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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.

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
  • 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 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

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


Alumni Profile: Marcus Dunn

Marcus Dunn is an alumnus of the 2011 CLS Korean program in Jeonju, South Korea. His summer on the CLS Program followed his final undergraduate year at the Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture, where he studied Fine and Studio Arts. He also holds a master’s degree in painting...

Posted by Liz Sinclair on November 24, 2020


CLS in the Press

Critical Language Scholarship Winner Sarah Schlosser to Study Hindi Virtually This Summer

University of Iowa MFA student (book studies) Sarah Schlosser of North Canton, Ohio, has been awarded a 2021 U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) for a summer virtual intensive language and cultural program in Hindi.

Shared from University of Iowa, April 06, 2021


Education Achievers

Hopkinton resident and Connecticut College senior Devon Rancourt was recently recognized by the U.S. Department of State with a 2021 Critical Language Scholarship. Rancourt, a Slavic studies and history double major who previously won a first CLS scholarship in 2019, will use the award to take virtual, intensive Russian classes with the KORA Russian Language Center in Vladimir, Russia.

Shared from Metro West Daily News, April 05, 2021


‘Championship School’: These students are giving Title Town a whole new meaning

While the basketball team advanced to the Sweet 16 and the gymnastics team advanced to the national championship, several UA students were receiving national awards for their own academic achievements. Jackson Burns, Ann Williams and Samuel Watson each received the Critical Language Scholarship through the U.S. State Department to continue their linguistic education overseas this summer.

Shared from The Crimson White, April 05, 2021