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  1. #1
    Council Member Kevin23's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Washington DC

    Default Language Issues

    I'm a current AROTC cadet at my current college, which I just transferred to and I'm aiming to be branch Army MI, or Psyops, and I'm undecided on the third choice.

    Also academically I have to pick up meeting my language requirements again which I somewhat met at my old school and I was mainly thinking Arabic since it still is a really in demand tongue. However, MI is like the 2nd most in demand branch in my battalion and with the demand for language & cultural skills many of the cadets hoping to branch this have took or are taking Arabic, and this trend from what I understand has occurred in ROTC detachments across the country and across the various service's. Therefore, I was thinking of taking something else to more distinguish me in this area like Russian which I personally think will become more critical in coming years, or Chinese which my Dad say's I should take if I really want to add to my profile.

    I know Pashto, Urdu, Farsi, are all very critical at the moment also but they aren't offered at my current institution sadly, although there has been alot of talk of adding some courses in these languages.

    So any opinions?

  2. #2
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Vicenza, Italy



    I wouldn't do Russian because the Army still has tons of Russian linguists from the Cold War days. Chinese on the other hand is still vastly underrepresented compared to Arabic and the others you mentioned, because of the current wars.

    If you want email me on AKO, I am a current MI officer deployed to Iraq.

  3. #3
    Council Member
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Kabul, Afghanistan


    Chinese - hands down. All this nation-building and COIN bs is hopefully just a flash in the military strategy pan. It'll take a few more yrs but we'll eventually extricate ourselves and learn a lesson in the process. Chinese is where the money will be at. They're a real national interest which is more than I can say for our current slew of policies.

  4. #4
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Rancho La Espada, Blanchard, OK

    Default You already have a head start


    I hardly think it matters all that much which language you choose as long as it is one that you can actually use. (See the thread on FAOs.) You have been taking Arabic, I'd recommend that you continue it and make every effort to take a semester or year on a study abroad program in an Arabic speaking country. While there, don't hang around with the Americans or other English speakers, but make friends witn non-Engllish speaking locals. That way, when you return to the US, you will distinguish yourself from your peers by scoring higher on the DLI language test.

    An old MI FAO's comments for what its worth.



  5. #5
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006

    Default Chinese? Yes.

    There are some potentially useful aspects to learning Chinese; the option to have a funded study tour to China (the EU has a specific programme for this, but is years long) and the ability to interact with any Chinese students on campus. The biggest difficulty, pre-Army, is keeping any language ability alive.

  6. #6
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    DC/Northern VA/MD



    I am an MI officer, and when I was a cadet, well before the current wars, I was thinking the same thing you were. I took Russian. Here is my advice to you:

    1. Don't take Russian or any other language that you will not be able to practice. Despite three years and a Russian minor, I lost all if it within a couple of years because it is extremely perishable when you have no exposure to it.

    2. Your logic of picking a language to set yourself apart makes sense in theory, however in practice, selection boards tend to be very short sighted and are only thinking about today's requirements.

    3. As an MI officer, you are not required to have a language, and unless you are really good at it, it is unlikely you will use more than a few phrases (which can be learned in country).

    4. I took Russian and German. Do you know how many countries speak those two languages? Maybe 4? My advice, take a look at the most common languages in the world. English, French, Spainish and Arabic. If you can speak two if those four, you will be able to communucate in probably 70% of the countries in the world.

    5. Chinese? A good consideration due to the expected influence they will have on the future world. However, see comments above. Hard to maintain. Limited applicability.

    6. Chose a language program that includes a road trip. The best thing you will get in any language course is learning the culture, and that can't happen in a classroom.

    Hope this helps.


  7. #7
    Council Member 82redleg's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    USAWC, Carlisle Bks


    Language training is important, but I don't think it factors into your branch assignments.

    Also, unless things have changed recently (like the last year), you can't directly assess from ROTC into PSYOP- you branch something else, do well, and after 2-1/2 years or so, you are selected by the ARSOF board to attend the PYSOP course.

    Talk to your cadre about the system- its unfortunate, but there are ways to game the system. To do that, you have to know how it works. My info is 14 years out of date now, but there are trends you can play, based on your individual scores, because each branch can only take so many top 1/3, middle 1/3 and bottom 1/3 scoring cadets.

  8. #8
    Council Member Stan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2006


    Hey Kevin,
    Having learned four languages over the years I would echo John's advice: Learning any language will be a benefit for not only your MI career, but the remainder of your life.

    I would take Russian over Chinese, although both are good choices and will serve you well. I disagree with Brian - There are more than 170 million Russian speakers and 2 million living in Germany alone (just a tad behind Arabic speakers in the world).

    We could argue that there are five times more Chinese speakers than Russian, but keep in mind that the geographical distribution of Russian is far greater being the second language for many people in Europe and the former East Bloc.

    Good luck with whatever you decide !
    Regards, Stan
    If you want to blend in, take the bus

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