A Failure to Communicate

You may have seen Spencer Ackerman report that only 10 out of 200 foreign service officers in our giant Baghdad embassy can speak Arabic. The truth is actually somewhat worse than that, though, because the technical factoid is that they have ten officers at our above “the 3 reading / 3 speaking level in Arabic.” This 3/3 comes from the Interagency Language Roundtable scale which is actually a five point scale so at least some of the embassy’s rather paltry contingent of Arabic speakers don’t necessarily know the language all that well.

UPDATE: I’m getting substantial pushback on this point from knowledgeable quarters. People say that a 3/3 maybe is a perfectly fine level of competency to do work in the foreign language without the help of an interpreter.