Hey Travelers! Learning a new language can be a fascinating and amazing experience, but what if you could get paid to do it as a diplomat? In this article and video, we’ll explore my personal experiences and insights into what it’s like to learn a language as a diplomat. From the unique opportunities to the challenges faced, I’ll take you through the process step by step.
For many diplomats, including myself, the opportunity to learn a new language while representing their country is a dream come true. It’s a privilege and an honor to be able to immerse oneself in a new culture and communicate effectively in a foreign language.
Interestingly, the requirements for language proficiency can vary significantly between countries. In the United States, diplomats are not required to have prior language skills before entering the Foreign Service. While it certainly helps, English proficiency alone is often sufficient to begin a diplomatic career. However, in other countries, diplomats may need to come in with a certain level of proficiency or study independently before being assigned to a specific country.
In the United States, training for diplomats is typically conducted at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), located just outside Washington, DC. This is where I began learning Portuguese. The training process can be intense, but it’s also incredibly rewarding.
The training curriculum at FSI is comprehensive and starts with the basics. You begin with simple phrases and gradually progress to more complex topics like economics, history, and current events. It’s like going back to school but with a real-world focus.
One notable aspect of FSI’s language training is the small class sizes. In my Portuguese class, there were only three students, including myself, which created an immersive learning environment. With such a small group, there’s no room to hide, and everyone has to actively participate, which greatly accelerates language acquisition.
Rather than receiving traditional grades, diplomats are assessed based on their language proficiency. Before heading to our assigned post, diplomats are required to reach a certain level of proficiency in speaking and reading. For example, I had to achieve a 3-3 on the IRL scale, indicating working proficiency in both speaking and reading Portuguese.
At FSI, I had the opportunity to learn from teachers who were native speakers of Brazil. While I didn’t learn Continental Portuguese, I was exposed to different accents and regional variations of the language. This added diversity enriched the learning experience.
For some diplomats, like myself, learning a new language at FSI means starting from scratch. I had no prior knowledge of Portuguese, but with dedication and the support of my teachers, I made significant progress.
As someone with a background in Spanish, I found it easier in the beginning. However, when we delved into complex topics like global affairs and current events, it became challenging. The key is to persevere, keep pushing your limits, and you’ll be amazed at the progress you can achieve.
The opportunity to learn a language as a diplomat is truly priceless. Being able to communicate fluently in other languages opens doors to deeper cultural understanding and effective diplomacy. While it can be tough at times, the rewards are immense.
Whether you come into the Foreign Service with language skills or start from scratch, the journey is a unique and enriching one. It’s a privilege to represent your country abroad, and the ability to communicate with locals is a powerful tool for diplomacy. So, whether you dream of becoming a diplomat or simply want to explore the world of language learning, remember that with dedication and perseverance, you can achieve remarkable fluency and cultural understanding.