Nihon go ga wakarimas ka?

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Oleksandra G. Manko
  • Nellis AFB Public Affairs
"Americans who travel abroad for the first time are often shocked to discover that, despite all the progress that has been made in the last 30 years, many foreign people still speak in foreign languages," said  American writer and humorist Dave Barry.

Funny as it may be, the fact remains. Air Force leadership does not expect to find English-speaking locals in every country it ventures into - be it on a humanitarian mission or fighting the Global War on Terrorism.

"The Air Force is actively engaged in operations all over the world," wrote U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley in his letter to Airmen of Oct.12, 2006. "An important lesson we continue to learn is that the ability to speak a foreign language is a critical war-fighting skill." The Air Force is firmly committed to growing its foreign language capability, said General Moseley.

In light of this commitment, a new Foreign Language Proficiency Pay Policy has been instituted. Effective June 1, 2006, FLPP rates have been substantially increased and payments are no longer limited to two languages. Airmen proficient in multiple languages can receive FLPP for all of them, providing the languages are approved for FLPP and the monthly payment does not exceed the maximum cap of $1,000 (previously, the limit was $300 a month). Secret security clearance is no longer required for FLPP eligibility.

Not all languages are of the same value to the Air Force. For pay rate purposes, they have been broken up into three categories: immediate investment languages, strategic stronghold languages and all other accepted languages, correspondingly A, B and C. The amount of FLPP the Airmen receive depends on which category their language belongs to and their level of proficiency. Thus, for being fluent in a language from the first group one can receive up to $400 a month but only $275 from the third group.

Naturally, extra pay comes with extra responsibility. Airmen who tested for a foreign language and receive FLPP are obligated to perform any linguistic duty they may be assigned to, such as a document translator or an interpreter, stateside or abroad. Airmen who are being paid FLPP at the category B or C rate and are selected for a temporary duty assignment requiring their language, will be paid at the category A rate while TDY, explained Mr. Robert Just, a test control officer with the 99th Mission Support Squadron. Airmen have to take the proficiency tests yearly in order to keep receiving FLPP.

Department of Defense has identified certain languages as already abundant in the force (such as French, German, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Tagalog). The FLPP for these languages is limited to those who perform language duties in that language, said Mr. Just. Every year DoD reassesses the need for each language and the lists are updated.

Most tests consist of listening and reading sections with multiple-choice answers; however, an oral interview may be required for some uncommon languages. Airmen are allowed to test for each language only once a year.

Those who do not wish to take a language test are encouraged to perform a foreign language self assessment. That action is available through Virtual Military Personnel Flight under "most popular applications." Click "record review/update", then click "education and training," and then "foreign language self assessment."

For current list of languages and their categories see the attached chart. http://www.nellis.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-070726-066.pdf

To sign up for a defense language proficiency test, contact Mr. Just at robert.just@nellis.af.mil.