Parse this: Pentagon fields new Language Corps

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon May 14 16:17:01 UTC 2007

But it certainly sounds like less fun! Whatever happened to the Army
Language School and its descendants, the Defense Language Institutes?
When I was at the ALS in 1960, Arabic and Pashto were among the
languages successfully taught in one year (at that time, there was no
language course longer than one year) - reading, writing, and speaking
- to enlisted men who theretofore may not have known a syllable of
"their" language. I entered the ALS knowing only "da" and "nyet."
Nearly a half-century later, I can still read Russian with ease.
Speaking and writing, not so well. But then, I haven't written
anything in Russian in 47 years and I have only random occasions to
speak Russian.

Russians are "American," with respect to their language. I once had
occasion to chat with the members of the old Leningrad String Quartet
at Boston Symphony Hall in 1974, fourteen years after I'd received my
diploma from the ALS.They didn't appear to be surprised or impressed
at all that some random black American could rap with them in their
native tongue.

I've drifted away from my point, which is that the DLI's are fantastic
language-teaching institutions. Why aren't they being utilized? Not to
mention that enlisted human resources can be broken to military
discipline and (ware)housed more cheaply and easily than can academics
with doctorates entering the military with no concept of the military
life at a rank no lower than first lieutenant.


On 5/14/07, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Parse this: Pentagon fields new Language Corps
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 7:43 AM -0700 5/14/07, Dave Wilton wrote:
> >This is not a news story, it's Dennis Baron's commentary on a news story.
> >
> >The confusion is in the second paragraph which is phrased in such a way that
> >appears as if the commentary is a paraphrase of the words of a DoD official.
> >This gives the article the form and appearance of being a news story.
> >
> >The use of the term "warehouse," however is a real quote. It's an
> >interesting usage, to say the least.
> >
> Well, yes, the image of the army's "warehous[ing] linguists" is an
> interesting choice, but I suppose a more judicious one than
> whorehousing linguists.
> LH
> >
> >
> >-----Original Message-----
> >From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
> >Landau, James
> >Sent: Monday, May 14, 2007 7:04 AM
> >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:
> >
> >
> >------------------------------------------------------------
> >The American Dialect Society -
> >
> >------------------------------------------------------------
> >The American Dialect Society -
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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