Civil Service Languages Network

The Civil Service Languages Network (CSLN) is a network for civil servants with a passion for languages who enjoy immersing themselves in different cultures. Whether you speak five different languages or are beginning your language learning journey, CSLN provides the opportunity for language enthusiasts from all areas of government to engage and create valuable connections. CSLN aims to improve language capability across government, with 41 language groups offering conversation sessions, speaker events and network socials, as well as offering members the opportunity to put their language skills to use on government projects, or by helping charities.

Who we are

Are you a keen linguist or looking to improve your language skills? Are you interested in exploring the languages, cultures and customs of countries and communities around the world? Can your business unit or department benefit from specialist language and intercultural expertise? Do you want to join a community of like-minded civil servants passionate about languages? Then the Civil Service Languages Network is the place for you!

Our values

Unique - CSLN is one of a kind. It holds a unique position within the UK Civil Service and boasts a large wealth of linguistic and cultural resources. Staff enjoy the opportunities that CSLN provides to build their knowledge and networks.

Fun - CSLN is a staff network made for colleagues, run by colleagues. Staff engage with CSLN to socialise and meet like-minded people, whilst learning new things about the languages and cultures that interest them.

Impactful - CSLN taps into the linguistic and cultural skills members have to support the UK Civil Service and network partners, such as the NHS and schools in different regions of the UK. The projects CSLN takes on make a positive difference to the lives of citizens.

Inclusive - CSLN is a safe space which is open, tolerant and inclusive of members from all backgrounds. Members respect each other’s differences and treat others with dignity and respect.

What we do

Our network activity is split into two strands - a staff network of individual language groups and a unique linguistic resource to provide strategic support on special projects.

As a Staff Network, CSLN is:

  • A forum for staff to meet like-minded individuals online and in person at our social events.

  • A chance to boost foreign language skills through tandems and conversation sessions.

  • A place for members to learn more about international topics at events and guest lectures.

  • Is made by colleagues for colleagues -this network is run on an entirely volunteer basis.

As a key support on special projects, CSLN:

  • Taps into the linguistic and cultural expertise of our members to support departments and teams that need language capability. 

  • Uses its influence to explain the importance of languages in and to government.

What we offer

Language Groups 

From Arabic to Urdu, Bengali to Swedish and everything in between, the Civil Service Languages Network is made up of over 10,460 colleagues across 41 language groups, throughout government, the UK and overseas. Each group has dedicated language leads who are passionate about the language and facilitate the group’s activity.

Which languages do we offer? 

  1. Afrikaans
  2. Arabic / عربي
  3. Bengali / বাংলা
  4. Bilingual Parenting
  5. British Sign Language (BSL) 
  6. Bulgarian / български
  7. Cantonese / 廣東話
  8. Classics
  9. Dutch / Nederlands
  10. English Skills
  11. Farsi / فارسی
  12. French / français
  13. German / Deutsch
  14. Georgian / ქართული
  15. Greek / Ελληνικά
  16. Hebrew / עִברִיתת
  17. Hungarian / magyar
  18. Irish / Gaelige
  19. Indonesian / Bahasa Indonesia
  20. Italian / italiano
  21. Japanese / 日本語
  22. Korean / 한국어
  23. Mandarin / 普通话
  24. Nordic Languages
  25. Panjabi / ਪੰਜਾਬੀ / پن٘جابی
  26. Polish / Polski
  27. Portuguese / português
  28. Romanian / Română
  29. Russian / русский язык
  30. Scottish Gaelic / Gàidhlig na h-Alba
  31. Spanish / español
  32. Swahili / Kiswahili
  33. Tagalog
  34. Tamil / Malayalam தமிழ் / മലയാളം
  35. Thai / ภาษาไทย
  36. Turkish / Türkçe
  37. Ukrainian / Українська
  38. Urdu / اردو
  39. Welsh / Cymraeg

You can join as many groups as you like. Each one will be slightly different, but they all tend to offer:

Language tandems 

Coffee roulette meetings / 1:1 conversations rotating regularly with other Civil Servants who speak your chosen language to a similar standard.

Group language lunches / conversation groups

Informal conversations online in your chosen foreign language where you bring your lunch along and chat. 

Speaker events 

In these events, speakers will talk about your group’s language and the cultures and communities that speak it. Some of these events are in English; others will be in your target language. There are opportunities to interact directly with speakers after most talks.

Other network opportunities

The wider CSLN team also organises the following:

Diverse speaker events on a range of topics

Members hear regularly from civil servants and high-profile guests (diplomats, interpreters, academics) about their experience with languages at work or in their area of expertise in languages. These events are not language-specific and are organised by the central CSLN team.

Past guests include Dominic Williams, British Ambassador to Cambodia, Ria Perkins, Expert in Forensic Linguistics at DSTL and and Luis Von Ahn, CEO and Co-Founder of Duolingo Inc.

Inter-language tandems

Members can choose to be paired with a partner to share language expertise. Both partners are proficient in a language the other would like to practise.

In-person social events

The CSLN team also organises events where members can meet up and network with colleagues in person. Such events have included CSLN Picnic in the Park in London, and socials all over the UK (Darlington, Manchester and Liverpool to name a few!).

Support on special projects

Being such a rich and active network, the Civil Service Languages Network taps into the linguistic and cultural expertise of our members to provide bespoke resources to departments and teams that need language skills and robust intercultural awareness.

In recent years we supported on the following.

GSCU Languages Capability Survey

CSLN supported the design and promotion of the Government Skills and Curriculum Unit’s Language Capability Survey to map language skills across government and examine how these skills can be recognised, developed and deployed. Thanks to CSLN, the survey drew roughly 4,000 responses from more than 20 departments and ALBs.

Schools and University Outreach

Alongside other departments, the CSLN team and its enthusiastic volunteers visit schools and universities to run themed workshops inspiring students to learn languages and promoting their uptake at GCSE and A-Level. This work also supported the Prime Minister’s priority of Levelling Up (PDF, 10.1MB)

NHS Booster Drive Support

In December 2021, we supported NHS England on the COVID-19 vaccine booster drive. Over 150 network volunteers provided video content and translations in 32 languages targeting vaccine hesitancy. We produced 50 videos in total, and a video montage which you can watch here:

a video montage

Translation for Windrush

CLSN members supported the Home Office to proofread documents in Gujarati, Bengali, Urdu and Panjabi. These materials will be used to reach people eligible for the Windrush documentation and compensation schemes and to encourage them to apply.

COP27 2022

Volunteers from the Arabic Network, run and managed by the Civil Service Languages Network, recently supported the UK delegation to COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh by training them in basic Egyptian Arabic language. Delegates were also given workshops in understanding Arabic culture and navigating Egyptian customs ahead of the event.

Cabinet Office – Mandarin Pilot Scheme 

The CSLN Mandarin Network has recently collaborated with GCSU and the FCDO on the CO CSSF Mandarin Pilot, which has supported 150 learners with over 50 hours of fully funded lessons. The intention is to uplift as many Mandarin speakers to C1 level as possible to support wider xHMG China Capability.

Breaking Barriers

Farsi and Arabic Networks are providing support to Breaking Barriers - a charity that provides support to refugees, with support for finding employment. They will be providing assistance in translating documents to build the charity’s impact.

What we’ve achieved

13,000 members in three years

Since October 2020, we ’ve established 41 language groups from Afrikaans to Urdu, British Sign Language to Swedish and everything in between, and a Bilingual Parenting group. We now have nearly 13,000 members participating across Whitehall, the UK and overseas - comparable to a small department. To achieve this in so little time is no mean feat.

Recognition from the Chartered Institute of Linguists

In March 2022, we were awarded the prestigious Threlford Cup from the Chartered Institute of Linguists, presented by patron Prince Michael of Kent. The accolade is awarded for promoting the learning of languages and intercultural dialogue with significant reach, both numerically and geographically. This recognition marks the huge efforts of volunteers and members since the network’s foundation in October 2020 to build an active, growing community around languages within the Civil Service of such a scale.

Aims for 2024 and beyond

15,000 members

This would be a real milestone for us. If you’re interested in languages, we’d love to have you along!


We are looking to provide more opportunities for members to use their languages at work. If you work in a Government Department that could benefit from the use of colleagues’ language skills, then get in touch.


As part of our key offer to members, we have a number of events lined up.

Contact us and get involved

If you are a Civil Servant or work in an Arms Length Body you can sign up using this registration form. Please note that if you don’t sign up with a government, ALB or British Council email, you will not be registered. If this link doesn’t work, please send it to a personal device – your Department might be blocking the Google form.

Do you speak a language we don’t currently cater for? Do you want to pitch an event? Can you provide PR support or a slot in your directorate-wide meeting? Anything else? Please get in touch at

Contact details

Contact details

Contact details