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Corps outlines new criteria for foreign language pay

Aug. 22, 2013 - 01:31PM   |  
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The Marine Corps is revising its testing requirements for personnel who receive language proficiency pay, a move designed to bring standards in line with new Defense Department regulations released in May.

Under the revisions, some Marines now must complete additional testing to qualify for extra cash, while others will be exempt from annual re-certification requirements, according to Marine administrative message 398/13, signed Aug. 12.

Additionally, the incentive — heretofore known as the Foreign Language Proficiency Pay — has been renamed the Foreign Language Proficiency Bonus.

Additional testing now applies to languages with only one Defense Language Institute-approved test. In the case of most languages, there are three DLI-approved tests with one for listening, reading and speaking. Marines must qualify in two of those areas to receive extra language pay.

But in cases where there is only a single test for a language, typically in listening or reading, Marines must now take an additional oral test. That will require them to converse proficiently with a speaker of the language before they can qualify for the bonus, according to the MARADMIN.

Although some Marines will be faced with the burden of extra testing, there is some good news for others.

Those who achieve a level three score in at least two of the three areas will be exempt from annual requalifications required to maintain the language bonus. Those Marines will have two years from the time they qualify before they must retest.

The new two-year exemption for those Marines will take effect on Oct. 1, which is the start of fiscal 2014.

Foreign language pay is paid to qualified Marines monthly, and is calculated based on their level of proficiency. The lowest payments are $100 per month and under current law can reach $1,000 per month depending on how critical or in-demand a particular language is.

According to Marine regulations, up to $500 can be earned for Marines who speak a single qualifying language, but proficiency in two languages can bring home the maximum of $1,000.

A list of qualifying languages is labeled “for official use only” by Headquarters Marine Corps and has not been released publicly for years. In the past, however, qualifying languages have been from around the globe and included everything from Chinese, Japanese and Korean, to Arabic, Farsi and Pashtu.

The latest list was finalized in July, according to MARADMIN 342/13,signed July 10. Marines interested in details should consult that document.

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