Strengthening homeland security through improved foreign language capability
Stevens, Sean C.
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In this thesis, I examine the best ways to meet post-9/11 language requirements for homeland defense and security. I look at language programs at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the State, the Homeland Security (DHS), the New York Police Department (NYPD), and a federally sponsored initiative called the Language Flagship. I then examine how trained linguists reach native-like proficiency, drawing on existing studies and original research of the interpreter program at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). Analysis reveals that motivation, time-on-task, and immersion are the most important individual factors in attaining high-level foreign language proficiency. In addition, organizations which utilize native or heritage speakers, conduct proficiency testing, offer language-related incentives (not to include proficiency pay), and offer regular exposure to foreign language at work, are most successful. While these factors are necessary for an organization's success, they alone are not sufficient. DTRA, NYPD, and FBI's Language Analyst programs successfully utilize foreign language capability for homeland defense and security, although each accomplishes this goal in vastly different ways. This thesis argues that expanded use of native and heritage speakers, more regular and high-level training, and expanded use of immersion, would lead to improved foreign language capability.
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