The Critical Languages Scholarship – What Is It?

The Critical Languages Scholarship…the opportunity of a lifetime!

To quote their website, “The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is a summer study abroad opportunity for American college and university students to learn languages essential to America’s engagement with the world.”

The CLS focuses particularly on languages that are not commonly spoken in the United States and has the overall goal of expanding dramatically the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages.

The Languages Offered:
Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, and Urdu

What does winning mean?

With an acceptance rate of around 10%, winning a CLS means that the committee believes applicants have demonstrated an aptitude for positively contributing to society, facilitated by their acquisition more language knowledge.

Essentially, winning a CLS will provide me with a fully-funded opportunity to take intensive Arabic courses while living in Amman, Jordan for 8 weeks! After applying for this award 4 times, I’m THRILLED to finally gain this incredible experience abroad and increase my Arabic language skills to (hopefully) an advanced level.

(Back in 2020, I won the CLS to study Arabic in Morocco, but as we all know, COVID-19 had different plans for all of our plans. However, I was able to participate in a virtual institute hosted by Arab American Language Institute in Meknes, Morocco and excelled from a Novice-Low Arabic level to Intermediate-Mid in just 8 weeks! Since completing the CLS Program in 2020, I have become more comfortable using my Arabic skills with classmates, professors, and the people I work with through my internship.) W&J College Article from 2020

Want to learn a few Arabic terms? Here is a Quizlet created by my teacher!

Why Choose Arabic?

I was drawn to learn Arabic because of my interest in the Middle East and Northern Africa, its relevance to American foreign policy, and because it is a beautiful language, both visually and orally. Additionally, I want to help solve refugee and immigration issues abroad and knew that Arabic was a crucial language to know in order to be an effective diplomat. Arabic has opened numerous doors for me as an undergraduate student and I know it will continue to do so as I enter the professional world. I plan to continue cultivating my Arabic skills so I can work abroad.

Arabic is a language that challenges you in every facet. You must learn to read and write from right to left, to make sounds your mouth has never formed, and master a whole new syntax for your sentences. It is a challenge, but once you succeed, you are able to speak a challenging and beautiful language that emulates music and unlocks doors all across the world.

Focusing on CLS…but mentally preparing for the Fulbright as well….

The CLS is fantastic preparation for my upcoming Fulbright Award. Not only will it help me become more fluent in Arabic, but it will allow me to learn more about Islam and Arab culture. Arguably, cultural fluency and flexibility are as important as actual Arabic language fluency, and the CLS is providing me with an incredible opportunity to continue evolving as an aspiring diplomat before embarking my 10-month adventure in Morocco.

Undoubtedly, the CLS is going to be very challenging. It involves intensive Arabic classes (20 hours a week), an average of 3 hours of homework a night, meeting with a language partner twice a week, weekly quizzes, and midterm and final exams, all while adapting to a new culture, new foods, and a HOT climate (not a fan of heat). However, when finished with the program, I am confident that I will have an advanced fluency and that I will have further developed into an adaptable and opened minded young American.

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