Friday, May 05, 2017

What we have here is a failure to communicate

Nobody cares for what I say or write; so, I will quote myself ;)

Back in January 2015, I wrote in an op-ed:

Even the most ardent supporters of universities and higher education aren’t being helpful when the only support they show is for basketball and football victories, for which they are also willing to invest millions of dollars. Imagine, instead, that a few million dollars were invested in order to encourage students to learn Chinese and Arabic. Not that I don’t want students to, say, learn French. Au contraire! But in preparing students for the future, shouldn’t we actively promote Arabic, Mandarin and Hindi, which will then become portals to understand those different places and their peoples?

Yep, that was more than two years ago.  Over the nearly thirty months since then, don't you think that the importance of understanding the part of the world where Arabic, Mandarin, and Hindi are spoken has vastly increased?

Even the British bastards knew better--in order to suck the blood out of their colonies, they knew that they needed quite a few of their own people to be fluent in the vernacular of the brown people.  And those bastards even really enjoyed the food in the colonies, unlike the current American president!

By now you know that this blogger presents logic and evidence, unlike the president and his 63 million voters,  Here too, in the case of foreign language, you can bet your farm that there is plenty of evidence that we need to worry about.  Like from the United States Government Accountability Office.  (How they managed to get such reports out under this presidency beats me!)

First, the context for the GAO report:
Proficiency in foreign languages is a key skill for U.S. diplomats to advance U.S. interests overseas. GAO has issued several reports highlighting State’s persistent foreign language shortfalls. In 2009, GAO recommended that State, to address these shortfalls, develop a strategic plan linking all of its efforts to meet its foreign language requirements. In response, in 2011 State issued its “Strategic Plan for Foreign Language Capabilities.”
In 2009.  That explains it--of course, the Kenyan Muslim Obama would be interested in foreign languages!  A real American would not care a shit about any language other than "Murican."

So, in brief, what has the GAO to report?
As of September 2016, 23 percent of overseas language-designated positions (LDP) were filled by Foreign Service officers (FSO) who did not meet the positions’ language proficiency requirements. While this represents an 8-percentage-point improvement from 2008, the Department of State (State) still faces significant language proficiency gaps
Guess where the deficiencies were the highest?  In the least important parts of the world. of course, I am being satirical!
Regionally, the greatest gaps were in the Near East (37 percent), Africa (34 percent), and South and Central Asia (31 percent).
It is not like there is anything important happening in any of those regions that we want to understand anyway, right?  Oh, wait, those are also some of the hardest languages for "Muricans" to learn?
Category I—World languages (e.g., French and Spanish)
Category II—Difficult world languages (e.g., German)
Category III—Hard languages (e.g., Russian and Urdu)
Category IV—Super-hard languages (e.g., Arabic and Chinese)
According to State documents, the time it takes to achieve general proficiency depends on the difficulty of the language. World languages require 24 to 30 weeks, difficult world languages require 36 weeks, hard languages require 44 weeks, and super-hard languages require 88 weeks to achieve general proficiency.
Oh, the harder it is, the more we want to avoid investing in learning that language.  Makes fucking sense to me.

So, you want a feel for the implications for this language gap, yes?
language proficiency gaps have, in some cases, affected State’s ability to properly adjudicate visa applications; effectively communicate with foreign audiences, address security concerns, and perform other critical diplomatic duties.
I will wrap up the post with this:
embassy managers in countries where super-hard or hard languages, such as
Arabic and Russian, are spoken said that certain positions have been designated as not requiring language proficiency or designated at a lower proficiency level to increase the likelihood of filling the positions
Managers also said that, while they would prefer to require higher levels of language proficiency, they sometimes require lower levels to avoid delaying the arrival of FSOs at posts who would otherwise have to spend longer periods in language training. Some State geographic bureau officials spoke of significant tension between quickly filling a vacant position with an officer who lacks language skills versus waiting to fill the position with an officer who is trained and fully proficient.
Oh well ... it is not like 63 million voters care about anything other than "White Christian America First."


Ramesh said...

Oh its obvious - not just for diplomats , but for anybody. The top two foreign languages to learn would be Spanish and Mandarin. They would be crucial to anybody who wants to succeed in today's world. French, Arabic, German and Japanese would follow in the second tier.

Learning a couple of languages other than English is fundamental prerequisite for success.

I'm going to box your ears if you say that nobody listens to you once more.

I do, but I suppose you mean you want the people who matter to and not irrelevant retired folks :)

Sriram Khé said...

Unfortunately, it is the "irrelevant retired folks" who also turn out in large numbers and elect crazies like the current president! BTW, we know that this president can't even string together two complete sentences with multiple clauses. I doubt that he knows any other language. Does he? To know more than one language is damn elitism, eh!

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