Page 15 - Foreign Service Journal - April 2012

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languages easily. For them, a FAST
course could be all they need to master
the proper use of the imparfait versus
the passé compose and all the other
wonders of French grammar, for in-
But what about everyone else?
Lack of proficiency in the local lan-
guage makes a job applicant less com-
petitive. And those EFMs who do
land jobs outside the mission will find
it tough to function in a professional
environment with limited fluency.
Purchasing Parity
There is no getting around the fact
that it would be costly for FSI to give
USAID EFMs the same access to lan-
guage instruction as their State coun-
terparts routinely receive. But what
about other ways to offer them parity?
Let us assume that a student with
no previous French-language instruc-
tion requires five contact hours a day
for a period of 30 weeks to develop “3”
level speaking and reading skills. An
EFM who is new to the language can
complete the eight-week FAST course
at government expense, but he or she
will still require approximately 22
weeks — 550 hours — of instruction
to reach the “3” level.
The Washington, D.C., area is
home to many private language
schools. But they generally charge
$45-$50 per hour for one-on-one in-
struction. At that rate, the cost for 550
hours of training comes to around
$25,000. Even EFMs in the “1 per-
cent” may find that trés cher!
Let us further assume that one-on-
one instruction at a reputable private
language school will allow a motivated
spouse or partner to learn the language
faster. Even if they can cut the num-
ber of hours in half, at $47 per hour the
tuition bill for 225 hours of instruction
still comes to more than $10,000.
If the family member is lucky, the
school will put him or her with another
student at the same proficiency level,
who has the same schedule and desire
to learn the language, to form a semi-
private or small group class. At ap-
proximately $30 per hour each, a semi-
private class for an EFM who wishes
to attain the “3” level would cost
What about the post language pro-
gram or local instructors? It is true that
USAID EFMs can participate in post
language programs. In addition, local
instructors are generally less expensive
than those in Washington. But unfor-
tunately, post language programs are
not designed or resourced to bring be-
ginner students from the “0” or even
the “1+” level to the “3” level quickly.
A Glass Half Full?
Let us assume that the FSO needs
to learn French for his or her next post.
The French Basic course at FSI lasts
30 weeks. The family can expect to re-
locate to Washington, D.C., for at least
eight months while the officer attends
Hopefully, the Eligible Family
Member already has a career and an
employer flexible enough to allow him
or her to work fromWashington, D.C.,
during these eight months. If so, it
may make financial sense to postpone
language training until arrival at post,
when the family member can take ad-
vantage of lower instruction rates.
Meanwhile, the EFM can continue to
pursue his or her career, drawing a
Of course, not every Foreign Serv-
ice family is that lucky. Spending
eight months in Washington, D.C.,
may require the EFM to stop work-
ing. A “glass half-full” EFM will see
the positive in this situation: Eight
months in Washington will allow him
or her to concentrate on the language.
The EFM then can hit the ground
running at post.
But remember: the glass is still half-
empty. Patching together a two-
month, full-time FAST course at FSI
and full- or part-time instruction at a
private school inWashington, to get an
EFM to the “3” level in eight months
may require $6,000 to $10,000 in out-
In addition, if the EFM cannot
work while in training, the family could
lose its second income. Assume the
EFMdraws $50,000 annually. Lost in-
come plus outlays during that eight-
month period could cost the family
upwards of $40,000.
There is no easy solution to this
problem. Imagine for a moment that
USAID allowed its EFMs to study
side-by-side with their State counter-
parts in basic language courses at
FSI. Such a change would achieve
parity, but both the USAID and State
families will still experience lost in-
come amounting to thousands of dol-
lars. In addition, USAID would have
to expend scarce operating expenses
to support full-time EFM language
Fortunately, a creative workaround
exists. Currently, USAID pays FSI ap-
proximately $1,100 per week for a
short-term, concentrated eight-week
FAST course. Why not give the fam-
ily member the option of applying the
equivalent amount to sustained, part-
time, one-on-one training at a local
private language school?
At $47 per hour for one-on-one
study, an EFM could study for two
hours each day, four days per week, for
almost six months with the $8,800
USAID would otherwise spend at FSI
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