Retention bonuses for Arabic interpreters

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The Christian Science Monitor reports that the Army is so badly in need of Arabic interpreters ("linguists" in military-speak) that it is considering paying retention bonuses of as much as $150,000, on a par with what they pay members of the Special Forces. It's good to see some appreciation for language skills. Of course, the shortage would not be as great if they didn't keep firing interpreters who are gay.


  1. Sili said,

    August 8, 2008 @ 12:29 pm

    Bugger. You beat me to it. That prior article was exactly what first came to mind.

    I guess reading LL isn't entirely in vain. Something sticks! (Well, I new that, since if I'm ever in the vicinity of Edinburgh I'll bring along some live lobsters for Pullum to juggle.)

  2. Bill Poser said,

    August 8, 2008 @ 12:45 pm

    I can't speak for Pullum, but if somebody brings me lobsters, I won't juggle them, I'll eat them!

    "lobster", by the way, is one of my favorite Chinese words:  龍蝦  lung⁴ha¹   "dragon shrimp" (Mandarin long² xia¹)

  3. Sili said,

    August 8, 2008 @ 2:02 pm

    Well, I do have acquaintances in Canadia (though in Quebec), but I'll try to remember it, should the flight restrictions ever ease.

  4. ben said,

    August 10, 2008 @ 8:01 pm

    "Of course, the shortage would not be as great if they didn't keep firing interpreters who are gay."

    And I'm sure they also chapter interpreters who are fat, can't shoot, can't pass a PT test, don't adapt to military life, go AWOL, have drinking problems, have drug problems, family hardship, are thieves, beat their spouse, etc. In four years, I've seen soldiers chaptered for all of those issues, and including many who were still an asset to the army, but not one for being homosexual or bisexual. And I knew at least two guys who definitely were at least bisexual.

    Even if there were a huge wave of gay interpreters being chaptered, there's nothing stopping said interpreters from working as civilians. There's no evidence that the current policy on gays in the military is causing a noticeable shortage of necessary talent. Bottom line: no one has a right to serve and military policy should be dictated by the needs of the military, not to advance someone's notion of social justice.

  5. Bill Poser said,

    August 10, 2008 @ 8:26 pm


    If you'll read any of the several posts on this topic by any of us here at LL, you will find links to the press accounts according to which gay Arabic "linguists" have been and are being fired for being gay. This is certainly not the only factor contributing to the shortage, but it is one.

    In many of the positions in which the military needs Arabic linguists, no, they can't be civilians. Civilians are not used in combat positions. Furthermore, if a linguist starts out in the military and is fired and humiliated by the Army for being gay, what makes you think he is likely to be willing to return as a civilian?

    Finally, you're simply wrong if you think that the millitary's anti-gay policy has anything to do with the needs of the military. The arguments given in favor of the policy apply at best to small groups living in field conditions, which is rarely the situation in Iraq. Furthermore, the evidence of experience is all in favor of allowing gay men to serve. The armed forces of Australia and Canada don't discriminate and do not report any problems. The Israel Defense Force, widely acknowledged to be one of the very best, has officially allowed openly gay soldiers since 1983; all restrictions (such as exclusion from intelligence positions) were removed in 1993. The IDF reports no problems. Do you really want to argue that the cultures of Australia, Canada, and Israel are so radically different from that of the US that their armies have no problem with gay soldiers but the US military will? I find that utterly implausible.

  6. Obama will NOT repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ « But As for Me! said,

    November 21, 2008 @ 12:32 pm

    […] Language Log " Retention bonuses for Arabic interpreters […]

  7. nqa2 said,

    June 26, 2014 @ 12:33 am

    Well, since the conversation is about war with Iran, maybe the better question is how you'd say it in Farsi.

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