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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.


  • 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
  • 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

Alumni Profile: Erin Matson

Erin Matson’s journey started with an interest in farming and environmental conservation. After graduating from the University of Chicago with a degree in South Asian languages and civilizations, she began a career in urban farming, co-founding Creciendo Farms, an urban farm bringing fresh...

Posted by Jessica Klink on April 22, 2021


Alumni Profile: Mark Haver

Mark Haver was a student at Florida Southern College, studying political science and marine biology, when he decided to apply for the 2018 CLS Indonesian program. Mark came onto the program as an absolute beginner in Indonesian, but by the end he had the language skills to communicate...

Posted by Jessica Klink on April 21, 2021


Alumni Profile: Laura Sanchez

After Laura Sanchez graduated from the University of Florida in 2017, she was unsure if she wanted to pursue a career in language and international politics, or ecology and conservation. While participating on the CLS Program in 2018, she was able to further explore her interests by signing up...

Posted by Jessica Klink on April 20, 2021


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


CLS in the Press

Congratulations to Francisco Cruz-Urbanc and Afrah Howlader, Selected for Critical Language Scholarships

Drexel University students Francisco Cruz-Urbanc (BA Global Studies '24) and Afrah Howlader (BS Public Health '21, Honors) awarded Critical Language Scholarships

Shared from Drexel University Pennoni Honors College, May 03, 2021


Nielsen Awarded Critical Language Scholarship

Political science major Isaiah Nielsen ’22 was awarded a Critical Language Scholarship to South Korea. This group-based, intensive academic study abroad program prepares students with the goal of representing geographic diversity and a diversity of institutions and fields of study.

Shared from University of Minnesota Morris, May 03, 2021


Four WKU students awarded Critical Languages Scholarships

Four Western Kentucky University students were awarded critical language scholarships that fully fund summer study in intensive language programs.

Shared from Bowling Green Daily News, May 03, 2021