Foreign language experts in high demand - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Foreign language experts in high demand

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May 12, 2006

Albany -- The United States military is looking for a few good men, who can speak foreign languages.

The Defense Department needs more bilingual service members, especially those who speak Middle Eastern languages and Chinese. So the military is offering big bonuses and pay raises to members who can speak certain languages fluently.

With the war in Iraq, it makes sense why the military would need more people who speak Middle Eastern languages. But those languages just aren't taught at most state schools, so the military hopes pay incentives will encourage service members to learn another language.

At the United States Marine Corps Recruiting office in Albany, new recruits are offered more than 300 jobs in the Corps. "The majority of guys we have coming in locally right now are going into aviation electronics, calibrations, mechanics, supply and accounting, administrative. It depends on what their goals are," says Marine Gunnery Sgt. Bobby Sconyers.

Sconyers says when the military needs more members in a specific field, they often lure them with higher pay. "If it's a job we value and is critical at that time, then we're going to have incentives to keep that person in that job field."

Right now, the field in demand is linguistics. Thursday, the Defense Department announced a pay raise for service members who speak a foreign language proficiently. The maximum monthly bonus for active-duty service members who are proficient in another language will increase from $300 to $1,000.

National Guard and reserve members will be offered an additional $6,000 a year.

The most strategically important are Middle Eastern languages and Chinese Mandarin.

And Sconyers says members must pass a proficiency test. "If they are trying to go into the linguist field, they have to take what we call the DELAB which is the language aptitude battery test. If they score high enough on the DELAB and if they can show they are proficient in that language, then they can go for that field."

A Pentagon spokesperson says the goal of this pay increase is not necessarily to boost recruiting or retention, but to identify service members whose skills are untapped and to motivate others to study new languages. The foreign language proficient pay becomes effective June 1st.

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