August 13, 2006 in Nation/World

Envoys’ language skills lacking

Washington Post The Spokesman-Review
 

WASHINGTON – Nearly 30 percent of State Department employees based overseas in “language-designated positions” are failing to speak and write the local language well enough to meet required levels, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.

“We have a shortage of people with language skills in posts that need them,” said John Brummet, assistant director for international affairs and trade at the GAO.

“If people do not have the proper language skills, it is difficult to influence the people and government and to understand what they are thinking. It just doesn’t get the job done.”

Languages described as “superhard” by the report are proving particularly difficult. Four out of 10 workers in posts requiring Arabic, Chinese and Japanese fail to meet the requirements.

The levels are even higher in some critical postings.

Sixty percent of State Department personnel in San’a, Yemen, and 59 percent in Cairo do not meet language requirements, the report said. The GAO found that many posts, including some critical to anti-terrorism efforts, are vacant or filled by inexperienced workers.


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