How Do I Become an Army Linguist?

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  • Written By: K. Kinsella
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 31 March 2020
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Army linguists act as translators and facilitate communication between military personnel and individuals who speak in foreign languages. Someone wishing to become an army linguist may have to enroll in the armed services before applying for the linguist role. In other instances, army units hire non-military personnel to act as linguists in which case these individuals may have to have completed a foreign language degree.

Military training in many nations begins with basic training or boot camp during which new recruits must successfully complete a series of physical endurance tests. Someone wishing to become an army linguist must complete basic training and any written assessments that new recruits are required to complete. Thereafter, these individuals are sometimes required to spend a certain amount of time working as entry-level soldiers or privates before being able to apply for specific jobs. In other instances, college graduates are able to enlist as officers in which case these individuals may be able to take on linguist roles after completing basic training.


While many army linguists translate face-to-face interactions, some army units also employ cryptologic linguists who work in behind-the-scenes roles. These individuals are responsible for intercepting and interpreting foreign communications. In many instances, linguists are required to be fluent in several languages so that documents and recordings of conversations can be quickly translated without having to be passed around several different translators. Someone wishing to become an army linguist responsible for translating intercepts may have to complete at least one foreign language degree program. In other instances, army units simply hire foreign individuals to act as linguists and these people may not have to complete army training courses.

Aside from permanent employees, many military units hire civilian linguists on a contractual basis. Typically, these individuals are people who have completed language degrees or foreign people who can communicate in several different dialects. As with military personnel, anyone wishing to become an army linguist must successfully pass a background screening check.

Many linguists are hired through formal hiring processes during peacetime but military commanders also enlist the help of translators at the battlefront during wartime. Such linguists are often well-educated people who happen to live within the proximity of the fighting. These individuals are often paid cash and they are not required to have any specific academic credentials. Due to the lack of screening, many battlefront linguists end up deliberately or inadvertently providing commanders with inaccurate information.


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