Parse this: Pentagon fields new Language Corps

Dennis Baron debaron at UIUC.EDU
Mon May 14 03:43:26 UTC 2007

There's a new post on the Web of Language:

Language goes to war: Pentagon launches Language Corps

The Pentagon has announced the formation of a Language Corps, an all- 
volunteer linguistic national guard charged with defending America  
“during times of war [and] national emergency.”  The Corps will  
recruit at least 1,000 civilian linguists specializing in a set of as- 
yet-undetermined strategic languages so that the armed forces can  
“respond in emergencies, whether international or national.”

According to Pentagon spokesperson Robert Slater, while the army does  
have a number of bilingual soldiers, most of them either speak  
Spanish, because they’re among the few Latinos who haven’t forgotten  
their heritage language, or they know some French or even a  
smattering of Latin that they picked up in high school.  Those  
languages won’t be of much military use unless the President decides  
it’s time to retake Cuba, New Orleans, or the Vatican.

But there are languages that the army does need, and the Pentagon is  
setting up the Language Corps because it can’t be expected to  
“identify, hire and warehouse professionals with skills in 150  
languages.”  In fact, it can’t even find professionals with skills in  
two languages critical to the national defense, Arabic and Pashto.   
Despite the fact that Afghanistan and the Middle East have been  
trouble spots for decades, the army hasn’t been able to “warehouse”  
enough linguists to deal either with the war in Afghanistan or the  
“peace” in Iraq.
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Dennis Baron
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801

office: 217-244-0568
fax: 217-333-4321

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