New pilot virtual initiative of the CLS Program

Dear CLS Advisors,

Following the success of the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program’s virtual institutes in 2020 and in 2021, we are excited to announce CLS Spark – a pilot initiative providing virtual opportunities for U.S. undergraduate students to learn languages essential to America’s engagement with the world. CLS Spark will provide American students the access and opportunity to start their language learning journeys, even when these critical languages may not be offered on their campuses. Selected 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. 

The CLS Spark program will be offered in academic year 2022 - 2023 with approximately 18 hours of virtual language instruction offered per month, as well as monthly cultural activities. Applications will open in April with a deadline of May 26, 2022.

We will have resources for advisors available in conjunction with the launch of the application, and I will host a webinar for advisors to answer any questions you have at that time. I will also share a calendar of webinar information sessions for students.

CLS Spark Key Benefits:

  • Full scholarship covers all instruction and a $300 stipend
  • Online language instruction and cultural enrichment experiences over the course of two eleven-week terms
  • Language gains certified with the widely recognized ACTFL OPI test
  • Automatic consideration as CLS Program semifinalists for the summer overseas 2023 CLS Program to continue their language study

A program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the CLS Program and CLS Spark is 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.  Instruction will be provided by faculty and staff at host institutions located abroad in countries where these languages are commonly spoken. With inclusive support provided by CLS Program staff, students will improve their command of all four modalities in these languages (listening, speaking, reading, writing), participate in cultural activities once a month, and make connections with members of the host country’s community and their peers across the U.S.

I will be in touch with our advisor community as soon as the application is live next month. We will also be sharing program information at and across our social media accounts.

Thank you for your ongoing support of the CLS Program.


Natalie Spencer
Assistant Manager, Outreach & Selection

The CLS Program is a program of the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, supported in its implementation by American Councils for International Education
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