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The Application for the 2023 CLS Program is closed. The deadline for applications was November 15, 2022 at 8pm Eastern Time.

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 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
  • 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

2023 Alumni Ambassador Application
Are you interested in sharing your experience while supporting and promoting the CLS Program? The application to become a 2023 CLS Alumni Ambassador is now open! Who are CLS Alumni Ambassadors? CLS Alumni Ambassadors take leadership roles as active and positive representatives of the CLS Prog…

November 30, 2022

Celebrating International Education Week—Reflections from CLS Alumni
Happy International Education Week! International Education Week is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange around the world. Our team at the CLS Program at American Councils has the jo…

November 18, 2022

CLS Student Spotlight: Lucas San Miguel on Chinese Language as a Gateway to Connection in Rural Nicaragua
To say Lucas San Miguel had an unconventional summer break would be an understatement. While many college sophomores spent their summer enjoying a reprieve from academics, Lucas launched himself into a CLS Chinese Program and jetted off to Tola, Nicaragua to intern with Rancho Santana, a company th…

October 14, 2022

CLS 2023 Application Now Open!
We are pleased to announce that the application for the 2023 Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is now open! We welcome American undergraduate and graduate students to apply now to study a critical language next summer on a fully funded virtual or overseas language program. The application…

October 05, 2022

CLS in the Press

Critical Language Scholarship winners Donika and Hannah discuss their experiences

Community College of Philadelphia students Hannah Mc-Kay Simmons (Chinese 2022), an International Studies major, and Donika Campbell (Arabic 2022), a Respiratory Care Technology major, talk about why the CLS Spark program is a worthwhile opportunity for students.

Shared from Community College of Philadelphia, November 22, 2022

Podcast: Introducing Drum Tower

Alice Su (Arabic 2013) co-hosts the Economist's new weekly podcast "Drum Tower," in which correspondents from the Economist analyze the stories at the heart of China and its changing role in the world.

Shared from The Economist, November 14, 2022

‘Cultural excursions’ in South Korea | Penn State student shares experiences studying abroad, regaining his heritage

Juntae Rocker (Korean 2022) talks about his experience on the CLS Program in Busan.

Shared from Daily Collegian, September 22, 2022