Nic, Bupkis and Nichevo

About Nothing, by Nothing, with German-flavored cleavage occasionally thrown in for local color.

Location: Indianapolis, Indiana

You can email me at NicBupkusNichevo at aol dot com. Aren't you excited?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

On HumInt and Linguists: One of the big complaints about combat actions in the Middle East is the extreme paucity of translators and interpreters in the local languages and dialects. In defense of, well, Defense, it ain't easy to come up with an ArabLing in uniform. Arabic, Farsi and their dialects are considered some of the hardest languages for military linguists to pick up (it's a given that anything with a non-Roman or Cyrillic alphabet falls into that category). this means you have to find:

A) Someone who *wants* to be a linguist
B) Someone who wants to be a linguist and manages to pass the required language proficiency test
C) Someone who wants to be a linguist and manages to not only pass the required language proficiency test but scores high enough to qualify for a Grade 4 language
D) AND someone who not only does all of the above but also survives 60+ weeks of very intense language training (*one* *day* is equivalent to a 2-week college-level course).

And all of THAT is before they even start training for the actual job.

Oh, and then you remove the significant percentage of those shiny new linguists who choose SigInt jobs rather than HumInt.

Yes, we could be doing more to recruit native speakers into the military, both as advisors and actual in-uniform linguists, but frankly the vetting process is already backed up beyond belief and "mistakes" slip through (witness the Marine who keeps getting "lost" somewhere between here and Lebanon). You want us to have adequate linguist staff? Start requiring mandatory language training in elementary, junior high and high schools when the human brain is far more flexible on matters of language. Move us beyond Spanish, French and the occasional German to languages that are actually *needed* and useful, including Arabic, Japanese and Chinese. Where do you get these instructors? Retired military linguists encouraged to move into the extant Troops-to-Teachers program.

The point to all of this is that even if DoD and the other intell services *had* had the foresight to see what was coming and start recruiting and training more linguists, the length of time required for even the most basic language training (and trust me, bub, that 60+ weeks is *barely* adequate for basic instruction) means that the turnout can't happen fast enough to keep up with demand.


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