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CLS Scholars in Okayama, Japan learn about the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. ▼  Latest News: Announcing finalists for the 2021 CLS Summer Program  ▼
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
  • 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
  • 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 Persian language opens a door to a universe of wonders within the collective history of humankind."
    Shabbir Abbas, Persian 2020

CLS News and Stories

Announcing finalists for the 2021 CLS Summer Program

We are pleased to announce the full list of scholars awarded with the Critical Language Scholarship this summer to participate in intensive summer language institutes in fifteen different languages critical to America's national security and economic prosperity.

The list of scholars for...

Posted by Andrew McCullough on June 16, 2021


Alumni Profile: Aarzu Maknojia

Reflecting on the ways in which her South Asian heritage intersected with her experience on the CLS Program, Aarzu Maknojia (Urdu 2018) said, “Learning Urdu in Lucknow as a heritage speaker was a challenging experience. There was a constant hum of being ‘too Indian’ to enjoy the benefits of an...

Posted by Liz Sinclair on May 20, 2021


Alumni Profile: Daniel Rothberg

Daniel Rothberg is an alumnus of the 2020 CLS Russian virtual institute hosted by National Research Lobachevsky University in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. He’s a 2020 graduate of Oberlin College with a bachelor’s degree in Russian and Eastern European studies, Russian language, and political...

Posted by Liz Sinclair on May 10, 2021


Alumni Profile: Imani Everett

Imani Everett is an alumna of the 2020 CLS Korean institute hosted by Chonnam National University in Gwangju, South Korea. She’s an undergraduate sociology major at Virginia Commonwealth University and will graduate in 2022. She also works as an Education Coach for ACE-IT in College at VCU, an...

Posted by Liz Sinclair on May 10, 2021


CLS in the Press

URI International Relations graduate student receives national Critical Language Scholarship

Shawn Fennell, a first-year International Relations graduate student from the University of Rhode Island, has been awarded a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship to study Arabic this summer.

Shared from University of Rhode Island News, June 18, 2021


Four Maxwell Students Named as Boren Fellows

Two CLS Arabic 2021 scholars have been named as recipients of the 2021 Boren Fellowship

Shared from Syracuse University News, June 17, 2021


Patricia Stottlemyer Fights for More Equitable Access to Asylum System

Instead of following a linear career trajectory, CLS Arabic alumna Patricia Stottlemyer (2011) has left room to act responsively, consistently choosing to go where she will be able to make the most difference.

Shared from Penn Law News, June 17, 2021