November 16, 2007: The U.S.
Army has found that about 13 percent of its troops have some foreign language
skills. About ten percent of that group are talented, or needed, enough to
receive special pay for their language abilities. This amounts to up to $12,000
a year for active duty troops, and $6,000 a year for reservists. The max rate
is available to those with high skill levels in Arabic, Turkish (used in
Central Asia), Farsi (Iranian), Chinese, Korean, Dari (Farsi dialect spoken in
Afghanistan), Hindi (many dialects in India), Somali and Swahili (common
language in East Africa). The minimum bonus is $3,600 a year. Skills are tested
regularly to maintain qualification.
The Department of Defense has
almost completed a detailed survey of language skills among all its personnel,
and has found that 22,000 (about one percent) have some skill (from crude to
fluent) in Arabic, Chinese, Farsi and Hindi. These languages are much in demand
by the armed forces. The plan is now to encourage those who are
less-than-fluent to improve their skills. Free training will be provided, with
the prospect of those bonuses once greater proficiency is achieved.
Linguists are crucial for
successful intelligence work, in peace as well as war. In particular, you want
people who have security clearances, or who can get them. Department of Defense
employees fit the bill here. Otherwise, you have to hire civilian linguists, who
often do not have clearances, cannot get them, or are actually liable to act as
spies for foreign nations.