American Students Build Critical Language Skills

Posted by Meghann Curtis
June 8, 2012
Students Discuss Study Abroad Programs at Michigan State University

This month, the State Department welcomes 630 recipients of the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) for pre-departure orientations in Washington, D.C. These American undergraduate and graduate students will spend their summers in one of 14 countries studying the languages spoken there: Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla/Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Turkish, and Urdu. This year's CLS students hail from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. They come from over 250 public and private colleges and universities across the United States and study everything from literature to engineering to economics.

After a summer of intensive language study and cultural immersion, CLS students emerge as masters of critical world languages with lifelong friends in their host countries. CLS alumni go on to use their language skills in government, academic, nonprofit, and private sector work - many even join the Foreign Service! One CLS alumnus who joined the Foreign Service commented that CLS “reaffirmed his commitment to international public service”. Another says her CLS experience was “pivotal in developing her professional life.”

Other CLS alumni return to their host countries to live and work full-time. Emily Parker, an alumna of CLS Egypt and Tunisia, uses her high-level Arabic skills daily as a reporter in Tunisia. Emily recently wrote to us after receiving press credentials to cover Tunisia's October elections:

“I will never forget when, after carrying out a conversation with me in Arabic, the Tunisian passing out accreditation badges handed me a ‘Tunisian journalist' badge but handed ‘foreign journalist' badges to my co-workers who do not speak Arabic. The idea that she thought that I was Tunisian thrilled me to no end.”

Through CLS and similar programs, the State Department is investing in a safer and more prosperous tomorrow, lead by a generation of global citizens who can fluently speak foreign languages and cross cultural boundaries. At just seven years old, the Critical Language Scholarship Program will doubtless continue to add skilled diplomats, academics, business leaders, and more to its alumni ranks. We are thrilled to welcome this year's CLS grantees and look forward to following all their future accomplishments. Follow the action with us on Twitter at @clscholarship.

Note: Senior Recruitment Outreach Officer Kathy Eagen hosted a live chat on the State Department Alumni website on May 31, 2012 to discuss how CLS alumni can utilize their critical language skills through career, internship and fellowship opportunities at the Department of State. You can read the transcript on State Alumni!


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