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

Applicants for the CLS Spark initiative have been informed of their selection status by email. If you are a CLS Spark applicant and have not received a notification, please let us know by contacting the program at cls@americancouncils.org.

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

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.


  • 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
  • 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
  • "The Persian language opens a door to a universe of wonders within the collective history of humankind."
    Shabbir Abbas, Persian 2020
  • 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

CLS News and Stories

CLS Student Spotlight: The Joy of Being a Beginner Again with William Yuen Yee
For William Yuen Yee being a beginner again is a challenge he embraces wholeheartedly. After dedicating over a decade to Mandarin Chinese, participating in CLS Chinese in 2019 and NSLI-Y in 2018, William dove headfirst into learning Indonesian and is currently participating in CLS Indonesian hosted…

August 03, 2022


Announcing the 2022 CLS Spark Awards
The CLS Program is pleased to announce the results of its inaugural CLS Spark competition. We applaud all applicants to CLS Spark for their commitment to language learning and congratulate the finalists and alternates selected from this impressive pool of students. Finalists for CLS Spark were sel…

August 03, 2022


CLS Student Spotlight: Snake Bites, Public Health & Arabic with Chloe Vasquez
What do snakes, public health and the Arabic language have in common? Ask CLS Arabic scholar Chloe Vasquez! Chloe is participating in CLS virtually from San Jose, Costa Rica while creating a documentary on snake bites and Costa Rica’s health response. When Chloe’s mom was bitten by a pit viper in O…

August 01, 2022


CLS Advisor Chat: Brenda Tooley
Meet Brenda Tooley! As CLS Advisor at Grand Valley State University and Associate Director of the Center for Undergraduate Scholar Engagement, Brenda inspires students to go after fellowship and scholarship opportunities that will set them up for academic and professional success. She is a strong b…

July 11, 2022


CLS in the Press

Meeting of Giorgi Amilakhvari and Khatuna Kvitsiani with the American Students in the US State Department of State Program

CLS Program scholars visited the Parliament of Georgia and met with the Chair of the Education and Science Committee Giorgi Amilakhvari and committee member Khatua Kvitsiani.

Shared from Parliament of Georgia, August 08, 2022


First-Batch CLS Student and Fulbright Research Grant Winner David Anderson Reflects on his time at Okayama University

David Anderson (Japanese 2019) paid a visit to Okayama University President Makino Hirofumi before returning to the US, where he will continue his studies at Harvard University.

Shared from Okayama University, August 08, 2022


Coming-of-age Ceremony at the Confucius Temple is a New Experience for American Students (孔廟成年禮 成大美籍生新體驗)

(This article is in Chinese) CLS Chinese scholars in the CLS Program in Tainan, Taiwan participated in a traditional coming-of-age ceremony.

Shared from China Daily News, August 08, 2022