Thursday, May 15, 2014

Awards for Language Learning

There is no better way to learn a language than to be immersed in it! If you're looking to kickstart your language learning, or you want the opportunity to hone your skills with the help of native speakers, here are a few programs focused on language acquisition you might want to consider.
Critical Languages Scholarship Program
Funded by the Department of State, this scholarship pays for undergraduate students to spend seven to ten weeks at one of thirteen different critical language institutes. And what is a "critical language," you may ask? It's a language deemed critical to the protection of American security interests (i.e., not enough Americans speak it and it's important that we have more who do). Here are the languages listed on the website:

  • Azerbaijani, Bangla/Bengali, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Punjabi, Turkish, and Urdu: Beginning, advanced beginning, intermediate and advanced levels;
  • Arabic and Persian: Advanced beginning, intermediate and advanced levels;
  • Chinese, Japanese, and Russian: Intermediate and advanced levels.
The application period is generally from mid-September to mid-November for the following summer. For this program, you must be fully enrolled at the time of application, but this does mean that you can complete your summer program in the summer following senior year. Both undergraduates and graduate students are welcome to apply.

Boren Awards 
The Boren Award is a bit like the Critical Languages Scholarship but longer (unless you're in a STEM discipline) and with a job built in. Funded by the National Security Education Program (NSEP), undergraduate students are given up to $20,000 to study for up to a year abroad (preference given to those who plan to study abroad for two or more semesters). Programs of study must include an intensive language learning component, and like our friend CLS, must be oriented toward a less commonly taught language that is deemed of interest to the protection of national security. The list of languages is longer for the Boren (click here). Applicants must also specify how their program of study will contribute to U.S. national security, but national security is defined quite expansively in this case. 

The Boren is part of a group of awards that provide funding in exchange for service. In this case, recipients are required to work for a year within three years of graduation for a federal agency, with the Departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, or an agency within the intelligence community, having preference. So... if you're interested in working for the feds post-graduation, this is your chance to get a foot in the door!

Applicants for this award must apply through Temple, so check with Study Abroad or Fellowships Advising for the internal deadline for this award. It's generally sometime in the fall. Applicants must be fully matriculated for the duration of the program abroad, meaning that the year abroad can't follow graduation. This award is also open to undergrads and grads, though there are separate applications for each.

Boren Awards Special Initiative for STEM Majors
See above, but shorter. Up to $8,000 for language study abroad during the summer. Programs may be as short as eight weeks and applicants must be STEM majors. 

DAAD German Academic Exchange Service University Summer Course Grant
DAAD has an impressive array of opportunities for undergrads, graduate students and professionals, so please go and click around their site, but this grant in particular funds summer study of German language and various aspects of German culture. DAAD is sponsored by a consortium of German universities, so there's a broad range of courses available under this program. The grant funds tuition, room and board in whole or in part so be sure to check the cost against the value of the award. A travel subsidy is also provided.

For many of the DAAD awards, German is not required, but for the summer study grant, applicants must have at least four semesters of college German, or the equivalent level of proficiency gained elsewhere. Part of the application is a language evaluation form that must be completed by a member of the German department or the Goethe-Institut.

Applicants must be at least a sophomore at the time of application.

Middlebury Language Schools
Middlebury doesn't really belong here as it is in Vermont, which only counts as an international location for the most southerly oriented among our fellow Americans, and so doesn't offer an immersive experience of the kind we're focusing on here, and it is a private, for-profit language school. Nonetheless, it offers first-class language acquisition programs, attempts to create an immersive experience through the "language pledge", and does have a number of scholarships and fellowships available to help with the cost of attending.

Additional Tools
Finally, a few search tools that may help you identify other sources of funding for your language immersion experience:

IIE's scholarship database:

IIE's study abroad program database:

University of Minnesota study abroad scholarship database:


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