Critical Language Scholarship Program | CLS Spark
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CLS Spark

Program Overview

CLS Spark is a pilot virtual initiative for U.S. undergraduate students to learn languages essential to America’s engagement with the world. Designed to leverage best practices in online language learning developed by the CLS Program during the pandemic, CLS Spark provides American students the opportunity to study critical languages virtually when they may not have access to language learning on their campuses or the ability to travel overseas. Participants will spend an academic year learning either Arabic, Chinese or Russian through online classes and activities facilitated by native speakers at a host institution abroad.

A program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program and CLS Spark are part of a U.S. government initiative to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering foreign languages that are critical to national security and economic prosperity.

Program Structure and Timeline

As a virtual program, CLS Spark allows students to have immersive language and cultural experiences with international communities. With inclusive support provided by CLS Program staff, students will improve their command of all four modalities in these languages (listening, speaking, reading, writing), learn about the culture of their host country, and make connections with members of the host country’s community and their peers across the U.S.

Participants will be engaged with approximately 18 hours of programming each month over the course of two 11-week terms:

  • Two-hours per week of language instruction.
  • Two hours per week of asynchronous coursework.
  • Individual tutoring sessions with program instructor for adaptive learning
  • Monthly cultural activities with a language learning component to engage with host country community
  • Optional workshops designed to foster community, network, and develop academic and professional skills
  • Two hour/week activities designed to complement in-classroom language learning

Courses are arranged on either a Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday schedule. Start times are scheduled to facilitate participation by both instructors abroad and U.S.-based students (starting no earlier than 9am Eastern Time and ending no later than 9pm Eastern Time).

The Fall term will run from September 6, 2022 to November 18, 2022.

The Spring term will run from January 9 to March 24 or January 30, 2023 to April 14, 2023, depending on the host institute and local holidays.

Participants in CLS Spark will receive automatic consideration as semifinalists for the CLS Program’s 2023 overseas summer institutes, if they choose to apply. Following the end of the spring term, CLS will offer accepted participants additional pre-departure instruction through small classes or tutoring to prepare them for an immersive, in-person study abroad experience.

Languages and Levels

Applicants to CLS Spark can choose one of three languages that are critical to America's national security and economic prosperity when submitting their applications:

  • Arabic for students with no previous experience learning the language;
  • Chinese for students with one year of experience learning the language by the start of the program;
  • Russian for students with no previous experience learning the language.

Applicants may only apply once per application cycle for a single language. Applicants who submit multiple applications will be considered ineligible.

Program Benefits

The main benefit of the program is the opportunity to engage virtually in high quality language study and experience the cultural and educational system of the host country. Additional benefits include:

  • Language instruction and participation in monthly cultural programming
  • Course materials
  • Language gains certified using the widely-recognized ACTFL OPI (Oral Proficiency Interview) assessment
  • Consideration as a semifinalist for the Critical Language Scholarship Program’s summer institutes in the year following their participation in CLS Spark
  • A stipend towards equipment and connectivity costs
  • Alumni of CLS Spark will join a vibrant community of U.S. Department of State International Exchange Alumni

CLS Spark does not provide the following:

  • Academic credit
  • Equipment
  • Phone or internet connectivity plans
  • Living expenses
  • Medical benefits