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The Best Languages to Study for Government Jobs

In today’s global job market having bilingual skills can help you stand out among the masses to advance your career goals. According to the Center for Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at Ohio State University, the U.S. Government has greatly expanded its search for foreign language employees. This includes the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, the Department of State, the CIA, and the NSA. These agencies require qualified interpreters and analysts who are also capable of understanding the culture of the country, individuals, or situations encountered. The CIA, in particular, is so vested in hiring applicants with foreign language skills they offer an incentive program as well as a hiring bonus that pays up to $35,000. Some languages are listed as “mission critical” in their selection process. Below are samples of the most in-demand:

  • Arabic
    Arabic is the main language of the Middle East and North Africa. Approximately 223 million people speak variations of the Arabic language. Every level of the federal government is looking for applicants who speak this language. It is the official and co-official language of 25 countries including Iraq, Kuwait, and Syria. Listed as “mission critical” by the CIA.
  • Farsi
    Farsi, also known as the Persian language, is spoken by approximately 110 million people. It is the official language of Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan and has at least 20 dialects. This is also a language where available jobs increase for people who know the Farsi/Persian language. The needed positions run the gamut; elected officials in Washington, D.C., all branches of the military, and diplomats within the State Department either need to use Farsi or have administrators and translators to help them carry out their duties. Listed as “mission critical” by the CIA.
  • Korean
    Korean is commonly cited as a “language isolate.” This simply means it’s a natural language from which no relationships with other languages can be confirmed. There are 48.5 million speakers in South Korea and 23.3 million in North Korea. Millions more who speak Korean can be found around the world. It’s broken down into two dialects: Seoul in South Korea and P’yŏngyang in North Korea. Approximately 1.7 million people identify as Korean Americans making it one of the best languages needed to land a job in at the state and local government levels. Listed as “mission critical” by the CIA.
  • Mandarin Chinese
    Mandarin Chinese is spoken by 70% of the Chinese population. But it doesn’t stop there. It is also spoken in Cambodia, Indonesia, and Malaysia; just to name a few other countries. It is estimated that more than 850 million people speak the language, making it the world’s largest. Although various dialects exist, most adhere to a standardized version or Mandarin. This language also has 7 vowel phenomes that depending on how a word is pronounced can alter its meaning. Listed as “mission critical” by the CIA.
  • Russian
    The origins of Russian language has a rich history and is one of the ten most used languages worldwide. It’s also among the official languages of the United Nations. It is divided into three dialect groups: Northern, Southern, and Central. It is spoken by 137 million people in Russia and 166 million around the world including Canada, China, and the United States. Listed as “mission critical” by the CIA.
  • Spanish
    Spanish speakers are in high demand across the job market. It has many dialects and is the native language of 30 countries. It’s estimated that more than 399 million people speak some form of Spanish with 32.4 million in the United States. If you are fortunate enough to be bilingual in Spanish, you should have little trouble landing employment in almost any field. Public school systems in every state, along with county hospitals need translators to facilitate interactions with America’s Spanish-speaking citizens. The Federal Bureau of Investigations also needs bilingual assistance with the Spanish language. It uses Contract Linguists to translate, interpret and provide cultural guidance for a variety of cases.
  • Turkish
    The official language of Turkey and Cyprus, Turkish is used by 71 million people across 35 countries including Europe and the Middle East. With at least 9 dialects, Turkish can be quite complicated due to the structure of its sounds. Using what’s known as “vowel harmony” means vowels must be placed in a certain order to be correct. It also uses 28 phenomes or sounds, that can alter the meaning of the spoken word. Listed as “mission critical” by the CIA.

The languages listed above, as well as many others, require various levels of training to help you become proficient in your chosen government job. ALTA can assess your skill level and create a customized learning program that is best for you. You will be given access to everything you need to succeed with professionals who cater to your learning style whether it’s live lessons, on-the-go or at home.
Georgia native Ann Ward is a published author, ghostwriter and research consultant. Her studies include a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Psychology. She has a special interest in the importance of language skills and how it shapes society and mankind.


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