FSI students studying in a foreign language classroom. The instructor is motioning to the electronic screen.

The School of Language Studies (SLS) provides language and culture training to U.S. government employees with job-related needs. It addresses all aspects of language training, from classroom instruction and distance learning, to learning consultation services and testing.

Student Orientation
Are you new to SLS or returning and need a refresher? The orientation page contains information on what to expect when you arrive on campus.

Employment and Fellowship Opportunities
For information about the different types of positions and job opportunities in SLS, please visit the Foreign Language Training Employment Opportunities page.

To learn about the Madeline E. Ehrman Fellowship in Second Language Acquisition, please see here.

 

Organizational Overview

The School of Language Studies (SLS) is divided into instructional and functional divisions.

Instructional Divisions

The following five instructional divisions provide training in over 65 languages:

  • East Asia & Pacific
  • European & African
  • Near East, Central, & South Asian
  • Romance
  • Slavic & Eurasian

Each instructional division includes a team to support students in meeting their language training goals. Members of that team include:

  • Language Training Supervisors (LTS): Language professionals who oversee training specialists, instructors, and students. The LTS is the immediate supervisor for students enrolled in the language school.
  • Training Specialists (TS): Non-supervisory staff who assist with the LTS with student development, managing language training programs, and implementing program goals.
  • Language and Culture Instructors (LCI): Native or near-native speakers who provide classroom instruction and out-of-classroom support.
Functional Divisions

In addition to the five language divisions, five functional divisions support the mission of SLS.

  • Curriculum, Staff, and Student Development (CSD) supports language learning through staff development, curriculum and materials development, and instructional technology. CSD also coordinates student orientations.
  • The Evaluation and Measurement Unit (EMU) helps all staff members collect and analyze information to understand how programs are performing and use evidence to inform planning and decisions.
  • Foreign Service Programs (FSP) supports language training at overseas posts through the Distance Language Learning and Post Language programs. FSP also offers the In-Language Media Practicum for members for the Foreign Service.
  • Administration is responsible for the central administrative needs of SLS, such as managing contracts and purchasing.
  • The Language Testing Unit (LTU) administers the language proficiency testing program, providing test administration oversight, testing records maintenance, and quality control. The LTU ensures that tests are valid and reliable for all examinees.

 

FSI’s Experience with Language Learning

The following language learning timelines reflect 70 years of experience in teaching languages to U.S. diplomats, and illustrate the time usually required for a student to reach “Professional Working Proficiency” in the language, or a score of “Speaking-3/Reading-3” on the Interagency Language Roundtable scale. These timelines are based on what FSI has observed as the average length of time for a student to achieve proficiency, though the actual time can vary based on a number of factors, including the language learner’s natural ability, prior linguistic experience, and time spent in the classroom.

Category I Languages: 24-30 weeks (600-750 class hours)

Languages more similar to English.

Danish (24 weeks) Dutch (24 weeks) French (30 weeks)
Italian (24 weeks) Norwegian (24 weeks) Portuguese (24 weeks)
Romanian (24 weeks) Spanish (24 weeks) Swedish (24 weeks)

Category II Languages: Approximately 36 weeks (900 class hours)

German Haitian Creole Indonesian
Malay Swahili

Category III Languages: Approximately 44 weeks (1100 class hours)

“Hard languages” – Languages with significant linguistic and/or cultural differences from English. This list is not exhaustive.

Albanian Amharic Armenian
Azerbaijani Bengali Bulgarian
Burmese Czech Dari
Estonian Farsi Finnish
Georgian Greek Hebrew
Hindi Hungarian Icelandic
Kazakh Khmer Kurdish
Kyrgyz Lao Latvian
Lithuanian Macedonian Mongolian
Nepali Polish Russian
Serbo-Croatian Sinhala Slovak
Slovenian Somali Tagalog
Tajiki Tamil Telugu
Thai Tibetan Turkish
Turkmen Ukrainian Urdu
Uzbek Vietnamese

Category IV Languages: 88 weeks (2200 class hours)

“Super-hard languages” – Languages which are exceptionally difficult for native English speakers.

Arabic Chinese – Cantonese Chinese – Mandarin
Japanese Korean

U.S. Department of State

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