Military translators – their role in the US army

September 26th, 2010
With increased spread of military operations through out the world like the US operation in the Middle East or UN peace keeping force in Africa, translators have an important role to play in the military. The US forces deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan for example need to have at least a smattering knowledge of local languages like Arabic, Pashto, Farsi, Dari and a host of other dialects depending on their area of operation in order to be successful. Among the three services, the Army has the maximum need for translation / interpretation services as they are likely to interact more with the local populace. The military translation / interpretation job is so huge that the US Army gave out $4.6 billion in contracts to private companies for its translation business in Iraq alone a few years ago. The demand for translators / linguists in the U.S. has soared in the last decade or so particularly because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US Army’s translation budget worldwide increased manifold from about $10 million inn 1999 to over $5 billion in 2006. Some of the professional translation service providers with focus on the US Army include Northrop Grumman Corp, L-3 Communications Holdings Inc, McNeil Technologies and DynCorp International Inc. Apart from the Middle East, the US Army also needs translators / interpreters for its operation in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where terrorist suspects are detained and also in the Balkans where US troops are stationed. There is need for translators / interpreters in various languages like Spanish, Arabic, Croatian, Serbian etc. for these operations as the military interacts with persons of different nationalities there. It has spent over 100 million dollars in these 2 locations for translation related work in the recent past and it is a perpetual work as the Army continues its operations. The professional translation services provided by these companies to the US army include deputing translators as well as providing language training to the military personnel posted there. Translators working for the military should have thorough knowledge of military and technical terminology both in the source and target languages. Due to its confidential nature, military translation can be challenging as lot of slang and oblique references to common technical terms are likely to be used. Ideal candidates for such a job would be persons who have experience in working with and familiarity of functioning of the defense forces. The knowledge also needs to be constantly updated to keep abreast of the technological advances occurring over a period of time.

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