Slim Chance Of Finding an Arabic Speaker at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad

Of the 1,000 U.S. employees at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, only 10 have a working knowledge of Arabic, according to the State Department.

That is still a slight improvement from last year when, according to the Iraq Study Group, six people in the embassy spoke Arabic.

A 2006 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report noted the shortage of speakers of Arabic, which the State Department classifies as "superhard," is acute at U.S. embassies in the Muslim world.

The report found that more than one-third of public policy diplomacy positions at Arabic language posts were filled by people who did not speak the language at the designated level.

In April, the director of the International Affairs Office at the GAO said the State Department had started taking action to correct the problems from last year's report.

"State has begun to address these language deficiencies by increasing its overall amount of language training and providing supplemental training for more difficult languages at overseas locations," Jess Ford told the House Committee of Foreign Affairs.

The State Department grades language proficiency on a five-point scale, from elementary knowledge (S-1) to native or bilingual proficiency (S-5). 

On this scale, 10 employees at the Baghdad embassy have an S-3 rating for reading and speaking, which means they can speak or write the language with "reasonable ease."

An additional five personnel tested at or above the S-3 level in speaking only.

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