USA: For Military, Slow Progress in Foreign Language Push

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For Military, Slow Progress in Foreign Language Push

The Defense Department (DoD) has been pushing for three years to boost language training so that more personnel speak strategically valuable languages. This effort has been marked by slow progress and a lack of clarity about the military's objectives. DoD statistics estimate that just 1.2 percent of the military are paid a bonus for speaking languages deemed to be important in areas of strategic concern. Lt. Col. John Nagl (Ret.) notes that the Army has yet to "build the programs and provide the leader development" to reach its still ill-defined language training goal. He says the military and other government agencies' push to increase the country's cadre of Arabic speakers after 9/11 has been nowhere near as intense or urgent as the investment in Russian language training following the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik. The Army devised a program to enlist native speakers of strategically important languages as translators and so far over 600 have graduated. There also has been a significant increase in the number of students studying Arabic, Chinese, and Farsi at the Defense Language Institute. The Marine Corps currently awards 40 seats yearly at the Defense Language Institute to marines who have re-enlisted and expressed an interest in learning a language with military value. A shortfall of soldiers with foreign language experience has led to the military's reliance on over 10,000 civilian contract linguists, but individual units of the military are making progress on their own. One such unit is the Fourth Stryker Brigade, which set up a rigorous 10-month Arabic course for 125 of its soldiers to attend before their next deployment, says DoD's Gail H. McGinn.

From "For Military, Slow Progress in Foreign Language Push"
New York Times (09/22/08) P. A20; Bardenwerper, Will

Source: ATA Newsbriefs - October 2008


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