this impressive pool of students.

Finalists for the...

Posted by Andrew McCullough on March 03, 2021


2020 Alumni Ambassador Year in Review

Despite the unprecedented challenges prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Alumni Ambassadors remained resilient, resourceful, and engaged through the months, working with the alumni community, applicants, finalists, CLS virtual scholars, CLS staff and others in their communities to share...

Posted by Liz Sinclair on January 22, 2021


2021 CLS Alumni Ambassador Application

Are you interested in sharing your experience while supporting and promoting the CLS Program? The application to become a 2021 CLS Alumni Ambassador is now open!

Who are CLS Alumni Ambassadors?

CLS Alumni Ambassadors take leadership roles as active and positive representatives of...

Posted by Liz Sinclair on December 02, 2020


CLS in the Press

What Do We Call This? The CLS Alumni Society Podcast Presents Window to the World: From Chinese Pen Pals to Partners

What Do We Call This? is a podcast project produced by the CLS Alumni Society. In this episode, they explore how two CLS Program alumni--William Yuen Yee (Chinese 2019) and Jessica Jue (Chinese 2019)--created a pen pal program, to strengthen the ways we learn and communicate with people in China. Don't underestimate the power of penpal friendships!

Shared from What Do We Call This? Podcast, April 19, 2021


LSU freshman chosen for global-language program

The U.S. State Department has awarded a Critical Language Scholarship to Louisiana State University freshman Bridget Seghers, a native of Covington, to study Swahili during the summer of 2021.

Shared from The New Orleans Advocate, April 19, 2021


Six Pitt Students Finalists for Critical Language Scholarship

Six finalists for the U.S. Department of State’s 2021 Critical Language Scholarship are students at the University of Pittsburgh—five undergraduate and one graduate.

Shared from Pittwire, April 19, 2021