About CLS


The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is a fully-funded overseas language and cultural immersion program for American undergraduate and graduate students. With the goal of broadening the base of Americans studying and mastering critical languages and building relationships between the people of the United States and other countries, CLS provides opportunities to a diverse range of students from across the United States at every level of language learning.

Most languages offered by the CLS Program do not require applicants to have any experience studying critical languages. The CLS Program seeks participants with diverse interests, and from a wide range of fields of study and career paths, with the purpose of representing the full diversity of the United States. Participants are selected based on their commitment to language learning and plans to apply their language skills to their future academic or professional pursuits. Please note that CLS is an intensive group-based language and cultural enrichment program.

The CLS Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.


The CLS Program offers instruction in fourteen critical languages:

No Previous Study Required One Year of Study Required Two Years of Study Required

Program Benefits

The CLS Program is fully funded from start to finish. From the time you step foot out the door to the time you arrive home,  the CLS Program covers many of the costs of participating in its  overseas institutes, including:

  • Intensive overseas group based language courses (20+ hours per week)
  • Room and board, often with a host family
  • A full cultural program
  • Host community language partners
  • Domestic and international airfare

Participants receive a small stipend to cover incidental expenses and meals not provided by the program. Upon completion of the program, participants also receive a certified American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) score.

The CLS Program provides academic credit issued through Bryn Mawr College. The CLS program offers a year’s worth of graded credit that you can apply to your college career.

The following expenses will not be covered by the CLS Program:

  • U.S. passport fees;
  • Medical exam fees required for participants; and
  • Local travel between your U.S. home address and the airport for CLS Program travel.

Program Structure

CLS Program institutes cover approximately one academic year of university-level language coursework during an eight- to ten-week program and are designed to meet the needs of students from a variety of language levels and backgrounds. Some CLS institutes require one to two years of prior language study (or the equivalent), while others accept students with no prior background in the language.

Formal classroom language instruction is provided for a minimum of 20 hours per week. Extracurricular activities are designed to supplement the formal curriculum, including regular one-on-one meetings with native speaker language partners for conversational practice, as well as cultural activities and excursions designed to expand students’ understanding of the history, politics, culture and daily life of their host country.

U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) works to build friendly, peaceful relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries through academic, cultural, sports, and professional exchanges, as well as public -private partnerships. Critical Language Scholarship recipients are among the more than 30,000 exchange program participants that are overseen annually by ECA. Other programs the Bureau manages include the Fulbright Program and the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program.

American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS

American Councils for International Education advances scholarly research and cross-border learning through the design and implementation of educational programs that are well grounded in key world languages, cultures and regions. We contribute to the creation of new knowledge, broader professional perspectives, and personal and intellectual growth through international training, academic exchange, collaboration in educational development, and public diplomacy. With a presence in the U.S., Russia and Eurasia for nearly four decades, in addition to representation in over thirty countries across Asia, the Middle East and Southeastern Europe, American Councils strives to expand dialog among students, scholars, educators and professionals for the advancement of learning and mutual respect in the diverse communities and societies in which we work.

Founded in 1974 as an association for area and language professionals, American Councils has focused its expertise on academic exchange, professional training, distance learning, curriculum and test development, and research. In its four decades, American Councils has developed into one of the premier American education and international training organizations, offering quality-assured, intensive overseas language study and research programs for U.S. undergraduates, graduate students, teachers and scholars.