FSI students studying in a foreign language classroom.

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.

Learn about opportunities available through the Madeline E. Ehrman Fellowship in Second Language Acquisition for scholars whose work addresses efficient and effective second language training for adults.


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 60+ 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:

  • Division Director (DVD): Oversees all language sections within the division and implements program and division goals. Directly supervises the Language Training Supervisors.
  • Deputy Division Director (D/DVD): Oversees the operational aspects of the division. Directly supervises Training Specialists and serves as Government Technical Monitor (GTM) for Program Assistants.
  • 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 support the division with student development, managing language training programs, and implementing program goals. They specialize in one or more of curriculum development, instructional coaching, educational technology, and testing.
  • 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.

  • Learning and Technology Innovation (LTI) leads SLS in evidence-based innovation in language teaching, language learning, program development and instructional technology for application in the Foreign Service use context. LTI is also committed to keeping staff engaged and current through rigorous professional development.
  • Evaluation and Measurement Unit (EMU) helps all staff members collect and analyze information to understand how programs are performing and in using 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 who engage with the media.
  • Administration (ADMIN) is responsible for the central operational needs of SLS, such as managing contracts, budget, hiring priorities and travel.
  • Language Testing and Assessment (LTA) administers the language proficiency testing program, providing test administration oversight, testing records maintenance, and quality control. LTA ensures that tests are valid and reliable for all examinees.


FSI’s Experience with Language Learning

The following language learning timelines reflect 76 years of experience in teaching languages to U.S. diplomats, and illustrate the time usually required for a student to reach “General Professional Proficiency” in the language, or a score of “Speaking-3/Reading-3” on the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) 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 several 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 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 (30 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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