Attrition: The Language Bonus

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May 17, 2006: The U.S. Department of Defense just gave its recruiters a powerful new tool. Language proficiency pay bonuses have been increased from a maximum of $300 a month to $1,000 a month. This pay is given to those who can pass a proficiency test in languages the Pentagon believes it has need for at the moment. Currently, Arabic, and languages spoken in Afghanistan (Farsi, Dari, Pushtun, Tajik, etc) are all worth an extra $12,000 a year to military personnel who speak and read it well enough to translate and interpret effectively. Recruiters can use this to entice many young men whose parents came from the Middle East and South Asia, have some fluency with the language, and are otherwise eligible to join. Many of these recruits would need additional language training, especially to attain useful literacy. Many children of immigrants develop conversational skills in "old country" languages, but if they used a different alphabet back there, don't learn to read well. But conversational skills serve as a good foundation for a fast passage through additional training. Just conversational fluency gets you a lesser bonus, but it's a substantial chunk of change, especially when added to signing bonuses for those going into critical skill areas.

 


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