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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Language Training Options for Eligible Family Members (EFMs)


Q:  As an Eligible Family Member, am I eligible for language training?
Family members 18 years of age and older (children between the ages of 18 and 21 years) who accompany employees to an overseas assignment may take language training at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) on a space-available basis in FSI’s Basic, FAST, or Early Morning courses. EFMs should keep in mind that for classroom courses, most language training options are directly assignment-related, meaning that language study must be for a current or upcoming post assignment. The exception is distance learning language, which is not assignment-specific.

Q:  How are languages differentiated?
Languages are separated into categories based on difficulty. The following chart illustrates which languages fall into which categories and how many weeks of language are needed to reach the general professional proficiency- S-3/R-3, assuming that the learner is a native English speaker with no prior knowledge of the language to be learned.

Q:  What formal language training options are available while my spouse/sponsor is in training at FSI?
Several options exist for EFMs who are at FSI while the employee is in training:

  • Basic Courses
    Basic courses are offered in more than 70 languages and are designed to help learners develop general language proficiency as well as communicative competencies necessary for prospective employment. Basic courses provide speaking, reading, and listening practice and include varied activities to accommodate different learning styles. The “advanced area studies” module is included in this program helps learners understand the host country, its regional and international significance, and its bilateral relationship with the United States. The School of Language Studies employs a Language Learning Consultation Service to assist learners in determining how best to develop their language skills. The length of Basic courses depends on the difficulty of the language and the desired proficiency goal.
  • FAST Courses: Familiarization and Short-Term Language Studies
    FAST courses are designed for beginners with a training opportunity of two months or less. As such, FAST courses are appropriate for Executive Branch employees of all ranks and assignments, as well as for family members. Training is full-time and intensive. Lessons are derived from situations likely to be encountered overseas in a particular locale. FAST training is preparation for getting things done despite linguistic disadvantages, by making use of essential language and cultural knowledge.
  • Early Morning Classes
    Early morning classes are offered to employees or Eligible Family Members who have or will have a job-related need for language proficiency but who are unable to enroll in full-time language training. Classes are offered from 7:30 to 8:40 every morning during two 17-week semesters in September and February in a number of languages. Department Notices announce which languages are available in advance of each offering. For more information, please call (703) 302-7242.

Q:  What language training options are available to EFMs while assigned to post?
The following courses are open to family members at post (see each description for any exceptions or limitations):

  • Distance Learning Language
    Online language courses available on the FSI LearnCenter provide opportunities for employees and their family members to develop new language skills or maintaining existing language proficiencies, regardless of their physical location (domestic or abroad). Unlike classroom training, where enrollment must be to the language spoken at the assigned post, students have the flexibility of enrolling in any language of their choosing (children between the ages of 18-21 are limited to the language spoken at post). Courses are mentored by FSI Language and Cultural Instructors via email, LearnCenter forums, and schedule phone sessions to develop all modes of communication. Note: Family members may take advantage of distance learning language courses while domestically assigned as well.
  • Out and About
    Out and About introduces learners to the local language and cultural environment. Students participate in exercises based on the following major themes: getting around (e.g., how to ask for directions; what to say to a cab driver; how to navigate around the city); getting food (e.g., how to order a specific meal); and getting things (e.g., how to make purchases). Note: Family members may take advantage of these Out and About courses while domestically assigned as well.
  • Field School Training
    Full-time language training is available to EFM’s on a space-available basis at overseas field schools at these posts: Yokohama for Japanese, Seoul for Korean, and Taipei for Chinese. Arabic language training is offered at various venues across the Middle East. These programs generally have a prerequisite of 2/2. An area studies component as well as field trips and special assignments are included in the courses. For questions, contact 703.302.7244.

Q:  How do I register for any of the above language courses?
Unless otherwise noted above, to enroll in training (classroom or distance learning), contact the employee’s Career Development Officer (CDO).

Q:  What other resources are available to Eligible Family Members?
The following resources are available:

  • Post Language Programs
    Post Language programs are funded by the regional bureau or post. Enrollment is limited. In order to participate, employees and their family members can schedule an appointment with the Language Learning Consultation Service and with Continuing Training ( to discuss what resources might be available to them for language study at post.

Regional Immersions

  • Independent Study
    If learners are unable to commit to a regular schedule of language courses, independent study may be a viable option. Independent study programs provide self-study materials from textbooks and media that have been used in FSI classes. Contact the Instructional Support Division at FSI for further information at (703) 302-7153 or
  • Learning Consultations/Diagnostics
    The ability to manage and self-direct one’s learning is a vital skill, since students are ultimately responsible for their own learning. To this end, the School of Language Studies created the Language Learning Consultation Service, which serves all students on a voluntary and confidential basis. Students are able to utilize materials that support continued learning in the field and speak with counselors about their language development process. Follow-up meetings with counselors are encouraged. Call 703-302-7250 to set up an appointment.
  • Online Language Resource Library
    The FSI Language Resource Library offers a series of materials in over 45 languages used previously in selected FSI language classes, and now re-purposed for self-guided use. Students may review and/or download as many materials as needed. The materials are available in the FSI LearnCenter on the Internet, and therefore are accessible from any Internet connection. Some of the contents are available in Adobe PDF format (requires Acrobat Reader® version 6.0 or later), with audio files available as mp3 files. Employees may enroll their family members at
  • Rosetta Stone and Mango Languages
    Rosetta Stone and Mango are language-learning programs which people have found useful for learning new languages. Employees may enroll their family members via OpenNet at: (Rosetta Stone) (Mango Languages)

Q:  Where can I find more information?
Employees/sponsors may visit FSI’s School of Language Studies website (OpenNet link). If you are interested in discussing the various language training options at FSI, contact the Continuing Training Office at (703) 302-7125 or Overseas? Contact the Post Language Program Office.

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