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This is NOT an official Army-sanctioned webpage. This is just an NCO trying to help other Soldiers out. Whatever my opinions are on here are not to be considered the opinions of the Army, or even considered fact. All information presented should be double-checked with your CLPM and Retention NCO/Recruiter, or double-checked in the Army Regulation or message provided. Despite my best efforts and collaboration with other NCOs, I am sometimes wrong and you shouldn't base your enlistment/re-enlistment solely on what I have to say, but rather use this information as a base for your research.

Friday, April 22, 2011

How do I become a linguist? (Part 1 - Taking the DLAB)

There are quite a few ways to become a linguist in the Army if you do not already speak a foreign language.  The most important thing you need to do, whether you are currently already in the Army as an enlisted Soldier, commissioned officer, warrant officer, or a civilian getting ready to start the process of joining, is take the Defense Language Aptitude Battery (DLAB).  The word "battery" in this case simply means "test".  If you cannot score 95 or above, the rest of the process is moot because the Army will not send you to the Defense Language Institute (DLI).

Category I - score of 95 - Danish, Dutch, French, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish
Category II - score of 100 - German- Indonesian and Romanian
Category III - score 105 - Albanian, Amharic, Bulgarian, Burmese, Cambodian, Czech, Persian, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Lao, Russian, Lithuanian, Polish, Swahili, Tagalong, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese
Category IV - score 110 or better - Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean

Training at DLI is extremely costly for the Department of Defense and the attrition rate is very high, so they want to ensure that you have the potential to learn a new foreign language.

The DLAB supposedly tests your mind's ability to grasp the concept of a foreign language and takes about two gut-wrenching hours to complete.  The DLAB is very difficult to study for and is often considered one of the most difficult academic tests the Army administers for this reason.  I will tell you from personal experience at DLI that a higher DLAB score does not necessarily equate to doing well in the language.  Personally, I only scored a 98 (back then the entrance requirements for each language were slightly lower, so I was able to get into PF) and yet graduated DLI with the highest proficiency you could score at the time.  Others in my class with DLAB scores well into the mid 100s failed the course within the first few weeks.  It's more a matter of dedication once you make it to DLI than it is how well you scored on the entrance exam.

To even take the test you will most likely have to submit a DA form 4187 (Personnel Action) signed by your commander.  For new Soldiers, your recruiter will take care of this for you.  Click here for an example 4187 for DLAB (obviously you will have to change the addresses in the THRU/TO/FROM boxes).

The concept of the DLAB is to give you a made up foreign language and have you attempt to correctly answer questions in a variety of fashions.  Below is one example of how you might be tested:


To make matters a little more complicated, the audio portions of the test do not repeat the questions and use the same made up language.  Often questions are regarding grammatical issues and which question is grammatically correct.  Usually this ends in some sort of culmination.  For example, in the first question you might be told that the noun goes before the verb in this language.  Then in the next set you might be instructed that adjectives go after the noun, and so forth.  In the end you're trying to remember the rules set in place 10 minutes ago.  








I'm not trying to scare you, but this is not an easy test.  And if you fail, you have to wait six months before you can re-take it. Once you pass, however, the test is good for the rest of your career.

So the question you need to ask yourself next is, "how can I study for this?" The answer, of course, is "not very easily." I will, however, try to guide you in the right direction.

The first thing you need to do is make sure you get enough sleep the night before and you are able to concentrate during the exam.  It's a relatively long exam, and it racks your brain.  If you aren't getting good sleep or you're tired it will be hard to concentrate.  Since I mentioned above that the listening portion of the exam does not repeat and culminates, if you miss the instructions for one grammatical rule you could potentially make a mistake on the remainder of the questions.

Another really important puzzle piece is knowing your English grammar definitions really well. If the definition of one of the made-up grammatical rules is "conjunctions can be placed anywhere in a sentence" and you don't know what a conjunction is, you will miss the question.  This is (hopefully) less of an issue for civilians coming right out of high school or college because they should be constantly exposed to these things.  However, for prior service who have been in the Army for quite some time and have been away from English grammar for years, this is crucial to study.

Lastly, I located a short study guide on the internet.  Here is a link to the sample of the study guide, but please ignore a lot of the administrative data because it is outdated and focus just on the practice questions.  Alternatively, you can buy the full study guide for $30 here in hard copy. They also have a Kindle version, but it's $10 more. I am not affiliated with this website whatsoever. I only found it on Google, just like you. I haven't actually read their study guide, but it gets decent reviews (aside from complaints about the cost). However, it's only about 45 pages long.

I've also compiled some websites that teach you English Grammar:

1. Guide to Grammar and Writing
2. Basics of English Grammar

Not only will learning English grammar help you dramatically on the DLAB, but it will help you at DLI as well, because the majority of the instructors use the same definitions to explain the new language to you.

Please leave your comments below regarding your experiences in taking the DLAB!

When you're done doing that, feel free to move on to Part 2 (getting a security clearance). 

If you have questions, please feel free to visit the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.

46 comments:

  1. The first I time I heard about the DLAB was after a long day at MEPS and minutes before I was shuffled into a testing room. There was no time to prepare or get nervous and while it was definitely unusual, there is a logic to it, like any puzzle, that unfolds as you study it. If I were doing it again, I would brush up on english grammar as suggested above and do some simple logic puzzles or pattern recognition exercises and then just relax. I think of it as the kind of test that you don't take -it takes you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I Have a question, I'm an active duty soldier and I have a score of 3 in speaking/reading/listening in Arabic modern standard and Iraqi Dialect , and I read the new MILPER message regarding 35P MOS shortage for Arabic Linguists , do I still have to Take the DLAB?

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  3. Thank you for the quick reply, so do you have some info about the 35P AIT in Good fellow AFB? like 1- do you get Assignment orders while you are there or do you go back to your unit then you will get orders later on? and can you take your spouse with you to the AIT? , I would appreciate the help

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  4. Usually you get follow on orders before you even arrive. I have a buddy that just switched and is at GF AFB as we speak and was told he was going to Gordon before he even left. He doesn't have his spouse with him.

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  5. could you please ask him if they would allow me to stay in a nearby motel with my spouse? and on another note,how long do you think it will take HRC to give me a class date after I submit my voluntary reclass packet? and where do 35Ps usually get sent to? sorry to bother you with all these questions but I'm trying to be ready and informed for this MOS and I really want to get this job because this is what I used to do, I have worked with Army as a Linguist for 6 years in Iraq and I know it well, thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I do not understand how this test says I cannot learn Korean. It was my first language before English. I just never used it enough growing up and forgot a lot of it. I also picked up German while stationed there. You cannot ever beat immersion. I can guarantee a few years in Korea and I would be a native speaker again.

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  7. Are you saying that you failed the DLAB? If so, it's not an easy test. It doesn't necessarily mean you cannot learn the language. Have you taken the DLPT in Korean?

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  8. What is it like being a 35m? Also the training, how is it?

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  9. I took DLPT French and I passed with the score 2/2+. I am going to reclass as 38B Civil Affairs which requires a DLAB test. I am note sure if I have took a DLAB test.

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  10. Hi, I take my DLAB tomorrow at Ft. Meade and I'm just curious as to how this is going to work. I'm a bit nervous. I'm trying to go in as 35P from college and I have a few questions and it would be cool if someone with personal experience could help me.

    Where do most 35P get sent after GF AFB? Is it BCT, the Defense Linguistic School and then the AIT? What do you do at AIT? What's it like being 35P?

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  11. Sorry that I didn't see this comment (I'm often pretty busy). Usually you would go to BCT, then the language institute, and then Goodfellow AFB.

    I can't answer what it's like to be a 35P because I'm a 35M ;)

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  12. i have a DLPT score of 2, 2+ in HINDI. do i need to take the DLAB?

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  13. I took DLPT French and I passed with the score 2/2+. I am going to reclass as 38B Civil Affairs which requires a DLAB test. I am note sure if I have took a DLAB test

    ReplyDelete
  14. You shouldn't need a DLAB if you already have a language.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Do you know if the practice study guide referenced in this post is still relevant (same rules and general setup)? I'm scheduled to take the dlab in a few days and have been using this to study.

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  16. It should be, but truth be told I haven't taken it in over ten years.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Know anything about exception to policy to either take the test again after already receiving a passing score, or exception to policy to allow a lower DLAB score to take a higher category language?

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  18. Are they telling you that you can't take it again due to the passing score? You should be able to re-take the test every six months, I don't think there is anything that says you can't take it again if you've already passed, but perhaps I'm missing that in the regulation.

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  19. Can you be 35p with red green deficiency even if you scored high enough on asvab to qualify for it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is waiverable if you can still see red and green normally, which is tested by using a purpose-built lamp rather than the PIPIC Color Vision Test (http://colorvisiontesting.com/ishihara.htm).

      Delete
  20. I am a civilian who is enlisting as a 35P. I just took the DLAB and got a 147. I've not been able to find any insight as to whether a high score will allow me a choice of language or if it is strictly passed on needs of the army.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. *based not "passed". Damn iPhone keyboard.

      Delete
    2. Considering your DLAB score is well over the one required entry to CAT IV languages (110 DLAB score) such as Chinese, Arabic, etc., I would imagine you will be assigned Arabic...

      That being said, most things in life are never so cut and dry, so maybe, depending on other qualifications, Army needs, etc. you might be able to request/receive another language to learn at DLI.

      Delete
    3. Currently the military is pushing for Cat IV languages because they have a low success rate with students. So because you have such a high score, you are probably looking at Chinese, Korean or Arabic.

      There is a an awesome article about this at the www.DLABPrep.com and how you can work with the detailer to use a top grade to get the language you want.

      Delete
    4. Dear Civilian-who-is-enlisting-as-35P,
      If you ever return to this forum, what language did you end up getting? Did they even consider your DLAB score or language background? I am enlisting as a 35P this week & my DLAB is 136.

      Delete
  21. Thanks for the information and this was great. Yeah, the guy above is right. Check out http://DLABPrep.com . They have some of the most amazing free info out there. They also have a DLAB Practice Test.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I am currently a Civilan about to do MEPS for the ARMY. I am also trying my damnest to be a Linguist. This thread has given me so much information and I am ever so grateful. Are there any other tips, advice etc ya'll can give me?

    ReplyDelete
  23. I have taken the DLAB three times in my military career. Somehow the education center never gets the score to my ERB so I just take it again. When I took the test in 1998 the fake language sounded like Russian. Then in 2003 and again last year the language sounded like Arabic.

    My best advice to anyone taking the language is to brush up on basic concepts of grammar. Know what a noun, verb, pronoun, etc is. That seems like a simple thing, but those that fail the DLAB do so because they really don't understand basic grammar concepts. Know how they can interact in different langauges. The test will slowly build up this new language for you in your mind, it isn't so hard if you have your basic straight.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely, and don't leave the testing facility without a copy of your scores!

      And I agree, basic grammar is THE most important thing. It doesn't matter what the fake language is - if you don't know what a participle is and they tell you that in the fake language the participle ends in an "ee" sound, you're screwed.

      Delete
    2. S1 update your ERB,not Education Center. I gave my DLAB result to my BN S1, they do their job like in 2 minutes!

      Delete
  24. So I am a military wife thinking of enlisting as a crypto linguist. I speak 5 languages and I am not far from getting my BA in Translation and Interpreting in a university from Spain. I was wondering what will happen with the BAH and all that while I am at the DLI. I read we would both treated as single soldiers (we don't have any children) and I wouldn't get any BAH either in boot camp or the DLI and would have to live in the barracks... not an idea I really enjoy... plus would my husband be able to go visit me at all if I have to stay in the B's? as far as I read I think I would never get BAH unless we both get stationed togethr and live together again? Although he would be able to get BAH w/o dependents... and still live off post?

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    Replies
    1. If you are just joining the Army you will live in the barracks. That's not negotiable. He on the other hand would still receive BAH, at the single rate. Sorry, but if you don't like the idea of living in the barracks at basic training you're joining the wrong Army. He could visit at DLI, but you would be restricted to base at first. Eventually you might be able to get a hotel off base, but obviously he would not be allowed in female barracks. Once you guys are stationed together, you would both get single rate BAH. If a married couple has a child, the higher-ranking spouse receives BAH at the married rate while the other receives at the single, lower rate.

      Delete
  25. hi. i am 11B. I just took DLPT. I got level 3 on reading anf level2+ on listening. i am trying to get top secret clearance. but i heard that it will take one year to let me get top secret clearance. is there anyway to let me reclass to 35p before i get top secret clearance? i stayed in infantry unit 4 years already. i can not wait to get out my unit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should be able to reclass with an interim clearance but you won't graduate until it's adjudicated (finalized)

      Delete
  26. Will my DLAB score automatically populate on my ERB? My S1 says thy don't have the ability to put it on for me...

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    Replies
    1. Someone above said the S1 should do it.

      Delete
  27. Thanks a lot for the continued information, J. I just took the DLAB at MEPS and got an 80 - I'm pretty upset with myself and my dreams of becoming a linguist appear shattered. I'm certainly not making excuses because it was myself who ultimately failed, but for some reason I could NOT sleep at the hotel at MEPS. I laid in bed with my eyes open, pondering and worrying about this test and that I was so mentally exhausted by the time I had to go to MEPS that morning. When I sat down at the computer to take the DLAB, my eyes were so heavy. Obviously the test gives you the option to test at another date if you feel fatigued and that did cross my mind, but curiosity got the better of me and I ultimately paid for it. The even sadder thing is that I know exactly where I went wrong on the test. I never fully understood the 3rd rule. I knew how to convert all the words and their parts of speech, but what killed me was putting the words in order, which is really what the 3rd rule was all about without going into too much detail.

    I know that I can't retest for another 6 months, but I really want to go ahead and enlist in the Army. What is the closest MOS to 35P in the Army that might get me a shot at learning a language? I feel like if I retake the DLAB with adequate sleep and now that I have better understanding of what I'm up against, I will pass. How difficult is it to switch to 35P while active duty?

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmmm I'd wait if possible. Reason I say that is it will be a lot harder and time consuming to switch to 35P than to wait.

      You could go 35M or some other SIGINT MOS like 35N

      Delete
  28. ***Advice/Information on DLAB***

    -- Understand linguistic concepts
    -- First part of exam = Understand stress and intonation. If you are a speaker of Arabic, this should be a breeze for you. I don't think knowledge of Chinese or Vietnamese (or other tonal language) will help you here as they aren't testing tones recognition.
    -- Second part of exam = Having had 3 years of Latin helped here. Understanding declensions (as there are in Latin and Arabic) helps tremendously here.

    -- My knowledge of Korean, Turkish, and Japanese (they are all in the same Altaic language group) helped also.

    -- My knowledge of French & Spanish helped minimally to none on this exam. It is good to be familiar with verb conjugations anyway.

    My background:
    - Enlisting as 35P
    - ASVAB 99. DLAB 136.
    - Fluent in French.
    - Conversational in Arabic, Korean (my 1st language), Japanese

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  29. Question about proficiency in a language already. I current have a 1/1+ in Japanese. If I took the DLAB and did not score the 110 for the requirement for Japanese. How will that effect trying to reclass into 35PJN?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You need a higher DLAB score. Your best bet is to retake the exam in six months.

      Delete
  30. i am stationed at fort sill for almost half a year now, and i got 26 and 30 on my chinese reading and listening tests, i am wondering if i can get any opportunities of going to overseas.

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    Replies
    1. The Army does not assign by language, except in special situations. So it may be possible, but it won't have to do with your CM language.

      Delete
  31. I am SSG with MOS 09L(Army Linguist ) was active for almost 6 yrs I got out n went to IRR right now I want to get back to active duty ,I spoke with my recruiter to help me back in ,he said that I need to take the DLAB ? Why ? also Am I gonna lose my rank or grade if he get me back in ?

    ReplyDelete