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Congratulations 2023 CLS finalists!

In 2023, we selected approximately 500 competitive American students from 245 institutions as CLS finalists. Read our announcement.

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

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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.

  • "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
  • 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

CLS News and Stories

CLS Student Spotlight: Thai Nguyen
Since middle school, Thai Nguyen has been captivated by Russian history. Ask the average person to name a significant moment in Russian history and you’ll likely be met with blank stares; Ask Thai and he’ll give you his top three. In order to take his Russian history knowledge to the next-level, Th…

September 20, 2023

CLS Spark Spotlight: Josh Phillips on Arabic Language & Culture
Josh Phillips is a undergraduate student at Mississippi State University majoring in Economics, Political Science and Government. Josh participated in 2023 CLS Spark Arabic hosted by the Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language (TAFL) Center of the University of Alexandria in Egypt. Josh hop…

August 24, 2023

Building Mutual Understanding Between Kyrgyz and American Students Through Language Partners
Meet Critical Language Scholarship Russian language partner, Mirlan Ulanov! Mirlan has been a language partner for CLS Russian students for the last two summers at partner institute American University of Central Asia (AUCA) in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. When asked why, Mirlan shared, “I want to int…

August 07, 2023

CLS in the Press

Two WVU students awarded Critical Language Scholarship

Two  West Virginia University students passionate about learning a new language and immersing themselves in cultural experiences will travel abroad this summer as recipients of the highly competitive U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship.

Shared from WVU Today, May 19, 2023

13 a lucky number for bright UND scholars

Unprecedented number of students advance or win top awards in single semester

Shared from UND Today, May 19, 2023

MSU’s Crawford, Phillips receive national Critical Language Scholarship awards

Two Mississippi State undergraduates will study foreign languages virtually and abroad this summer as recipients of the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship.

Shared from Mississippi State University, May 19, 2023