Mo’ Money, No Problems: 4 Foreign Language Scholarships

Learning a language for free isn’t for everyone.

You might want the credits and/or the experience of a more formal education.

However, studying a language in college can be pricey and not everyone can afford it. In addition to courses, you may also need to study abroad to complete your studies, and costs can add up quickly.

I’ve gathered four great foreign language scholarships to help you get your language education without breaking the bank.


How to Land a Foreign Language Scholarship

Stay on top of deadlines.

All of the best colleges and scholarship programs have deadlines. Whenever you’re considering applying for a scholarship, pay careful attention to the deadlines and try to get your materials in well in advance. There’s nothing worse than going to the work of putting together the application materials and then realizing you’re too late!

Write a killer essay/personal statement. 

Some scholarships may require essays or personal statements. These could address topics like motivation, goals and/or financial need. Regardless of what you’re asked to write about, make sure your essay is on point. Reflect carefully on whatever question is posed to you and answer as clearly and thoroughly as possible. You might also have friends, family and/or your university’s tutoring center review your work for grammar, spelling and clarity. Even if you have mad writing skills, it can be hard to catch your own mistakes.

Have trusted language-related references ready to go. 

Some programs may request references, so if you’re considering applying, you may want to already know who you’ll ask. Better still, you may want to have already spoken to potential references. It often helps for references to know your goals, motivation and accomplishments so that they can better speak to your qualifications. Having your references lined up and ready can save you time and ensure that if a scholarship opens up, you’re ready to roll!

Make sure you meet requirements for any scholarships you may apply for.

Some foreign language scholarships don’t require any knowledge of a language at all, but some want to see that you’ve reached a certain level of fluency. This means you might need to get up to speed with a preparatory course or language program.

Be sure to know what’s expected of you before you apply, and put in the work to meet those requirements if you don’t already.

Mo’ Money, No Problems: 4 Foreign Language Scholarships

Critical Language Scholarship


Wouldn’t it be great if you could study an important language for free? Wouldn’t it be even better if you could do so abroad? Good news, folks! The Critical Language Scholarship program offers free, intensive language study abroad in languages deemed “critical to national security and economic prosperity.”

You don’t need to be a language major to apply. In fact, the program encourages students from diverse disciplines to apply since the idea is to get skilled speakers for a variety of future careers. However, you do need to be an American enrolled at an American university.

Programs usually last for around two months each summer. The scholarship covers travel expenses, language instruction, room, board, activities and even academic credit. It’s open to both undergraduate and graduate students.

Complete beginners through advanced-level students can apply for programs that teach Azerbaijani, Bangla, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Punjabi, Swahili, Turkish and Urdu.

Advanced beginning through advanced students can apply for Arabic, Persian and Portuguese programs.

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Intermediate and advanced students can apply for Chinese, Japanese and Russian.

CEA Scholarships


CEA is another study abroad provider that offers an array of scholarship options that you can use to access programs that include a foreign language component. In fact, CEA commits over $2 million annually to financial and scholarship programs.

These include merit-based scholarships, need-based scholarships and diversity scholarships.

Depending on the program and location, language options can include Arabic, Catalan, Chinese, Czech, French, German, Irish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Many programs allow you to also study additional subjects while learning a language abroad. For instance, you can also study business, tourism, humanities and/or science.

Boren Awards Scholarships


Provided through the National Security Education program, Boren Scholarships fund studying “less commonly taught languages” that are considered critical to U.S. national security.

With this scholarship, you propose the study abroad program you hope to participate in. There’s a preference for longer programs. Another important qualification to note is that you must agree to go on to work in a national security position with a federal government agency for at least one year.

Most Boren recipients study in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe or South America. A complete list of “emphasized countries” is available.

You might also review a list of recent recipients (complete with language studied, institution, field of study and country of study) to give you a clearer idea of whether you may qualify.

Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship


The Gilman Scholarship is a need-based program through the U.S. Department of State that’s designed to allow students who might not otherwise be able to study abroad the opportunity.

You select the program you want to participate in, so there’s flexibility with regards to language and location. As you can see from the list of recent recipients, scholarship winners come from all over the United States and travel all over the world.

Additionally, if you receive this scholarship, you’ll have a competitive advantage for certain federal jobs for the next 12 months by being allowed to apply for jobs only open to federal employees.

Bonus Options

Check with your university.

There are tons of university-specific scholarships, so you might find the perfect scholarship (or scholarships) for you through your own school. If you want to study a language abroad, you might check with your school’s study abroad office. If you’re wanting to study a language on home turf, check with your school’s scholarship coordinator and/or language department.

The other big benefit of applying for a scholarship through your university is that there’s less competition. Since it’s a narrower pool of potential applicants to begin with, you’ll be at a distinct advantage. Plus, if a scholarship is not well-known on campus, you might find even less competition than you would have expected.

Look for language-specific scholarships.


You’ll generally have an easier time finding a language-specific scholarship than a general language scholarship. If you’re studying a popular language, chances are you’ll find a number of options.

To find more scholarships, you might search BigFuture, which focuses on general scholarships.


Getting a foreign language scholarship might not make all your problems go away, but it sure couldn’t hurt.

So try applying for these great foreign language scholarship programs.

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