Having written recently about the various tests for and paths to becoming a Linguist in the United States military, I thought it would be relevant to mention the language schools themselves. There are three primary schools and locations where a service member (both domestic AND foreign) can go to learn a foreign language. One of those schools specializes in teaching… English.
The largest and most high-profile of these three schools — all three of which have “Defense Language Institute” in their name — is DLIFLC. The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center is located on the Presidio of Monterey, in Monterey, CA — which is a United States Army post. The DLIFLC concept was born on November 1, 1941, when a class of 60 students and four instructors began the Japanese Language course in a hangar on Crissy Field, in San Fransisco. It moved to its present [AMAZING!] location in 1946.
DLIFLC currently runs courses in the below list of languages. These are broken down into Categories based on difficulty. The course length is dependent on the Category.
Category I & II languages – 36 week-long courses:
Category III languages – 48 week-long courses:
- Persian Farsi
Category IV languages – 64 week-long courses:
- Modern Standard Arabic
- Arabic – Egyptian
- Arabic – Iraqi
- Arabic – Levantine
- Chinese Mandarin
All military branches are represented among the 3,500 or so students at the school, as well as some civilians. There are civilian native-speaking instructors, as well as Military Language Instructors (MLIs) from all branches. Students may also gain college credit from courses completed while at DLIFLC.
DLIELC — the Defense Language Institute English Language Center — is located on Joint Base San Antonio. It is located specifically on Lackland Air Force Base. The English Language Center “traces its formal beginning to May 1954, when the 3746th Pre-Flight Training Squadron (language) was activated.”
Where DLIFLC has many different languages offered, and therefore many different language schools, DLIELC divides their academics up based on the level or intensity or English needed by the student. General English, Specialized English, and Instructor Development are the three branches within the English Language Center. Each student is placed in one of those section depending on their needs. ELC training can last anywhere from nine weeks to 52 weeks. Just like with the FLC in Monterey, students often arrive with only minimal capabilities in their target language (English).
This last entry is the little brother of the other two schools: DLI-Washington. This branch of the Foreign Language Center — located in Washington, DC — specializes in “low-density” or “not commonly taught” languages. As a result, the class volume and output is much lower than in Monterey. The languages covered at this school are not taught at DLIFLC, generally. There are some languages taught Defense Attaché System that are taught at both locations.
So, between the semi-exotic stuff taught at DLIFLC, the super-exotic stuff taught at DLI-W, and the good ol’ English taught at DLIELC… all three of these locations do their best to make sure that not only OUR servicemembers, but foreign ones as well, can communicate at or past native fluency in their target language.