Skip Navigation

Carleton Students Receive State Department Critical Language Scholarships

June 22, 2010

Carleton College students Alison Lisi ‘12 (Huntington Woods, Mich.) and Ben Tyler ‘11 (Sanbornton, N.H.) have been awarded U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Critical Language Scholarships (CLS) for the summer of 2010. They are two of the 575 American students, selected from over five thousand applicants, who will study languages deemed by the State Department to be of critical importance. Tyler will study Russian in Russia; Lisi will study Arabic in Jordan.

Students studying on Critical Language Scholarships spend seven to ten weeks at intensive language institutes in the countries where their languages are spoken, furthering their learning through cultural immersion. This year, languages taught in the CLS program include Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indonesian, Persian, Russian, and Indic (Bangla/Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu) and Turkic (Turkish and Azerbaijani) languages. Students come from all 50 states, and are chosen through a selective, merit-based system.

Lisi has always been interested in studying Arabic. She grew up near Detroit, home to a large Arab and Arabic-speaking population, and some of her friends there speak Arabic at home. When applying to colleges, she only considered schools that offered the language, and she has studied the language at Carleton College for the past year.

“I am very excited to get to travel to an Arabic speaking country and immerse myself in the language and culture,” Lisi said. “I think studying abroad is particularly important for Arabic, because here at school we learn Modern Standard Arabic, but nobody really speaks that.  Everyone speaks in colloquial Arabic dialects, which are best learned by living in the countries where they are spoken, so the CLS is a great opportunity to really learn to speak like Arabic-speakers do.”

Tyler is a Russian major, and he has studied Russian since his freshman year. He spent the spring of his sophomore year studying on a Carleton program in Moscow, so this won’t be his first experience in that country, but says that the CLS program is likely to be very different.

“Vladimir [where the CLS program is based] is a city of approximately 300,000, while Moscow clocks in at a hefty 11 million,” Tyler reports. “There's a saying in Russian that translates roughly to ‘There's Moscow, and then there's Russia,’ so I'm really looking forward to experiencing Russian life and culture in a less relentlessly urban setting.”

The Department of State launched the Critical Language Scholarships for Intensive Summer Institutes in 2006 to increase opportunities for American students to study critical-need languages overseas. The program is part of a wider U.S. government effort to dramatically expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical-need languages. 

CLS Program participants are among the more than 40,000 academic and professional exchange program participants supported annually by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) to promote mutual understanding and respect between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The CLS Program is administered by the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC) and the American Councils for International Education (ACTR). For more information, visit

Written by Alex Korsunsky '12