Language Levels and Prerequisites

The CLS Program provides instruction in fifteen critical languages. Please note that not all levels are offered for each language (Chinese and Japanese require a minimum of two years of college-level study or the equivalent; Arabic, Korean and Portuguese require a minimum of one year of college-level study or the equivalent). The information below provides information about the levels offered for each CLS language.


In order to determine which language level to choose, please review the information provided. Compare your level of experience to the scale provided below.

Offered at all levels (Beginning, Advanced Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced)

  • Azerbaijani
  • Bangla
  • Hindi
  • Indonesian
  • Persian
  • Punjabi
  • Swahili
  • Turkish
  • Urdu

Requires at least one academic year of prior target language study or the equivalent (Advanced Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced)

  • Arabic
  • Korean
  • Portuguese
  • Russian

Requires at least two academic years of prior target language study or the equivalent (Intermediate and Advanced only):

  • Chinese
  • Japanese

CLS Language Levels and Terminology

  • Beginning Level: No previous study of the language, or less than one academic year of study or the equivalent.
  • Advanced Beginning Level: At least one academic year of target language study or the equivalent.
  • Intermediate Level: At least two academic years of target language study or the equivalent.
  • Advanced Level: At least three academic years of target language study or the equivalent.

If you are currently taking college-level coursework, please apply for the next highest level. For instance, if you will have completed first year Arabic or the equivalent by the start of the CLS summer programs, you should select Advanced Beginning Arabic.

Many CLS Program participants have experience learning or using a CLS language outside of a traditional college-level language course. They may have used the language at home with family members, taken language courses offered in the local community, private tutoring or online language tutorials, or they may have spent time abroad. In addition, a college-level course may cover more material over the course of an academic year than a high school program typically covers. In all of these cases, applicants will need to consider what level is most appropriate for them to choose as part of the CLS application process.

The CLS Program is not able to personally advise applicants regarding their language level, but these are some general guidelines that may help you select the most appropriate level:

Ask a professional to assess your skill level: Work with a language teacher at your home institution or a nearby school that offers the target language. Ask them to assess your language level and determine where you would be placed in the target language curriculum at your school. For instance, if the instructor would place you in second year Arabic at your school, you would apply for the Advanced Beginning level of Arabic on the CLS application.

Identify what you know and do not know: Review textbooks and related materials used in college-level classrooms for your CLS language to see how much you already know, and where you begin to experience difficulty.