The Importance of Language in Diplomacy

The United States government has a high demand for linguists. President Obama’s administration is looking to put more emphasis on diplomacy through more effective multilingual communication in all areas: intelligence, defense, State Department agencies, etc.

The ILR (Interagency Language Roundtable) was created and includes several agencies of the State Department. Its main focus will be increasing resources for languages such as Dari and Pashto, for the military operations in Afghanistan (also discussed here and here). Many agencies, such as the FBI and CIA, lack qualified translators and interpreters, not to mention the logistics they are relying on. They have accumulated a large number of essential documents for some investigations that are dying out due to this lack of resources.

The FBI does not have the technology and personnel needed. The CIA needs to enable the revision of information gathered in other languages; only 13% of their employees are fluent in a second language and 30% of field officers speak a second language.

The solution depends on a government strategy that recognizes the importance of language in diplomacy as well as in commerce and espionage.

They will have to recruit and train people who speak those “limited demand” languages, provide improved training and learning in critical languages, acquire technology to manage these projects correctly and productively (IT, translation tools, automatic translation, etc.) and increase the level among the specialized groups of each agency who handle these cases.

They should also create translation agencies and teams within each of the departments and institutions that has all of the information, files, dictionaries, glossaries, key reports from statements to information provided by witnesses).