Foreign Language Scholarships

Demand is High for Multi-Lingual Professionals and Translators

As the global community becomes more interconnected, the demand for multilingual professionals continues to grow. The Federal government, as well as business and industry, are in constant need of qualified graduates with advanced degrees in a variety of foreign languages. To answer this need, both the public and private sectors offer valuable scholarship opportunities to foreign language majors specializing in designated ‘critical need languages’, as well as the more commonly taught foreign languages. Foreign language majors will have a variety of career paths from which to choose, including international trade, education, foreign relations and national security.

The most common sources of scholarships for foreign language majors are:

  • Federal and state governments
  • Colleges and Universities
  • The private sector

Federal Scholarships for Foreign Language Studyforeign language scholarships

A wide range of scholarship opportunities for foreign language majors are supported by the federal government. The current shortage of qualified translators and interpreters, particularly in the critical languages and dialects of the Middle East and Asia, has prompted Washington to develop financial aid programs that support and encourage students pursuing foreign language studies. These programs typically target students who intend to pursue careers in foreign relations, national security or the military.

  • The Boren Awards for International Study offers scholarships and fellowships for students interested in pursuing studies in languages and cultures that are critical to US interests abroad. An emphasis is placed on the study of less commonly taught languages, such as Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Russian and Swahili. Boren scholarships are award-for-service programs, and recipients must be prepared to work in a National Security capacity for a predetermined time following graduation. The maximum scholarship award amount for undergraduates is $20,000, while graduate students may be eligible to receive up to $30,000.
  • The Critical Language Scholarship Program is sponsored by the U. S. Department of State. The program provides full funded overseas instruction for students studying a critical need language at the undergraduate, graduate or post-graduate level. Current language study programs include : Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Punjabi, Russian, Turkish and Urdu.
  • The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship provides funds for undergraduate students wishing to pursue their college studies abroad. The program is open to U.S. undergraduate students who have qualified for the Pell Grant, and who wish to continue their language studies overseas. The purpose of the program is to motivate and support foreign language majors who may not otherwise have the financial resources to study abroad.
  • The Project Go Initiative is sponsored by the U.S. Army ROTC, and provides funding for undergraduate students pursuing degrees in one of the Army’s designated critical need languages. To be eligible for the program, students must be enrolled in the ROTC, with the intention of completing a term of service as an enlisted officer in the U.S. Army.

State Supported Scholarships for Foreign Language Study

The majority of government scholarships for foreign language students are Federally based, however interested students may find some opportunities at the state and regional levels. State supported foreign language scholarships are typically designed to support students pursuing teaching degrees in the more commonly taught languages, such as Spanish, French or German. These scholarship programs are generally more prevalent in states with large immigrant populations, where there is a greater need for bilingual teachers and instructors in English as a second language. The majority of state-based foreign language scholarships are award-for-service programs, and students will be expected to fulfill a term of service teaching in a designated critical need facility or community.

Students looking for foreign language scholarships at the state level should visit the dedicated website of their state’s Department of Higher Education for information on any programs for which they may be eligible.

Foreign Language Scholarships from Colleges and Universities

Students pursuing the study of foreign languages will find a large number of scholarship opportunities available through their own college of attendance. Universities with large foreign language departments often offer lucrative scholarships for their attending students. As with all campus-based scholarships, programs will vary greatly from school to school, and students should consult their college’s office of financial aid for information on possible financial aid opportunities that may help them pay for their college education.

The following examples are typical of the types of foreign language scholarships available through colleges and universities.

  • The Foreign Language Center at the Ohio State University administers the Huntington International Fellowship for students studying a foreign language with the intention of pursuing a career in international trade and finance. To be eligible, students must be either a sophomore or a junior at Ohio University who has completed at least two years of a foreign language course prior to continuing their education overseas. The minimum award amount is $500.
  • St. John Fisher College offers two annual scholarships for high school seniors who have excelled in their foreign language studies. The scholarships are available to high school seniors who have demonstrated an excellence in Spanish, Italian, German or French, and who have a minimum 3.0 GPA. The maximum award amount is $3000, to be disbursed over four years.
  • The University of Wisconsin offers a number of scholarships through its Department of Foreign Languages. The Mildred Davis Scholarship is available to students who have demonstrated an excellence in French. The Joseph and Margaret Schmauss Scholarship is open to students demonstrating a proficiency in German. The Melvin Bloom Scholarship is awarded to students who have excelled in their study of Spanish. Award amounts vary, and all scholarships are decided strictly on the basis of academic achievement.

Foreign Language Scholarships from the Private Sector

The private sector is a prime source for scholarships dedicated to students pursuing the study of foreign languages. Many of these scholarships are supported by businesses and corporations with holdings overseas, who are always in need of qualified professionals who can represent their interests in a foreign market. Other scholarships for foreign language students are supported by organizations dedicated to promoting good will between nations. These scholarship programs may target students with an interest in working with charitable foundations, teaching in foreign countries, or translating for government and private sector officials.

The following examples should better illustrate the types of scholarships available from the private sector for students majoring in a foreign language.

  • The Thomas G. Labrecque Smart Start Scholarship is sponsored by J. P. Morgan, and awards 10 full tuition scholarships each year to graduating high school seniors who have been accepted into an approved program at a participating New York State college or university. Eligible majors include business administration, accounting and foreign language studies. Students must have graduated in the top 10% of their class, and must have a minimum combined SAT score of 1000. In addition to their full tuition, scholarship recipients will receive a stipend for books and a paid internship with J. P. Morgan Chase.
  • The Jim and Anna Hyonjoo Lint Scholarship is offered to students pursuing careers in international affairs, counterintelligence and national security. An emphasis is placed on students pursuing degrees in ‘critical need languages’. One $1500 scholarship is awarded each year. Awards are based wholly on merit and past academic achievement.
  • The Academic Scholarship to Study a Foreign Language is sponsored by the Corinne Jeanine Schillings Foundation, and is open to undergraduate female students who have attained the level of Silver Award Girl Scout or higher. Eligible students must have a minimum B average in an approved foreign language course of study. The maximum annual award is $1500. The scholarship is renewable for up to three years, with the total award not to exceed $6000.
  • The IES Excellence in a Foreign Language Scholarship is a merit-based award open to students who have excelled in the study of one of the following foreign languages : Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, French, German, Hindi, Italian or Spanish. To be eligible, students must be enrolled in an IES Study abroad program, and must have a minimum GPA of 3.3. The maximum award is $3000.

Students pursuing a degree in foreign languages will find a wide range of professional career paths open to them, from employment with multinational corporations to working in national security. The importance of qualified professionals with foreign language expertise can not be overestimated, and students with an interest in studying a foreign language will find a wide range of scholarship opportunities designed to help them realize their educational and professional goals.


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