Uncle Sam wants you... to learn a language

Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow
Story by Lance Cpl. Samuel Ranney

Date: 11.21.2012
Posted: 11.21.2012 16:15
News ID: 98256

BARSTOW, Calif. - Do you know any other languages? if you do, you may be eligible for an extra $1000 added to your paycheck every month. Master Sgt. Barvan Lav, the communications chief aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., does, and is one of the few Marines here who take advantage of the military’s Foreign Language Proficiency Pay.

The FLPP allows Marines to earn up to $1000 extra a month for knowing up to three different languages, according to Marine Administrative Message 733/07. To qualify, the service member must pass the Defense Language Proficiency Test annually.

Foreign languages are put into four different categories. According to Lav, the higher the category and the higher you score on the test, the more money you will earn for that language. The most you can earn for a single language is $500 a month.

Lav is fluent in Khmer, the language spoken in Cambodia. Khmer is a category three language, and has been earning Lav $300 a month for the past seven years.

“The test is basic, it’s about the same as a third grade education level,” said Lav. “I moved here from Cambodia in the second grade and had no problems, they gave me six hours to finish and it only took me an hour and a half.”

Knowing a second, third or fourth language allows you to excel as an individual and become more versatile in supporting military operations, thus making you more valuable to the Marine Corps, explained Lav.

“I used the language this year as an interpreter in Cambodia for the Joint Prisoner of War Accounting Command,” he said.
JPAC’s mission is to account for Americans lost in previous U.S. battles. Lav supervised Cambodian workers, told them what was needed to be done for that day and what supplies were needed.

Lav encourages Marines to take advantage of the educational resources while they are free. Knowing a second language can be just as useful outside of the Marine Corps, Lav explained. Employers are going to hire the more competitive, knowledgeable person every time.

The base library, McTureous Hall, offers a variety of tools to aid service members in learning a new language and at no cost to them.

“The Transparent Language program is a great way to learn a foreign language,” explained Francis Villeme, the base education officer. “We can register you online here for free, and after that you can pull up your account from any location including your mobile phone.”

“Aside from Transparent Language, we also offer Rosetta Stone for use in the computer lab, or a large variety of audio books available for checkout,” said Villeme.

Transparent Language and Rosetta Stone are both programs that facilitate the process of learning a language, through reading, writing and verbal activities on a computer.

Villeme recommends using all of the available resources to become successful at learning a new language.

“To be proficient, you must be efficient and submerge yourself in the language,” said the education officer.

Master Sgt. Lav is currently studying Thai using these available recourses to increase his FLPP.

“Take learning a language seriously, do your best and, don’t try to do it; just do it,” said Lav.

He also recommends Marines to submerge themselves in the language in order to successfully learn it.

“In between learning, get yourself used to hearing the language, engulf yourself in it. Watch YouTube videos and foreign language movies,” Lav said. “The more you get used to hearing the language, the faster you’ll learn.”

If interested in the FLPP, the education center aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. offers the Defense Language Proficiency Test to MCLB Marines, said Villeme.

Take advantage of the resources available here and pick up a language in your free time. According to Lav, the pay difference could be as much as one would see in a promotion. And who doesn’t like free money?