What is NSLI-Y?


President George W. Bush launched the National Security Language Initiative (NSLI) in January 2006 as a plan to further strengthen national security and prosperity in the 21st century through education, especially in developing foreign language skills. The goal of the program was to dramatically increase the number of Americans learning critical need foreign languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Hindi, Farsi, and others through new and expanded programs from kindergarten through university and into the workforce.  NSLI’s formation was guided by the understanding that an essential component of U.S. national security in the post-9/11 world is the ability to engage foreign governments and peoples, especially in critical regions, to encourage reform, promote understanding, convey respect for other cultures and provide an opportunity to learn more about our country and its citizens.


A significant component of NSLI was the formation of The National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program to promote critical language learning among American youth. The U.S. Department of State, in cooperation with American Councils for International Education, awards and administers merit-based scholarships to high school students for participation in summer and academic year immersion programs in locations where the eight NSLI-Y languages are spoken. NSLI-Y immerses participants in the cultural life of the host country, giving them formal and informal language practice and sparking a lifetime interest in foreign languages and cultures. Participants receive intensive language instruction, live with a host family for all or part of the program, and participate in community service and a variety of cultural activities.


NSLI-Y is administered by American Councils for International Education in cooperation with AFS-USA, iEARN, American Cultural Exchange Service (ACES), AMIDEAST, Russian American Foundation (RAF), Stony Brook University, University of Delaware, University of Wisconsin Madison, and other organizations.


Over 650 merit-based scholarships will be available for U.S. citizen high school students between the ages of 15 and 18 to study a language in the summer of 2021 or in the 2021-22 academic year. Scholarship recipients will receive intensive language learning through a study abroad experience, language classes, cultural activities, and time living overseas with a host family. Applicants may choose to study Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Persian (Tajiki), Russian, or Turkish.  For more information on NSLI-Y, click here.