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Defense Language Institute

Coordinates: 36°36′21″N 121°54′37″W / 36.6057°N 121.9104°W / 36.6057; -121.9104
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Defense Language Institute
Established1954 (DLIELC)
1963 (DLIFLC)
CommandantColonel Joseph Schaefer (DLIELC)[1]
Colonel James A. Kievit (DLIFLC)[2]
WebsiteEnglish Language Center, Foreign Language Center

The Defense Language Institute (DLI) is a United States Department of Defense (DoD) educational and research institution consisting of two separate entities which provide linguistic and cultural instruction to the Department of Defense, other federal agencies and numerous customers around the world. The Defense Language Institute is responsible for the Defense Language Program, and the bulk of the Defense Language Institute's activities involve educating DoD members in assigned languages, and international personnel in English. Other functions include planning, curriculum development, and research in second-language acquisition.


The two primary entities of the Defense Language Institute are the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) and the Defense Language Institute English Language Center (DLIELC). DLIFLC is located at the Presidio of Monterey in Monterey, California, and DLIELC is located at Joint Base San Antonio - Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center[edit]

The institute offers foreign language instruction in more than two dozen languages to approximately 3,500 students on a schedule that extends throughout the year. Courses are taught seven hours per day, five days a week, with the exception of federal holidays and training holidays. The duration of courses range between 36 and 64 weeks, depending on the difficulty of the language.[citation needed]

The military also uses private language programs such as CL-150.

Defense Language Institute English Language Center[edit]

The Defense Language Institute English Language Center manages the Department of Defense English Language Program (DELP), and is designated the 637th Training Group in 2015. The over 300 civilian members of the staff include the instructors who are qualified in the area of English as a second language.[3]

DLIELC is accredited by the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation, which is recognized by the US Department of Education.[citation needed]

DLIELC is divided into three resident academic training sections: General English, Specialized English, and Instructor Development. Depending on the needs of the students, training can range from nine weeks (in Specialized English, for example) to 52 weeks in General English. Some students arrive with only minimal English capabilities, then train to a predetermined English comprehension level (ECL) in General English. Annually, students from over 100 countries enroll in the DLIELC resident training programs. Training is paid by the host country (Foreign Military Sales) or through US grant assistance programs such as International Military Education and Training Programs. In addition to DLIELC's mission to train international students, DLIELC is responsible for providing English language training to US military service members whose primary language is not English. The DLIELC campus is located on the southwest quadrant of Lackland AFB.[citation needed]


The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) traces its roots to the eve of United States entry into World War II, when the U.S. Army established a secret school at the Presidio of San Francisco with a budget of $2,000 to teach the Japanese language. Classes began 1 November 1941, with four instructors and 60 students in an abandoned airplane hangar at Crissy Field known as Building 640.[4] The site is now preserved as the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) Historic Learning Center by the National Japanese American Historical Society.

Gen. Joseph Stilwell and Gen. George Marshall studied Chinese as officers stationed in China and understood the need to provide language training for enlisted troops, establishing a language program in 1924 to teach U.S. soldiers and officers in Asia the rudiments of spoken Chinese. Recognizing the strained relations between Japan and the U.S. in the build up to the war, a small group of officers with previous tours of duty in Japan saw the need for an intelligence unit, which would be able to understand the Japanese language. This group of officers was headed by Lt. Col. John Weckerling and Capt Kai E. Rasmussen. Japanese American Maj John F. Aiso and Pfc Arthur Kaneko, were found to be qualified linguists along with two civilian instructors, Akira Oshida and Shigeya Kihara, and became MISLS's first instructors.[5]

The students were primarily second generation Japanese Americans (Nisei) from the West Coast, who had learned Japanese from their first-generation parents but were educated in the US and whose Japanese was somewhat limited, the "Kibei", Japanese-Americans who had been educated in Japan and spoke Japanese like the Japanese themselves, along with two Caucasian students who were born in Japan as the sons of missionaries. Even for the native Japanese speakers, the course curriculum featured heigo (兵語) or military specific terminology that was as foreign to the Japanese speakers as US military slang is to the average American civilian.[6][7]

During the war, the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS), as it came to be called, grew dramatically. After the attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese-Americans on the West Coast and the Hawaii Territory were moved into internment camps in 1942. Because of anti-Japanese sentiments the Army did a nationwide survey for the least hostile environment and moved the school to a former Minnesota WPA camp named Camp Savage. By 1944 the school had outgrown those facilities and moved to Fort Snelling close by. There the school grew to 125 classrooms with over 160 instructors. Over 6,000 of its graduates served in the Pacific during the war and occupation of Japan.

Nisei Hall, along with several other buildings, is named to recognize those WWII students honored in the institute's Yankee Samurai exhibit. The John Aiso Library is named for the former MISLS director of academic training, Munakata Hall is named for the former MISLS instructor Yutaka Munakata, and the Hachiya, Mizutari, and Nakamura Halls are named for Frank Tadakazu Hachiya, Yukitaka "Terry" Mizutari, and George Ichiro Nakamura, who were killed in action in Leyte, New Guinea, and Luzon.[8]

U.S. Army film about the Army Language School, Monterey, CA, 1951

In 1946 Fort Snelling was deactivated and the school moved back to the Presidio of Monterey. There it was renamed as the Army Language School. The Cold War accelerated the school's growth in 1947–48. Instructors were recruited worldwide, included native speakers of thirty plus languages. Russian became the largest program, followed by Chinese, Korean, and German.

The Defense Language Institute English Language Center (DLIELC) traces its formal beginning to May 1954, when the 3746th Pre-Flight Training Squadron (language) was activated and assumed responsibility for all English language training. In 1960, the Language School, USAF, activated and assumed the mission. In 1966, the DoD established the Defense Language Institute English Language School (DLIELS) and placed it under US Army control although the school remained at Lackland AFB. In 1976, the DoD appointed the US Air Force as the executive agent for the school and redesignated it the Defense Language Institute English Language Center.

Cold War language instruction[edit]

The U.S. Air Force met most of its foreign language training requirements in the 1950s through contract programs at universities such as Yale, Cornell, and Syracuse and the U.S. Navy taught foreign languages at the Naval Intelligence School in Washington, D.C., but in 1963 these programs were consolidated into the Defense Foreign Language Program. A new headquarters, the Defense Language Institute (DLI), was established in Washington, D.C., and the former Army Language School commandant, Colonel James L. Collins Jr., became the institute's first director. The Army Language School became the DLI West Coast Branch, and the foreign language department at the Naval Intelligence School became the DLI East Coast Branch. The contract programs were gradually phased out. The DLI also took over the English Language School at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, which became the DLI English Language Center (DLIELC).

During the peak of American involvement in Vietnam (1965–73), the DLI stepped up the pace of language training. While regular language training continued unabated, more than 20,000 service personnel studied Vietnamese through the DLI's programs, many taking a special eight-week military adviser "survival" course. From 1966 to 1973, the institute also operated a Vietnamese branch using contract instructors at Biggs Air Force Base near Fort Bliss, Texas (DLI Support Command, later renamed the DLI Southwest Branch). Vietnamese instruction continued at DLI until 2004.


In the 1970s the institute's headquarters and all resident language training were consolidated at the West Coast Branch and renamed the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC). In 1973, the newly formed U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) assumed administrative control, and in 1976, all English language training operations were returned to the U.S. Air Force, which operates DLIELC to this day.

Former Public Health Service Hospital on The Presidio of San Francisco and former DLI branch location. The building center were classrooms and offices, while both wings were student quarters.

The DLIFLC won academic accreditation in 1979 from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges,[9] and in 1981 the position of academic dean (later called provost) was reestablished. In the early 1980s, crowding and living conditions at the Monterey location forced the institute to open two temporary branches: a branch for air force enlisted students of Russian at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas (1981–1987), and another for army enlisted students of German, Korean and Spanish at the Presidio of San Francisco (1982–1988) in the former Public Health Service Hospital. There were only enlisted male and female students at the Presidio of San Francisco, primarily from the Military Occupational Specialties of Military Intelligence and Military Police with a small number of Army Special Forces. As a result of these conditions, the institute began an extensive facilities expansion program on the Presidio. In 2002 the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges accredited the institute as an associate degree-granting institution.[10]

Base Realignment and annexation[edit]

In the spring of 1993, the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission rejected suggestions that the institute be moved or closed, and recommended that its mission be continued at the present location. In summer of 2005, the commission reopened the issue, to include the closure of the Naval Postgraduate School. Supporters of the closure believed that due to the rising property values and cost of living in the Monterey Bay area, taxpayers would save money by moving both schools to a less expensive location in Ohio. Opponents argued that it would be difficult (if not impossible) to replace the experienced native-speaking faculty at DLI, as the cultural centers of San Francisco and California's Central Coast offer a more diverse pool from which to recruit local instructors, and that the military intelligence community would suffer as a result. The BRAC commission met in Monterey on 8 August 2005, to hear arguments from both sides. On 25 August 2005, the commission's final vote was unanimous to keep DLI at its current location in Monterey.

Schools and locations[edit]

English Language Center (DLIELC)[edit]

The DLIELC is a Department of Defense agency operated by the U.S. Air Force's 37th Training Wing, and is responsible for training international military and civilian personnel to speak and teach English. The agency also manages the English as a Second Language Program for the US military, and manages overseas English training programs. International students must be sponsored by an agency of the Department of Defense, and commonly include personnel from NATO member countries. Over 100 countries are represented among the student body at DLIELC at any given time. The main campus is currently located on the grounds of Joint Base San Antonio - Lackland Air Force Base, in San Antonio, Texas. DLIELC acculturates and trains international personnel to communicate in English and to instruct English language programs in their country, trains United States military personnel in English as a second language, and deploys English Language Training programs around the world in support of the Defense Department.

Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC)[edit]

The DLIFLC at the Presidio of Monterey, California (DLIFLC & POM) is the DoD's primary foreign language school. Military service members study foreign languages at highly accelerated paces in courses ranging from 24 to 64 weeks in length.[11] In October 2001, the Institute received Federal degree-granting authority to issue Associate of Arts in Foreign Language degrees to qualified graduates of all basic programs. As of 2022, DLIFLC also offers bachelor's degrees to graduates of DLI accredited Intermediate and Advanced courses.[12]

Although the property is under the jurisdiction of the United States Army, there are U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Air Force presences on post, and all four branches provide students and instructors. Members of other Federal agencies and military services of other countries may also receive training, and members of other law enforcement agencies may receive Spanish language training.

As of 2015, a number of languages are taught at the DLIFLC including Afrikaans in Washington, DC and the following in Monterey: Modern Standard Arabic, Arabic – Egyptian, Arabic – Levantine, Arabic – Iraqi, Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Pashto, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Serbian / Croatian, Spanish, Filipino (Tagalog), Turkish, and Urdu.


The DLIFLC also maintains the DLI-Washington office in the Washington, D.C. area. The Washington office provides training in languages not taught at the Presidio of Monterey, such as "low-density languages" which do not require the same large volume of trained personnel. There is some overlap, however, as students from the Defense Attaché System (DAS) are given local training in languages also available at the Monterey location.

Language training through DLI-Washington is conducted at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center (NFATC) of the United States Department of State, and at various contracted foreign language schools in the metropolitan Washington, DC area.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Colonel Joseph Schaefer, DLIELC Commandant". DLIELC. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  2. ^ "Colonel, Gary M. Hausman, U.S. Army". DLIFLC. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  3. ^ "Colonel Jeffrey T. Cooper > 37th Training Wing > Display". 37trw.af.mil. Archived from the original on 16 March 2017. Retrieved 7 April 2018.
  4. ^ Nakamura, Kelli Y. "Military Intelligence Service". Densho. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  5. ^ Bray, Patrick (27 July 2016). "75th Anniversary Special: The Nisei legacy". Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center. Retrieved 29 February 2020.
  6. ^ Tsukiyama, Ted. "Col J. Alfred Burden". Japanese American Veterans Association. Retrieved 29 February 2020.
  7. ^ Schreiber, Mark (27 July 2015). "A crash course in wartime Japanese terminology for foreign demons". The Japan Times. Retrieved 29 February 2020.
  8. ^ History of the Presidio of Monterey. "History of the Presidio of Monterey". Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center. Retrieved 29 February 2020.
  9. ^ "Accreditation - Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center". Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  10. ^ "The Defense Language Institute awards 5,000th Associate of Arts degree". United States Army. 18 March 2010.
  11. ^ "DLI catalog". Dliflc.edu. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  12. ^ "Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center - Monterey, Ca". dliflc.edu. Retrieved 7 April 2018.
  • Cameron Binkley, A Pictorial History of the Defense Language Institute (US Army, 2011).

External links[edit]

36°36′21″N 121°54′37″W / 36.6057°N 121.9104°W / 36.6057; -121.9104