Many U.S. Interpreters Can't Speak Afghan Languages

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Many U.S. Interpreters Can't Speak Afghan Languages

#1  Postby Elena » Sep 09, 2010 12:57 pm

Exclusive: Whistleblower Claims Many U.S. Interpreters Can't Speak Afghan Languages Says Translators Failed Language Tests, Were Still Embedded With US Troops In Afghanistan

Sept. 8th, 2010

More than one quarter of the translators working alongside American soldiers in Afghanistan failed language proficiency exams but were sent onto the battlefield anyway, according to a former employee of the company that holds contracts worth up to $1.4 billion to supply interpreters to the U.S. Army.

"I determined that someone -- and I didn't know [who] at that time -- was changing the grades from blanks or zeros to passing grades," said Paul Funk, who used to oversee the screening of Afghan linguists for the Columbus, Ohio-based contractor, Mission Essential Personnel. "Many who failed were marked as being passed."

...Civilian translators have for nearly a decade been playing a crucial if unsung role in the Afghanistan war, embedding with troops as they have moved through the countryside, helping soldiers gather information from local villagers, and attempting to spread the message of security, moderation and peace that undergirds the U.S. presence there. Some Afghan veterans have rated the value of a skilled interpreter as equal to that of a working weapon or sturdy body armor.

But a former top screener of translators heading to Afghanistan tells ABC News in an exclusive interview that will air tonight on World News with Diane Sawyer and Nightline that he believes many of the translators currently in the field cannot perform their function.

"There are many cases where soldiers have gone out into the field and have spoken to elders [who] handed messages to the interpreter that a possible ambush three miles up the road would occur. The interpreter cannot read the message and they are attacked," Funk said. "We're talking about soldiers lives here." (continues)
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Re: Many U.S. Interpreters Can't Speak Afghan Languages

#2  Postby Weaver » Sep 09, 2010 1:23 pm

Never heard of this company - and I have worked with a large number of linguists, both in the US and Afghanistan. Not saying that the story is false, but this particular contractor isn't one of the ones I have seen providing linguists.

The linguists I have seen have a variety of skill levels - like anything involving people, some are better than others. We mostly use local nationals for non-secure positions, with US citizens for jobs which require security clearances. Vetting interpreter skills is something everyone has to deal with at all levels - but I'm not seeing at 25% incompetence rate.
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Re: Many U.S. Interpreters Can't Speak Afghan Languages

#3  Postby Ubjon » Sep 09, 2010 1:42 pm

Its to be expected when political demand exceeds what the military and their contractors can meet.
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