The ATA Chronicle - November/December 2020 - 22

FEATURE

BY RUSTY SHUGHART
Personnel and Readiness. NLSC has
matured into an organization of nearly
11,000 highly skilled civilian volunteers
who may be called upon to support the
federal government, either remotely or
in person, for a range of missions in the
U.S. and abroad. These support services
may include translation, transcription,
language instruction, cultural advising,
and testing development. Past missions
have included:

Language for the Good of All: ATA
Members Make a Difference in the
National Language Service Corps
Federal government activities often require additional professional language
services and cultural competencies on a short-term basis for routine mission
work or to satisfy contingency requirements.

F

ull-time employees of civil, foreign,
and military service organizations
routinely provide linguistic expertise
to support the federal government.
However, federal government activities
often require additional professional
language services and cultural
competencies on a short-term basis
for routine mission work or to satisfy
contingency requirements.
To help address this need, the U.S.
Department of Defense (DoD) launched
the National Language Service Corps
(NLSC) as a pilot program in 2007 to
22

The ATA Chronicle | November/December 2020

identify and recruit on-call, volunteer
civilian language specialists. Initially,
NLSC aimed to maintain a pool of
linguists proficient in 10 languages. Since
then, NLSC has expanded its capabilities
to support over 414 languages and
dialects. In 2018, NLSC extended its
support beyond DoD organizations to
all federal government agencies through
formal partnership agreements.
Today, the Defense Language and
National Security Education Office
administers NLSC on behalf of the Office
of the Under Secretary of Defense for

■	

Interpreting for the commanding
general of U.S. Africa Command and
visiting regional leaders.

■	

Simultaneous and consecutive
interpreting at the DoD's U.S. Central
Command's planning conferences and
training exercises in Jordan, Kyrgyzstan,
and Qatar.

■	

Interpreting and translation for the
Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in
Action Accounting Agency in support of
searches for missing service personnel
in Southeast Asia.

■	

Interpreting for the secretary of the
Navy in town halls and community
outreach forums during the 2010 Gulf
Oil disaster.

■	

Supporting quality assurance, test
validation, and language training across
numerous government agencies.

Linguists who would like to volunteer
their services must first apply to be NLSC
members. Membership is free. Although
there is no minimum proficiency level
to become a member, applicants must
complete a language self-assessment.
NLSC uses the Federal Interagency
Language Roundtable's (ILR) proficiency
guidelines (the ILR scale)1 to evaluate
speaking, reading, listening, translation,
and interpreting proficiency. NLSC seeks
individuals who can achieve professional
proficiency ( " level 3 " ) in multiple language
functions. Once approved as an NLSC
member, individuals have access to formal
proficiency tests. Some participating
agency partners require members to submit
the results of these tests before being
selected for an assignment.
Once a partner requests language
support, NLSC queries its membership
through email, phone, or member-only
social media platforms to find qualified
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The ATA Chronicle - November/December 2020

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