Page 14 - Foreign Service Journal - April 2012

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A
ttention, U.S. Agency for In-
ternational Development FSOs
preparing for language-desig-
nated positions: You may want to get
out your checkbooks. An assignment
to a language-designated post can cost
you and your family thousands of dol-
lars more than it would your State
counterparts.
As with many other American fam-
ilies, it is common for Foreign Service
families to have two working adult
professionals, whether to maintain
long-term financial stability, maintain
a healthy relationship dynamic, or
shed any feeling of dependency.
Whatever the reason, many Eligible
Family Members simply enjoy the
work they do and, understandably,
don’t want to leave it behind when
their spouse is posted to a faraway city
with a name that their colleagues
struggle to pronounce.
Still, it is no secret that EFM jobs
at many posts either aren’t available or
aren’t the right fit professionally. So
many spouses and partners look to an
American company, an international
organization or a nongovernmental or-
ganization for opportunities.
Too often, however, EFMs lack the
language fluency needed to compete
successfully for jobs on the local econ-
omy. So how can they acquire such
proficiency?
One Service, Two Agencies,
Two Policies
If a State Department Foreign
Service employee is slated for lan-
guage training at the Foreign Service
Institute, he or she can make a quick
call to his or her career development
officer to have the spouse or partner
enrolled in the same course. Assum-
ing space is available, several months
later (after a lot of hard work) the offi-
cer and EFM can debate the fine
points of U.S. policy in one of the 70
languages FSI teaches.
The same is
not
true for USAID
FSOs. Their agency’s policy on lan-
guage training for Eligible Family
Members diverges sharply from
State’s, creating a lack of parity for
USAID Foreign Service families.
According to the Foreign Affairs
Manual (13 FAM 110), FSI is gener-
ally funded by the Department of State
to train direct-hire State employees
and State EFMs at no cost to the bu-
reau or post. In contrast, the other for-
eign affairs agencies must pay tuition
to train their employees or family
members at FSI.
Currently, USAID purchases no
more than eight weeks of language
training for each EFM. And those
eight weeks usually come in the form
of a FAST course.
For instance, a State EFMdestined
for Dakar may receive the full 30-week
French Basic course at FSI. At the
end of the course, the EFM can expect
to speak and read at the “3” level. A
“3” represents General Professional
Proficiency, according to the five-point
Interagency Language Roundtable
scale FSI uses.
In contrast, a USAID EFM going
to the same post can only enroll in the
eight-week FAST course. With 22
fewer weeks of training, he or she can
only expect to develop language skills
at the “1” (Elementary) or “1+” (Ele-
mentary, plus) level.
To be fair, some USAIDEFMs may
already have strong language skills as a
result of previous study or experience.
The eight weeks at FSI will allow them
to “top up” or refresh their ability be-
fore getting to post. And others may
be among the envied few who take to
14
F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / A P R I L 2 0 1 2
Purchasing Parity: USAID’s EFM Language Training Policy
B
Y
B
RENDAN
M. W
HEELER
S
PEAKING
O
UT
Giving USAID
Eligible Family
Members affordable
access to language
instruction would be
expensive. But it
can be done.