More on those CIA hiring bonuses for those fluent in "mission critical" languages

Saturday, May 02, 2009

I wrote the other day about an article on how the CIA is still having trouble finding people fluent in so-called "mission critical" languages, and thus is offering hiring bonuses of up to $35,000 for those that are fluent in them, and then followed up with a short explanation of why Persian is the easiest of the ones mentioned in the article, which were:

Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Korean, Pashtu, Persian, Russian and Urdu.
I mentioned that I was pretty sure that these weren't the only ones but never bothered to check, and I stumbled upon this article in Turkish today that gives a few more:
Diğer diller ise Arapça, Çince, Darice (Afganistan'da konuşulan Farsça), Endonezyaca, Korece, Peştuca (Afganistan'ın resmi dili), Farsça, Rusça ve Urduca (Pakistan'ın resmi dili) olarak sıralanıyor.
Plus Turkish, as the article is about how the CIA is offering bonuses to those fluent in Turkish. The other language in there that wasn't mentioned in the first one is Indonesian.

So how do these rank in terms of difficulty? Well...

Indonesian: Indonesian has a ridiculously simple grammar, is written with the Latin alphabet, pronunciation is a cinch. One big drawback however is that since Indonesian is the official language of a country where it is the mother tongue of only 10% of the population, there is a lot of regional variation and I suspect "fluent in Indonesian" would require a knowledge of a lot of these as well. If you're interested in working for the CIA and are thinking about going with Indonesian it would probably be a good idea to check in advance just what fluent in Indonesian implies.

Turkish: Turkish is also written in the Latin alphabet, which suits it far more than the Arabic script it used to use before Atatürk's reforms. There is also much less regional variation with Turkish, as it's used mostly as a mother tongue in Turkey and even most other Turkic languages resemble it enough that you can understand a lot of what you hear and read by knowing standard Turkish alone. As for difficulty, that's hard to say. Turkish is definitely very different from English, and so doesn't resemble English at all whereas a language like Persian does at a core level. At the same time however, Turkish is an extremely easy language to learn as a mother tongue, and this is probably because of the precision and near lack of irregularity it has. Turkish has one irregular verb, transitive and intransitive verbs are clearly marked (whereas with English verbs like stop and run can be either or), the orthography is pretty easy and has few exceptions, etc. Turkish is very hard for those with an English background that aren't willing or able to learn a language that differs from their mother tongue in just about every way. But if you enjoy subjects like math and puzzles then you would probably enjoy learning Turkish the most.


Matt said...

Any thoughts on why Indonesian is on this list?

Me said...

Probably due to regions like Aceh, along with the simple fact that it's the most populous language in a region including countries like Myanmar, which trades weapons with North Korea. Then there's also Brunei with a lot of oil.

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