The Foreign Service Journal - April 2017
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Page Background

Language Training

I recently met with a number

of commercial officers at the

Diplomatic Language School

in Rosslyn, Virginia—a prime

vendor of language training

services to the Foreign Com-

mercial Service. Many of

you have been through DLS

training, and many more of

you will do so (again?) in the

near future. As a result, the

Commercial Service’s pro-

gram bears a closer look.

The program took an

important turn in 2012 when

commercial officers were no

longer required to take lan-

guage training at the Foreign

Service Institute. There were

many reasons behind the

change, including the cost of

training and the FSI monop-

oly over testing certification

in particular.

Some FCS officers still

choose to attend classes at

FSI, while others opt for the

mostly one-on-one instruc-

tion characteristic of DLS.

(In 2014 a third vendor—the

International Center for

Language Studies—was

added as a language training

option, with positive feed-

back so far.)

The fact that, since 2002,

first-tour officers have been

required to take language

training in the Washington,

D.C., area has been a sore

point, but other aspects of

the program may be chang-


Many of my FCS col-

leagues have made sug-

gestions for improvement

and raised questions to



APRIL 2017


clarify the language training

process. Here are some of

the questions and concerns

I hear:

• What, precisely, is the

waiver policy in the event an

officer does not achieve the

language score necessary to

go to post?

• Why is there a require-

ment for officers to proceed

“immediately” to post after

language training so as to

arrive at post no later than

one month after final test-


• What are the FCS sick

and annual leave require-

ments/limitations while in

language training, and why

are these different from

those of the State Depart-

ment, especially around the

winter holidays?

• What is the rule about

commercial officers taking

area studies before, during

or after language training?

• Why are the number of

hours of language instruc-

tion each day at DLS differ-

ent than, say, at FSI?

In closing, it has been

more than two years since

AFSA and CS management

held a series of meetings to

review and update Com-

merce’s Foreign Service

Personnel Management

Manual (Subchapter 800)

as it relates to language

training. We made enormous

progress at that time, but

more needs to be done.

In a world of “less is

more,” sequestration,

reduced budgets and the

demand for “more bang for

the buck,” the new adminis-

tration will have to carefully

consider how training (and

language training, in par-

ticular) fits into their future

plans for the FCS.

As I wrote to manage-

ment nearly one year ago:

“Foreign language capability

is a distinctive feature of the

Foreign Service and a stra-

tegic asset to the American

foreign policy community. It

is an essential tool for offi-

cers to develop the regional

expertise and insight that

the Foreign Service Act of

1980 calls for.”

What more can be done

to ensure commercial offi-

cers are equipped with the

most up-to-date, thorough

language training in order to

help U.S. industry compete

and the United States to

successfully attract foreign

direct investment in the 21st


If you have thoughts on

this extremely important

issue, I would like to hear

from you. Please write to me






Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA FCS VP.


or (202) 482-9088



In a world of “less is more,” sequestration,

reduced budgets and the demand for

“more bang for the buck,” the new

administration will have to carefully

consider how training (and language

training, in particular) fits into their

future plans for the FCS.