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Second-Language Skills for All?

Second-Language Skills for All?: Analyzing a Proposed Language Requirement for U.S. Air Force Officers

Chaitra M. Hardison
Louis W. Miller
Jennifer J. Li
Amber N. Schroeder
Susan Burkhauser
Sean Robson
Deborah Lai
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 172
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  • Book Info
    Second-Language Skills for All?
    Book Description:

    In an effort to determine the feasibility of requiring all Air Force officers to attain a specific level of proficiency in a second language, the authors conducted a survey of current Air Force officers. The results suggest that such a requirement is not currently feasible. However, it would instead be desirable to offer incentives for a variety of efforts made toward achieving proficiency, both before and after commissioning.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-8318-0
    Subjects: Business, Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  4. Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Summary
    (pp. xiii-xx)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  8. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  9. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    Despite being home to many different nationalities, ethnicities, and cultures, the United States lags far behind most other countries in second-language proficiency. For example, 56 percent of Europeans can hold a conversation in at least two languages; 28 percent can do so in at least three; and nearly all students are required to study a second language in elementary school (European Commission, 2007). In contrast, only 17 percent of the U.S. population is bilingual (Grosjean, 2010), and only 15 percent of public elementary schools even offer foreign-language education (Rhodes and Pufahl, 2009). This shortfall in second-language education has serious implications...

  10. CHAPTER TWO Background on Adult Language Learning
    (pp. 5-16)

    This chapter provides background information on selected aspects of language learning that might inform Air Force language policies. It begins with existing definitions of language proficiency, the measurement of language skills, and the classification of languages according to difficulty. It then describes the sources of expertise in languages other than English in the United States. To highlight the effects of variations among adult language learners, we explore some of the individual characteristics known to influence individual outcomes in language learning. Insights into the importance of maintaining language skills once acquired follow. Then, to illustrate the investment of resources required to...

  11. CHAPTER THREE Survey of Air Force Officers
    (pp. 17-22)

    We surveyed current Air Force officers to examine many of the key issues related to a language requirement. Other types of studies and data collection efforts, such as educational experiments, in-depth language assessment, and focus groups and interviews, would be useful supplements to this investigation.

    The survey allowed us to take an exploratory approach to the issues and cover in detail a wide variety of topics that we believed could be relevant to decisions about Air Force officer accession language policy. We worked from the broad questions stated previously to formulate the following specific research questions, then designed the survey...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR Survey Results
    (pp. 23-78)

    This chapter presents the data analyses and major findings of the survey. To organize and simplify the results, we have grouped them according to the narrow research questions described in Chapter Three. To maintain consistency across figures and to facilitate ease of interpretation for readers, we also standardized the manner in which the results were displayed by computing the findings for four different groups defined by two characteristics of the respondents: CYOS and language skills.¹

    We separated our respondents into two CYOS groups: those commissioned in the last three years and those commissioned more than three years ago. This allowed...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE Conclusions and Recommendations
    (pp. 79-92)

    The first of our two broad research questions addressed whether it was feasible to require officer candidates to achieve a minimum score of 2/2 or 3/3 on a language proficiency exam. The short answer is no, at least for the near term. Our survey results suggested that very few officer applicants would meet the proposed levels of proficiency simply through college courses. Indeed, the amount of coursework required to meet such levels of proficiency (five semesters being an absolute minimum for category I languages) is likely to far exceed what could fit into a standard college curriculum. Most officers in...

  14. APPENDIX A Interagency Language Roundtable Language Skill Level Descriptions
    (pp. 93-104)
  15. APPENDIX B RAND’s Self-Assessment Items
    (pp. 105-108)
  16. APPENDIX C Language Flagship Programs
    (pp. 109-110)
  17. APPENDIX D Survey Screenshots
    (pp. 111-120)
  18. APPENDIX E Language Courses at ROTC Detachments
    (pp. 121-122)
  19. APPENDIX F Additional Details on “Other” and Open-Ended Responses
    (pp. 123-140)
  20. References
    (pp. 141-148)