Parse this: Pentagon fields new Language Corps

Sarah Lang slang at UCHICAGO.EDU
Mon May 14 14:50:33 UTC 2007

Nope, the Pentagon is serious (if that is the correct word): http://

[Sidenote: many friends I know who are in a top tier PhD program and
speak any currently relevant languages have been interviewed by the
CIA. One friend, when asked "are you fluent in Arabic?" his reply
"which dialect?" was met with complete confusion. "Dialect" seemed to
be as foreign a concept as arming soldiers with, let's say, a


On May 14, 2007, at 9:03 AM, Landau, James wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Landau, James" <James.Landau at NGC.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Parse this: Pentagon fields new Language Corps
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> ---------
> I suspect that the article below is either a hoax or greatly
> exaggerated.
> Notice the number of cutesy and not particularly accurate comments
> ("few
> Latinos who haven't forgotten...", "retake New Orleans" (which we
> purchased)).  Also NOBODY talks about a current "peace" in Iraq and
> the
> one safe prediction about Iraq is that, no matter what happens there,
> DOD is going to need Arabic interpreters and translators (does the
> writer realize that there are other countries in the Near East besides
> Iraq where Arabic is the native language?)
> There are any number of non-Hispalnic Americans of recent immigration
> heritage who are fluent in their heritage language.  Many of them
> are in
> the Armed Forces.  Example: during the failed 1980 raid on the US
> Embassy in Teheran, the raiders included a number of soldiers who were
> Farsi-speakers.
> Between the two World Wars the US Navy had a "language officer"
> program
> in which naval officers were stationed in foreign countries, Japan in
> particular, solely for the purpose of learning the local language,
> so a
> "Language Corps" is hardly a new idea.
>     - Jim Landau
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Dennis Baron [mailto:debaron at UIUC.EDU]
> Sent: Sunday, May 13, 2007 11:43 PM
> Subject: Parse this: Pentagon fields new Language Corps
> 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.
>   ...
> interested? read the rest on the Web of Language:
> Best,
> DB
> 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
> read the Web of Language:
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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