Navy working out language test bugs
April 4, 2008
Navy officials say they’ve worked out most of the technological kinks in a program allowing overseas Navy College offices to give computerized language tests.
But there’s still one glitch: Sailors might need waivers to collect the bonus cash for their skills.
Several overseas Navy College offices now can offer students computer-based Defense Language Proficiency Tests — provided those offices already have switched to the service’s newest overseas computer network system.
It took more than 18 months to work through technological hurdles to administer the Defense Language Institute’s computer-based testing. Problems at stateside college offices were solved first. Now officials are sorting out overseas bugs, said Darrin Williams, the Navy’s foreign language testing manager.
Last week, technicians ran trials at the Navy College Office in Naples, Italy, succeeding in getting the testing systems accredited for overseas offices, said Master Chief Petty Officer Richard Robinson, the service’s Foreign Language Program manager. Computer-based testing now is available at 126 Navy College offices worldwide, including nine overseas.
But students still cannot take the paper-and-pencil version of a language test if the language institute already has converted that test to an electronic version — even if technology hasn’t caught up with a particular Navy College office.
“They can’t take the paper-and-pencil test if it’s been superseded by an electronic version,” Robinson said. “It’s beyond the Navy’s control.”
For example, the office in Rota, Spain, isn’t scheduled to offer any computer-based testing until this summer because it has switched from its legacy network to the overseas system, commonly called ONE-NET.
So, sailors cannot take any of the 47, already computerized Defense Language Proficiency tests.
The Navy’s Foreign Language Office has contingencies to ensure sailors aren’t disadvantaged by changes in the testing system beyond their control, Robinson said.
Sailors who need to recertify for the Foreign Language Proficiency Bonus Program — and can’t take the proficiency test — can apply for a one-year waiver, using scores from their last test and taking the Oral Proficiency Interview in lieu of the whole exam, Williams said.
The language program tests in the areas of listening, reading and speaking proficiency, with the latter done through an oral interview conducted with linguists. A sailor who hasn’t already taken a test would not qualify automatically for the waiver, Williams said.
Last year, the Foreign Language Testing Office granted 400 oral interview waivers — though not all because sailors had no access to the full language proficiency test, Williams said. It is unknown how many of the 400 waivers were granted because sailors didn’t have access to the latest institute testing.
The office grants waivers for other reasons. For example, sailors can seek waivers if they need to recertify a critical-language skill — such as Arabic or Farsi — or because that language skill is necessary for their job, and they scored the maximum points allowed on the complete test, Williams said.
The Navy has overhauled its Foreign Language Proficiency Bonus Program, tripling the payout for some languages, recategorizing others and opening the program to all sailors who use language skills in their work, not just those in fields such as cryptology or intelligence.
Tests statusSome overseas Navy College offices now can offer computer-based Defense Language Proficiency tests after being accredited last week to give computer-based tests.
These are Navy College offices with computers that have switched to the ONE-NET system:
Atsugi, JapanSouda Bay, CreteGuantanamo Bay, CubaMisawa, JapanNaples, ItalyOkinawa, JapanSanta Rita, GuamSasebo, JapanYokosuka, JapanOverseas Navy College offices soon offering computer-based tests:
Manama, Bahrain – AprilSigonella, Sicily – AprilRota, Spain – JulyThe Defense Language Institute has converted Defense Language Proficiency tests to computer-based exams from paper exams for 47 languages. More languages will be added as external reviews are completed and tests certified.
Four will be added April 15:
BurmeseLaoLithuanianModern standard ArabicFive will be added May 15:
Arabic-EgyptianIcelandicJapanesePersianSlovenianFour others to come online but with no set date:
Amharic (scheduled for August)HausaRomanian (scheduled for 2009)YiddishSource: U.S. Navy