Inefficiencies: Bush and Foreign Language Proficiency

On the radio, the CNN News breaks played audio cuts of President Bush touting his new initiative to improve foreign language proficiency within the military. “It makes sense, doesn’t it?” as he said, to have our soldiers on the front lines be able to interact with locals and infiltrate the enemy in his own environment. He said this in his usual style, stating the obvious as if it was his idea and no one else has ever thought of it. Foreign language proficiency. Three years into the Iraq war and 4 years after 9/11. And, what, 60 years in the Middle East?

But this dream world where every soldier speaks Farsi and Arabic and Filipino and Swahili and French is not going to ever happen, at least not until some technological breakthrough changes how we learn/use language. One, the military does not know how to fully utilize language. Two, it doesn’t fit language into training. Three, most people earn less or as much pay for knowing languages (even Arabic) than they do being airborne-qualified. Yes, it is hazardous to jump out of planes but retention of linguists who earn peanuts for a skill that can earn them $100k-200k outside of the military is unacceptable.

Soldier talks to a local national

Then there’s the level of commitment at the individual level. Ask a soldier about foreign language, and he’ll tell you, “Yeah, our forces should be trained for that,” but when it comes to language classes, everyone balks and finds an excuse to get out of going. Even Special Forces soldiers, who supposedly communicate with foreigners in their own language, in order to train them, hack off random answers on multiple-choice quizzes in order to get their annual “proficiency”. It takes 5 minutes to take their test and they get their minimum requirement checked off.

This demonstrates an important lesson for people trying to get people to be more active in causes. Everyone wants homelessness to decrease, or Americans to speak various languages, or people to travel to poor countries and do humanitarian aid, or have spirited intelligent competitors for political positions.

But when those same people are placed in a position where they could increase their participation, they don’t. The basic mentality is, “Yeah, that sounds good for our people to do, but I’m busy doing my own thing.”

“We need better intelligence agencies.” “We need a better candidate for President.” “Our levee should’ve been upgraded.” “Our kids should be more competitive internationally.”

Well? What the fuck are you doing about it? Go DO IT! Enough talk. Talk was for the 90’s. What we need are people who go out and fix these things, make it their personal responsibility to make the world better.

Another thing.

Decreasing the spread of AIDS or making Iraq a peaceful country or bringing about world peace are things that everyone wants, but no one has the motivation or inspiration to do. Go join the Peace Corps or something! Go see the world! Go live with different people, learn their culture and language! Do things for others, not just for yourself!

People get spun up in their own lives. They don’t want to help, but they do want others to help. The sad thing is, no one wants to start it off. Once a movement gets going, everyone piles on. But we need people thinking about everything and wanting to get involved in fixing it.

The only way you’ll get involved in something like these issues is if you make it part of your own life. If you turn it into your living or calling. People don’t have time to work a 9 to 5 on top of doing a lot of volunteer work. Many actually do do this but I’m sure it’s very challenging.

So yeah, actions speak louder than words or some shit. That’s my profundity for the day. It makes sense, doesn’t it?