Foreign Language Questions

Discussion in 'Life After the Academy' started by usafa2022, Jan 12, 2015.

  1. usafa2022

    usafa2022 Member

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    I am planning to start taking foreign classes language my next year of high school (sophomore year), and my options are French, Spanish, Arabic, and Latin. Right now I am leaning towards Spanish because it is the most widely spoken, at least in the western hemisphere, of all the options. My plan is to apply to the Air Force Academy and USMA (second choice) and I believe at least some experience with a language is required or preferred at both academies.

    My question is: how will knowledge of a foreign language affect assignments after commissioning into the military, in my case the Air Force or Army? Does knowing a foreign/strategic language qualify you for deployments or assignments to areas speaking that language?

    Also, how important is the extend of your knowledge of the language? Three years of a high school language class isn't exactly a strong background, so would the specific language I study really matter in the case of post-academy assignments/deployments?

    I have friends who take Arabic in hopes of getting DLI scholarships and the like, and it's arguably the most relevant strategic language nowadays. Spanish is the most relevant in the United States and the rest of the Americas, however. I want to choose carefully in case this turns out to be important, better safe than sorry!
     
  2. kinnem

    kinnem Moderator

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    The following is merely my opinion, and after reading it you should throw it in the trash bin.

    1. Which language is no longer spoken? Latin. That one's not going to get you anywhere unless your goal is to understand Western languages in general... in which case it's a good bet. Only useful academically though.

    2. Which one is totally unlike any of the others? Arabic. If you want to pick one that will be wayyyyy more difficult to learn, then that's the one to go with. Strategic too. Probably not much use in your normal life though.

    3. French? Spoken in France, Quebec, and some former French colonies. If you live near Quebec and cross the border often you might have some chances to use it in everyday life. Amongst our allies French speakers are a franc a dozen, so to speak.

    4. Spanish? Widely spoken in this hemisphere and even more and more in the US. If you want to learn a language that might have some use in your everyday life (and get a chance to use it), then this is the one to go with.

    Not sure which one the military prizes more although, as you say, it is arguably Arabic. Frankly though, I would be picking a language that will be useful in my life. YMMV
     
  3. Boozebin

    Boozebin Member

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    I don't know if a language will help you in the application process at the AFA but you will be required to take 2 semester of a foreign language. So if you look at this from what languages might be taught there when you get there this might help. Right from the AFA web site.

    http://www.usafa.edu/df/dff/newby.cfm?catname=df

    All cadets are required to take two semesters of a foreign language in residence.
    Many choose to study much more, including some students who study more than one
    language, and others who take language courses all eight semesters at USAFA.

    WHAT LANGUAGES ARE TAUGHT AT USAFA? Incoming cadets are enrolled in language courses based on placement test results, academic background, preference, and motivation. You may study Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Russian, Portuguese or Spanish--eight of the most important languages in the world. Within each language there is a broad spectrum of courses. First, second, and third year courses (100, 200 and 300 level) are primarily skills development courses. Additional upper level courses are designed to develop a broader appreciation of a particular culture, history, and literature, providing additional opportunities to develop and refine language skills.
     
  4. Non Ducor Duco

    Non Ducor Duco I am not led, I lead

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    I do have a list of DoD strategic languages, but I don't think I can post something like that over the internet since it says 'For Official Use Only'. Any cadet/midshipman should be able to request it though from their cadre though. Of the 4 the OP listed, Arabic is the most desired, it is considered a tier one language since they could use more people who speak it. French and Spanish are both Tier 2 languages, meaning there are enough speakers in the military to keep up with the demand. You can be paid for speaking Arabic, French or Spanish. Though Arabic pays more and the DoD study abroad program Project GO only pays for Chinese, Korean, Russian, Swahili, Arabic, and a few other Middle Eastern languages. "Free" study abroad opportunities are more limited with French or Spanish. And of course, the government won't pay squat for Latin because it is a dead language. The only reason to study Latin is for personal growth, or if you're interested in a career in medicine.

    Spanish speakers are a dime a dozen. French is a little less common, though just as useful and internationally used as Spanish. But what's more important is choosing a language you are genuinely interested in learning. If you have no interest in Arabic and just choose it to look better to the government, you risk getting stuck learning something you hate.

    I never liked Spanish, not the language and never really cared for the food. Took 3 years of it in HS, don't remember any of it, never got above a B in the class. In college I took up Chinese (Mandarin) and I love it. I'm interested in the language, culture, and especially the food. (I mention food because that's arguably one of the biggest parts of any culture. If you hate the food, the culture will be really hard to accept) And I've never gotten anything but an A in the courses. Chinese is easy because I enjoy it. Spanish was difficult because I hated learning it, I just wanted to skip the learning process and automatically know how to speak it. If you don't enjoy the journey of learning the language you're going to be miserable.

    Worry less about which one the government prefers, and more about which one you will enjoy enough to do well in the classes and actually learn the language.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2015
  5. Stealth_81

    Stealth_81 Super Moderator Moderator Founding Member

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    My son took Spanish in high school and was placed in upper level Spanish at USAFA. He was able to get a minor in Spanish while there with only taking four classes. The language never had much usefulness while he was at USAFA or in getting his job (pilot). However, I can tell you that he has used it a lot since graduation since he has been stationed in Del Rio, Phoenix, and now Miami.

    Stealth_81
     
  6. AF6872

    AF6872 Member

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    Daughter was a Chinese Major at USNA didn't use it much except with all the tourists (take a picture with us in your uniform since you speak the language). Did get a summer in China and then another semester in Beijing. Now up for language school in Monterey. Hope it works out since her husband is at Miramar. For now he is San Diego and she is Paris Island. That is the military.
     
  7. ca2midwestmom

    ca2midwestmom Member

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    Take what you think you may be most interested in while in high school. Most colleges require (or recommend) at least 2 years of a foreign language for admittance. At USMA you will be required to take a foreign language (1 or 2 semesters, unless you test out), but like USAFA you will have several more options than in high school (same list as Boozebin provided above but Persian is offered instead of Japanese).

    As for Latin, true it is not a spoken language but it will help with your understanding of English vocabulary/origins, which may help in your SAT/ACT testing. And the history is interesting.
     
  8. nick4060

    nick4060 Member

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    I can speak to the Air Force side. I'm a Russian speaker and it had absolutely no effect on my selections for an ROTC scholarship, Field Training, or my career field. It did, however, get me the opportunity to live in Russia for a summer during college on the Air Force's dime. It also opens the doors for some special career broadening programs later on in your active duty career. You can research programs like the Language Enabled Airman Program (LEAP) and Regional Affairs Strategist (RAS) for more information. If you're intent on using your language on active duty, your goal should be to achieve at the very minimum a score of 2L/2R on the Defense Language Proficiency Test (DLPT). Hope that helps.
     
  9. flieger83

    flieger83 Super Moderator Moderator

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    Спасибо, сэр!
    полковник Стивен
    (Это было долгое время, так как я говорил по-русски)

    A really, REALLY long time...like "Constant Shotgun" in 1992.

    Steve
    USAFA ALO
    USAFA '83

    P.S. Fellow mod's...nothing above in Cyrillic is rude/crude/socially unacceptable.
     
  10. cb7893

    cb7893 Member

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    This is the best advice.

    You will never compete with a native speaker for a job, whose skill set has "knowledge of 'X' language" at the top. For all other jobs, proficiency with the core skill set is what will matter most.

    Nonetheless, the importance of learning another language cannot be over emphasized. In the process you will force your brain to work in new ways. It will improve your skills in a number of areas from English to problem solving to public speaking. If you really are serious in pursuing a language, you will find yourself challenged and embarrassed, but ultimately satisfied.

    Which language? Think of the country, culture or history which interests you the most. When you pick up a book or a newspaper, which news event involving a non-English speaking country draws you in the most? The language of that country should top the list if it's available. If it's not, then choose the one you're most likely to encounter in your everyday life or in your travels. If your number one isn't available in high school, then pick another and pursue number one in college. Learning one language, even superficially, serves as a gateway to the next.

    This is all based on my experience in the 1970's. What started with two unsatisfying years of high school French turned into German and Russian in college and Polish after college. My Polish wife and I spoke Russian when we first met 35 years ago, because neither of us spoke the other's language. Did it help me get a job with one of the largest grain companies in the world, who consistently sold millions of tons of grain into the USSR and Eastern Europe? Yes. But the guys who made it to the top of the company were mostly Midwestern farm kids who could buy low and sell high. If they could figure it out from Minot, ND to Superior, WI, they could do it from New Orleans to Novorossisk.

    My DS, an AROTC MS IV, will attest to all the benefits I mentioned.

    Most important, don't spend your high school years calculating how to enhance your job prospects or your chances of receiving an appointment to an SA. Take school seriously. Surround yourself with good people. Concentrate on being a good friend and teammate. Without trying you'll find what you love and then give it all you can.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2015
  11. nick4060

    nick4060 Member

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    Приятно познакомиться, начальник полковник! Это очень приятно узнать, что кто-то здесь говорит по-русски.

    -Старший лейтенант Николай
     
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  12. kinnem

    kinnem Moderator

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    And these last two posts is why God gave us Google Translate! :)
     
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  13. AVT

    AVT USAFA 2015

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    I feel that knowing a foreign language (Russian) has opened and will continue to open doors for me down the road.
    I spent a semester abroad in the Republic of Georgia, for example.

    Additionally, the Air Force has a program known as LEAP (Language Enabled Airman Program). They select service members and senior cadets who have some degree of foreign language skill.
    Through the program, their language ability is developed, and LEAP qualified personnel will have preference for jobs which would benefit from someone knowing a certain language.
     
  14. flieger83

    flieger83 Super Moderator Moderator

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    Oh man...that tasked my ancient Russian...had to actually go back to my dictionary...google translator?
    NAH!!!

    Prefer the dictionary...makes me think and remember!

    Steve
    USAFA ALO
    USAFA '83
     
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