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Foreign Language Proficiency Bonus, an incentive for success

By Cpl. Timothy Norris | | August 29, 2013

Several changes to the Foreign Language Proficiency Pay program were announced in a Marine Administrative Message, Aug. 13.
The FLPB program offers additional pay of up to 1000 dollars a month based on ability to listen, speak and read in multiple languages. The amount of money a Marine receives varies on the language and level of proficiency 
The first and smallest change was renaming the program to Foreign Language Proficiency Bonus (FLPB).
The second and third changes have a greater impact on the program.
To now receive pay, a Marine must reach at least an Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) level two in two of the three tested areas, speaking, reading and listening in the selected language. Previously, only a level one proficiency was required.
The third change only requires retesting every two years instead of one for those who score an (ILR) level three in both areas. 
The program was created as an incentive for Marines to learn additional languages and to identify personnel who can act as translators for the Corps in their tested language.
Pfc. Philipp Etter, a Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 flight equipment technician said the tests are notoriously difficult.
“I took the test for German,” Etter said. “I was surprised at how difficult it was.”
Etter, a native of Rorschach, Switzerland, grew up speaking German before his family moved to America when he was 14. 
“To become proficient in a language you have to have some kind of motive,” Etter said. “Living in America motivated me to actually try and learn English.
“You have to put in a lot of effort. It is a lot more than looking at a textbook once a day. You have to stay committed.
“It helps a lot personally and professionally,” he said. “You never know who you’re going to be doing business with or what country you’re going to visit.”
Gunnery Sgt. Mauricio Gallego, squadron gunnery sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, learned the value of knowing a second language as a recruiter, and how it contributed to mission success.
Speaking Spanish enabled him to communicate with parents of potential recruits to answer their questions and resolve concerns that come with military service. 
“I would definitely encourage Marines to learn a second language,” said. “From a simple language like Spanish to very difficult languages like Cantonese and Mandarin, I would encourage them in any way possible.”
While serving in Korea, Gallego worked with a Marine who had studied and spoke fluent Korean.
“Many times we had to go out into town and work for supplies,” Gallego recounted. “This Marine was an essential part of making that happen. He was not a linguist but he was able to step in and help us out.“
Whether the motivation is for self-improvement, a college credit, plans for a future career or bonus pay, the benefits of all reasons are greater than a few extra hundred dollars, Gallego said.
The Corps has also made resources abundantly available to those who wish to learn a second language, including the popular Rosetta Stone program and the Transparent Language program. 
For more information on available language study programs, contact your unit family readiness officer.