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Old 11-15-2010, 01:36 AM
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$145K per year for a civilian contractor Arabic translator in Iraq - WTF?

from New York Craigslist:
Quote:
GLS is currently looking for U.S. Citizens to fill several positions for Arabic translators overseas in Iraq. The basic requirement is that you speak, read and write Arabic and English fluently. This is a great opportunity to use your language skills to help the U.S. Military. You will be working as a civilian contractor living on a U.S. Military base. We offer a very competitive salary and a comprehensive benefits package.
For more details call (edited out)

* Location: Iraq
* Compensation: $145,000
* This is a contract job.
I realize that a US military base in Iraq is not a dream place to live (then again, why can't they work remotely over the internet?), but isn't there something fundamentally wrong about paying so much money for fluent Arabic plus US citizen combination, all the more so in the ongoing down economy? Just how does this contractor industry work if that is the sort of salaries they find it necessary to pay? Why doesn't the invisible hand of Adam Smith lead a massive rush of new entrants into this business offering cheaper services and saving Uncle Sam (and us the lowly taxpayers) some empire-building cash?
Old 11-15-2010, 01:48 AM
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This seems just about as clear cut as supply and demand gets.
Old 11-15-2010, 01:51 AM
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If I'm going into Iraq as a civilian with a highly desirable skillset, you better damn well pay me good money.
Old 11-15-2010, 01:52 AM
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Originally Posted by code_grey View Post
from New York Craigslist:


I realize that a US military base in Iraq is not a dream place to live (then again, why can't they work remotely over the internet?), but isn't there something fundamentally wrong about paying so much money for fluent Arabic plus US citizen combination, all the more so in the ongoing down economy? Just how does this contractor industry work if that is the sort of salaries they find it necessary to pay? Why doesn't the invisible hand of Adam Smith lead a massive rush of new entrants into this business offering cheaper services and saving Uncle Sam (and us the lowly taxpayers) some empire-building cash?
Errr, you're aware that there aren't a huge number of American citizens who speak, read and write fluent Arabic and want to work in Iraq, right?
Old 11-15-2010, 02:09 AM
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Originally Posted by friedo View Post
Errr, you're aware that there aren't a huge number of American citizens who speak, read and write fluent Arabic and want to work in Iraq, right?
you kidding me, who wouldn't want to do that for $145K? Or maybe for $60K? There are from one to three million Arabs living in America nowadays per Wikipedia. Do they have a 100% employment rate now or something? Or are they all so ideologically committed to oppose war in Iraq as to prefer unemployment or hourly job in small business sector to a very decently paid job in a spartan environment?
Old 11-15-2010, 02:17 AM
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The reason they can't work remotely is that they don't only need to translate written materials, they're also required to interpret on the field.

What does the compensation entail? Phrased like that, it doesn't seem to be plain salary. Does it includes such concepts as hazard pay, are they counting "housing in military barracks" as being equivalent to "average cost of housing in the US" (as I've seen some companies do similar things), does it include the value of medical insurance/services (if any are provided) and the flight there (in yer very own military transport, oh yeah! - no, you're not allowed to take it home)?

Last edited by Nava; 11-15-2010 at 02:18 AM.
Old 11-15-2010, 02:19 AM
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Or are they all so ideologically committed to oppose war in Iraq . . .
You really can't think of any other reason why someone would be disinclined to live in a US military base in Iraq?
Old 11-15-2010, 02:19 AM
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Perhaps they don't want to get shot at?

Or (more likely) it'd be too difficult for them to get the security clearances. A lot of these jobs are open to US Citizens only, and it can be really tough when you have ongoing contact with foreign nationals, especially from countries the US isn't great buddies with.

I have a friend who was contacted for such a position. He's from a totally unrelated country, and studied Arabic abroad on a whim. He later moved to the US and applied for US Citizenship. Moments after his new US passport arrived, he got a mysterious phone call from the US Gov. trying to get him to be a translator. He turned them down.

Why? Who wants to spend their 20s in a hellhole where everyone hates you? $145k is pretty tempting money, but you are essentially putting your entire life on hold to do something that has few if any intrinsic rewards (it's not even great career experience- what happens to your career when Arabic speakers are no longer in demand?) How much would you accept to have lost a couple of your prime years?
Old 11-15-2010, 02:19 AM
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If you're outraged about the salary, you should be in favor of repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell. The army has discharged 59 gay Arabic linguists since 2004
Old 11-15-2010, 05:09 AM
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Hi, I'm sitting in Iraq right now. I'm an active duty E6 Navy combat camera guy. The terps we have in our camp are about half former military and half regular civilians. Their job is dangerous enough. They ride out on our missions and are exposed to the same dangers we are. I can't speak for terps in the other units, but ours are very fit and have no problems keeping up. From what I've been told a lot of applicants are weeded out the same way military applicants are. The ability to hold a clearance, fitness, health, etc. By the time it's said and done I imagine it's a pretty small pool of suitable candidates and then it's all about supply and demand.
Old 11-15-2010, 05:23 AM
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Originally Posted by code_grey View Post
Why doesn't the invisible hand of Adam Smith lead a massive rush of new entrants into this business offering cheaper services and saving Uncle Sam (and us the lowly taxpayers) some empire-building cash?
I would guess that learning a language to the required level of fluency takes some time, especially with a language like Arabic that's heavily fragmented into dialects - ideally, you would want not just anybody speaking any Arabic dialect for such a job, you'd want someone proficient specifically in Iraqi, which further narrows down the range of choices. You can't increase that pool of suitable candidates on the short run.
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Old 11-15-2010, 05:27 AM
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What gets me is--they're advertising on Craigslist??
Old 11-15-2010, 05:32 AM
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Originally Posted by deball View Post
Hi, I'm sitting in Iraq right now. I'm an active duty E6 Navy combat camera guy. The terps we have in our camp are about half former military and half regular civilians. Their job is dangerous enough. They ride out on our missions and are exposed to the same dangers we are. I can't speak for terps in the other units, but ours are very fit and have no problems keeping up. From what I've been told a lot of applicants are weeded out the same way military applicants are. The ability to hold a clearance, fitness, health, etc. By the time it's said and done I imagine it's a pretty small pool of suitable candidates and then it's all about supply and demand.
This is what I was thinking, it says basic requirement for a US citizen is speak read and write fluently. That's just the hook in the Craigslist pond, then they start the selection procress.
Old 11-15-2010, 05:33 AM
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What gets me is--they're advertising on Craigslist??
Um, why not?
Old 11-15-2010, 05:46 AM
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why do you have to be physically on the streets of Baghdad in order to translate for the military? Why can't the soldiers carry around an internet-connected laptop that would connect their informants to you, either through voice chat or through regular text chat, while you sit either in America or in a secure Green Zone location?

Why bother with local dialects if everybody in Iraq has watched Egyptian dramas and understands that dialect?

Also, why don't they use local translators from one ethnicity to interview people of another ethnicity? Don't American occupation authorities trust the Kurds? And shouldn't they by and large trust the Shia when interrogating Sunnis, seeing that the Shia would hate the Sunni Al Qaeda and similar a lot more than they hate Americans?
Old 11-15-2010, 06:13 AM
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Originally Posted by code_grey View Post
why do you have to be physically on the streets of Baghdad in order to translate for the military? Why can't the soldiers carry around an internet-connected laptop that would connect their informants to you, either through voice chat or through regular text chat, while you sit either in America or in a secure Green Zone location?

Why bother with local dialects if everybody in Iraq has watched Egyptian dramas and understands that dialect?

Also, why don't they use local translators from one ethnicity to interview people of another ethnicity? Don't American occupation authorities trust the Kurds? And shouldn't they by and large trust the Shia when interrogating Sunnis, seeing that the Shia would hate the Sunni Al Qaeda and similar a lot more than they hate Americans?
deball ought to answer this but just ask yourself why the US military are speaking to people on the streets of Iraq? Presumably it is because they want to build relationships with local people both as a positive in itself and to build up sources of information. It is pretty obvious that remote translating through a laptop, trying to converse in a foreign dialect, or talking through a member of an opposing faction is not going to help achieve the objective.
Old 11-15-2010, 06:29 AM
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I suspect there's a high demand for US translators in Iraq because a lot of the Iraqi ones have been assassinated or have determined they don't want to be. Those are some of the unsung heroes of this....thing. While US citizen translators are obviously not Iraqi, I don't know if those who might be inclined to do translators harm would work very hard to make that distinction. IOW, could be dangerous work.
Old 11-15-2010, 06:56 AM
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If you're outraged about the salary, you should be in favor of repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell. The army has discharged 59 gay Arabic linguists since 2004
Definitely one of the biggest stupidities of DADT - it's actively weakening the military's abililty to do its job.
Old 11-15-2010, 07:01 AM
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Originally Posted by code_grey View Post
why do you have to be physically on the streets of Baghdad in order to translate for the military? Why can't the soldiers carry around an internet-connected laptop that would connect their informants to you, either through voice chat or through regular text chat, while you sit either in America or in a secure Green Zone location?
Haven't you ever told a funny story, had it fall flat, then said, "You had to be there." Well, it's like that. You have to be there. That type of work is very dependent on close interpersonal interaction.

Quote:
Why bother with local dialects if everybody in Iraq has watched Egyptian dramas and understands that dialect?
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Originally Posted by Schnitte View Post
I would guess that learning a language to the required level of fluency takes some time, especially with a language like Arabic that's heavily fragmented into dialects - ideally, you would want not just anybody speaking any Arabic dialect for such a job, you'd want someone proficient specifically in Iraqi, which further narrows down the range of choices. You can't increase that pool of suitable candidates on the short run.
My wife is Egyptian and has a very difficult time trying to speak Arabic with a friend of ours who is Iraqi. Not everybody in Iraq understands Egyptian Arabic. Generally it is true that Egyptian Arabic is the most widely understood dialect (aside from Modern Standard Arabic), but it isn't universally true of every individual.
Old 11-15-2010, 07:02 AM
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Originally Posted by code_grey View Post
why do you have to be physically on the streets of Baghdad in order to translate for the military? Why can't the soldiers carry around an internet-connected laptop that would connect their informants to you, either through voice chat or through regular text chat, while you sit either in America or in a secure Green Zone location?
Because such a setup would distort body language and make it very difficult for the interpreter to build up trust with the local; also, if videocons tend to be laggy and jumpy through cable, I don't want to think what would it be like on a satellite link (and if there's a big enough storm, you're SOL). I've done telephone interpreting, but it was for people who had already established trust with each other and with me separatedly and who were used to teleconferences.

To interpret, the first thing I need to do is get both parties to trust me. Doing so in person is about ten million times easier than doing it when I'm a little distorted image in a laptop. And if I'm seeing only part of each person's own distorted image, I can't read their body language as well as if I'm there in person. When we're talking life-or-death situations, I'd rather be there in person.


Re. dialects, the immense majority of Latin American speakers of Spanish understand "newscaster Spaniard", thanks to TVE Internacional - that doesn't mean they can or want to speak it; heck, about one quarter of Spain's population can't speak "newscaster Spaniard". I can drive someone from the other end of Spain up a wall by choosing local words instead of wider-usage ones, never mind what an Argentinian and me could do to each other playing that game.

Last edited by Nava; 11-15-2010 at 07:07 AM.
Old 11-15-2010, 07:24 AM
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Originally Posted by code_grey View Post
why do you have to be physically on the streets of Baghdad in order to translate for the military? Why can't the soldiers carry around an internet-connected laptop that would connect their informants to you, either through voice chat or through regular text chat, while you sit either in America or in a secure Green Zone location?
The logistics of this would be mindblowing and probably far more expensive than what we're doing now. Then, of course, it probably wouldn't work at the very moment you needed it most. "What's this here guy saying about IEDs all around us, Sarge?" "Dunno, we don't have any bars here."

Also, Iraqis are very intimate people. The terps understand and use these subtle and not-so-subtle body signals to help with situational awareness. A face on a computer or a voice on the radio wouldn't be the same, and may actually be quite insulting to a local bigwig.

On preview: what others have said.

Quote:
Why bother with local dialects if everybody in Iraq has watched Egyptian dramas and understands that dialect?
It's not so much of a dialect thing. Some of our terps are originally from this area, or their parents were, and they know the tribal nuances that run things around here. The right tool for the job, so to speak. Put them out West with the Sunnis or up North with Kurds and they may not be such a great tool.
Old 11-15-2010, 09:09 AM
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I think fluently probably has a lot to do with it. I've known Spanish speaking people who grew up speaking both English and Spanish, but the "Spanish" they learn is OK for everyday but they tell me they couldn't get a job translating as it's not "real" Spanish.

Whatever that is.

Perhaps there is an "educated" version of Arabic, or they need to be able to speak it without accents or other such qaulifications that make "fluently" more in demand then first appears
Old 11-15-2010, 10:06 AM
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You think that $145k is a lot of money? Dude, that's barely more than what most of us make doing government contracting, and I'm not even deployed. I posted my resume on Monster and had 4 job offers (and countless "not for me" offers) within a week. It's truly an employee's market.

The big thing is the security clearance. You need one to do this kind of work. And it helps if you have prior combat experience. So take all the people that have been there. Now find the ones that still have an active clearance. Now find all of the remaining that can reliably interpret Arabic.

What are you left with? A few thousand? And that's before you've even asked if they want the job or not. A lot of us are already making six figures, so you'll have to offer significantly more to motivate them to live and work in Iraq. There's a guy in my office right now that's got the experience, clearance, and language skills but he won't go. He has a daughter. I'd go, but I'm getting married next year, so I'm out.

So you tell me how much you think is reasonable for this job. And I'll tell you why no one will accept that.
Old 11-15-2010, 10:42 AM
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Originally Posted by code_grey View Post
Why doesn't the invisible hand of Adam Smith lead a massive rush of new entrants into this business offering cheaper services and saving Uncle Sam (and us the lowly taxpayers) some empire-building cash?
As one of my former bosses would say, if it was easy then everyone would do it.

Why don't YOU rush into this business and pick up the big bucks? Or better yet, rush into it and offer to do for cheap?
Old 11-15-2010, 11:09 AM
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Why doesn't the invisible hand of Adam Smith lead a massive rush of new entrants into this business offering cheaper services and saving Uncle Sam (and us the lowly taxpayers) some empire-building cash?
Because learning languages is HARD for most people. Those few who have a talent for it, especially in a situation where it is desperately needed, can be paid a lot of money.
Old 11-15-2010, 11:33 AM
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My father is an engineer. He just retired after working for a large international firm with interests and numerous projects in the Middle East. He said the going rate for people like him to go to Iraq was around $250K and they were having a hard time filling the spots. No one wants to go on the military contracts in an active war zone or the ones that do want to go aren't qualified. The other non-military projects are easy to fill, the pay is better than doing the same project stateside and in certain circumstances they will pay for housing as well.

Interestingly enough, when I was young, he was offered a position in Saudi Arabia as a project manager on one of the port expansions. The pay was excellent and he considered it, but families were either left at home or were expected to live on a company run compound with Western schools and other Western families. He got lucky and ended up taking a job elsewhere, but it was a possibility he kicked around for a while.
Old 11-15-2010, 11:41 AM
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I can't see how anybody could think $145K for this type of work is out-of-line.
Old 11-15-2010, 11:55 AM
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Oil rigs are another example for a sector where jobs are considerably better remunerated than comparable activities elsewhere. I hear that life on an oil rig is not that unpleasant, with modern installations offering all sorts of amenities of everyday life - it's just that being away from your family in isolation on the ocean is something many people are not willing to do. To attract people, salaries consequently rise well above what is paid for oil drilling operators on the mainland.
Old 11-15-2010, 11:58 AM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
I can't see how anybody could think $145K for this type of work is out-of-line.
Well, the same person who thinks that $145K is too much also thinks that this is a viable alternative:
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Originally Posted by code_grey View Post
Why do you have to be physically on the streets of Baghdad in order to translate for the military? Why can't the soldiers carry around an internet-connected laptop that would connect their informants to you, either through voice chat or through regular text chat, while you sit either in America or in a secure Green Zone location?
Yeah, right.

"Hey dude, when you've got your informant, just text me or Skype me, and i'll totally translate for you."
Old 11-15-2010, 12:07 PM
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I'd think that the danger is a really big reason why the salary is that high. I'd imagine that a lot of the translators are Iraqi-Americans or other Arabs, and are going to be looked at with hostility by the locals, seen as cooperating with the American military.
Old 11-15-2010, 12:11 PM
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Me, I'm amazed that they're able to get anyone at all at that pay. Even in a recession with high unemployment, you're still talking about a low-supply high-demand college-educated profession, working in one of the most dangerous places in the world. I don't speak Arabic and I'm not a translator (note: the two are not the same thing), but even if I did, I would want at least twice that.
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Old 11-15-2010, 01:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Even in a recession with high unemployment, you're still talking about a low-supply high-demand college-educated profession, working in one of the most dangerous places in the world. I don't speak Arabic and I'm not a translator (note: the two are not the same thing), but even if I did, I would want at least twice that.
Everybody keeps saying that - "recession, high unemployment". But it's not the government contractors that are getting laid off. It's auto makers and such. There's no recession in the defense industry right now- not with 1 1/2 wars going on. It's also November. Every new fiscal year, the feds throw chum in the water and say "feed, contractors, feed". If you check Craigslist in the early summer, I bet you won't find anything. Everybody's preparing to recompete and funds are drying up. If it's paired with an election year, especially a presidential election, the funds dry up even more.

IME, it's not the danger that demands the money. It's the separation. Most of us that have been there, done that, aren't worried about being shot. That fear dies down pretty quickly over there. It's the year-long loneliness, the worry about who's "caring for" your wife, the missed birthdays, and the relentless work cycle that gets to you.

Finally, you also have to realize that that $145k isn't for 9-5 Monday through Friday. It's most likely 12 hours a day, every day, for a year. That's 84 hours a week. That's the equivalent of a $69,000 job at 40 hours a week at the same hourly rate.


Would you put up with all that for $33/hr?
Old 11-15-2010, 01:04 PM
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I mean, look at some of the Courtroom Interpreter listings here. Salaries are all over the map, but go into the six figures. Plus, you get the benefit of coming home and not (possibly) getting shot at.
Old 11-15-2010, 01:12 PM
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I think it would help the discussion along if we knew how much the equivalent job would pay in Washington DC or some other non Iraq locale.

There aren't that many people who have the fluency necessary for this kind of work. They aren't looking for the kind of fluency that someone born in a family to Arabic speaking parents would have. They wants someone who speaks and writes it like a native might.

code_grey, how many people do you think can pick up Arabic easily. They might be able to do it if they have an ear for languages and speak one of the other dialects, or grew up speaking it with their families. But the average Joe isn't going to be able to pick it up within a reasonable time frame.
Old 11-15-2010, 01:31 PM
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As others have alluded to:

1) You will be in Iraq away from family and friends and possibly living on a forward military base where accommodations are sparse. Even if that base is relatively safe, a suicide bomber or mortar attack can change that.

2) The Arabic language, like many languages, has subtle physical nuances, gestures, etc. that are hard or even impossible to convey via text or even video chat, so you will likely be going out on patrols where your life will be in danger. It may be less about the guy you are translating, and more about the guy who that person is staring at in a window off screen anyway. As such, even video wouldn't help.

3) The price listed may be an "up to" amount that no one actually receives. Either way, the company in question can pay it because they bid that price and won it on a Government contract. Presumably, this company was the best overall value to the Government for this contract per your Adam Smith concerns. That is what the market says is the correct price.

4) And I agree, why not Craigslist? It is the cheapest way to advertise for jobs that I know of, and while other sites like Clearancejobs.com probably get you better candidates, you will get fewer of them and Craigslist is a fraction of the price. My previous company, which was also in defense, always used Craigslist if they could.
Old 11-15-2010, 01:34 PM
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Here's a job posting from Hostile Control Tactics, a "fourteen year old security risk management consulting firm with a distinguished track record of supporting a wide variety of sensitive US government projects throughout the world." This is for a job listing similar to the OP.

They pay $145K-$188K for a translator/interpreter.

Last edited by pulykamell; 11-15-2010 at 01:34 PM.
Old 11-15-2010, 01:38 PM
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Hi, I'm sitting in Iraq right now. I'm an active duty E6 Navy combat camera guy. The terps we have in our camp are about half former military and half regular civilians. Their job is dangerous enough. They ride out on our missions and are exposed to the same dangers we are. I can't speak for terps in the other units, but ours are very fit and have no problems keeping up. From what I've been told a lot of applicants are weeded out the same way military applicants are. The ability to hold a clearance, fitness, health, etc. By the time it's said and done I imagine it's a pretty small pool of suitable candidates and then it's all about supply and demand.
So you think you know more about this than Adam Smith?
Old 11-15-2010, 01:43 PM
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Sarge?" "Dunno, we don't have any bars here."
Of course not, Islam prohibits alcohol.
The OP makes more sense if you think it is irony. Another example of Poe's law.
Old 11-15-2010, 01:49 PM
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Speaking as a Government contracting executive, let me tell you the $145k figure is chump change. My former USMC buddies tell me of their OIF and OEF security work (you can find them all over the place at SOCNET) is still doing $800-1k/day - with 90-120 day engagements. Now, you're 1099'd so no health insurance or other bennies unless you buy it.

I imagine the OP is similar, since it says 'contract job'. It's not exactly translation, but it still requires a unique set of skills (along w/TS); delta guys, force recon guys, seals, etc.
Old 11-15-2010, 02:28 PM
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Speaking as a Government contracting executive, let me tell you the $145k figure is chump change.
True. $145 is usually the price for 6months stateside, 6 months deployed. If you stay for the full year, expect $185k-$210k. People like to include "tax free" but that's only on the first $80,000. The rest is taxed normally.

In DC, the average contracting job, I'd guess, pays about $85,000. If you've got any experience under your belt, you can get $100,000. If you know Arabic, you make more. If you have extras on your clearance, you can get more, too.

The highest paid type of contractor is a DBA/Programmer with a TS/SCI and a Lifestyle Polygraph. They make $175k easily.
Old 11-15-2010, 02:33 PM
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I see... So developing some fairly simple get-the-job-done mobile technology is really hard or constrained by some mythical gesture/trust/interaction whatevers (where is the evidence that there is any sort of "trust" in the first place between the occupying forces and the locals, btw? why do you need any "trust" to go snitch on the local al qaedah or racketeer gang?). People who were lucky enough to learn Arabic as first language while being a citizen apparently are worth comparable amount of money to navy seals, fighter pilots or other such folks who took massive amount of money to train. 6 figure salaries are chump change for government contractors amidst the budget crisis and collapsing economy.

Well, folks, and then people wonder where the Tea Party is coming from. And why not everybody believes the notion that the American government is competent and wisely spends the taxpayers' money.
Old 11-15-2010, 02:44 PM
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People with actual experience in the area, and with actual background in the setting, have answered your supposed original question. The fact that you don't want to see the answers as valid indicates that you posted your OP in the wrong forum. You should ask a mod to move this thread to "Great Debates" so you can post your anti-government rant more honestly.
Old 11-15-2010, 02:58 PM
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I see... So developing some fairly simple get-the-job-done mobile technology is really hard
Incidentally, such technology is being developed (but this is machine translation, not remote human translation.)
Old 11-15-2010, 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by code_grey View Post
Why doesn't the invisible hand of Adam Smith lead a massive rush of new entrants into this business offering cheaper services and saving Uncle Sam (and us the lowly taxpayers) some empire-building cash?
Quote:
Originally Posted by code_grey View Post
People who were lucky enough to learn Arabic as first language while being a citizen apparently are worth comparable amount of money to navy seals, fighter pilots or other such folks who took massive amount of money to train.
Yes. This is what the invisible hand of Adam Smith has wrought. Because a sufficient number of good Arabic translators willing to work in a war zone are actually harder to come by than fighter pilots. This is pure capitalism at work - scarcity of skill sets = higher wages.
Old 11-15-2010, 03:23 PM
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Dude, it's not just being "lucky enough to learn Arabic as a first language". You also need a security clearance. And that's a massive hurdle to leap, especially with that "Arabic is my first language" thing.

If you think you can find people who speak fluent Arabic and hold security clearances and are willing to spend a year in Iraq for minimum wage, well, it turns out that you can't, and the evidence that you can't is right there in that craigslist ad.

Yeah, you can send 18 year old soldiers to Iraq and pay them shit wages. Those guys don't speak Arabic. So now what? Do without translators? Well, fine, except how the fuck are we supposed to pacify Iraq if nobody can talk to the Iraqis?

It's expensive to invade, conquer, occupy and pacify a hostile country. If we didn't want to spend what it takes, maybe we shouldn't have invaded them in the first place. Or we could just give up and come home now if it's costing us too much. I don't know what the people who complain all the time about the cost of government will say about the notion of cutting and running from Iraq, though.
Old 11-15-2010, 03:27 PM
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Originally Posted by code_grey View Post
Well, folks, and then people wonder where the Tea Party is coming from.
Nah, it's pretty easy to see that it's coming from people who feel quite certain in their concept of things they have no real knowledge of and who dismiss explanations from those who know what they're talking about if it doesn't fit their preconceived notions of how it ought to be.
Old 11-15-2010, 03:28 PM
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War is hell - and also bloody expensive.
Old 11-15-2010, 03:48 PM
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Originally Posted by code_grey View Post
I see... So developing some fairly simple get-the-job-done mobile technology is really hard or constrained by some mythical gesture/trust/interaction whatevers (where is the evidence that there is any sort of "trust" in the first place between the occupying forces and the locals, btw? why do you need any "trust" to go snitch on the local al qaedah or racketeer gang?).
Translation is not a technological problem. It's a human relations problem.

Translation is not just being able to turn words from one language into another language. It's persuading someone to say anything in the first place; it's persuading someone to say something relevant, something that it might be dangerous for him or her to say; it's persuading someone to tell the truth, perhaps against his or her perceived interest.

Quote:
People who were lucky enough to learn Arabic as first language while being a citizen apparently are worth comparable amount of money to navy seals, fighter pilots or other such folks who took massive amount of money to train.
People are complicated. People living in a stressful environment are even more complicated. Getting valuable information from human beings is not like querying a database, which can be done by any pimply-faced geek. It's about establishing relationships; it's about understanding culture and history and emotions.

You fundamentally misunderstand what human communication is -- you misunderstand what language is. It's not about being able to convert words from one language to another. Babelfish can't convey meaning in a realistic human setting. Japanese people use "yes" to mean "yes," "no," and "maybe," among other things. And then there's tone, and body language, and gestures, and sarcasm, and jokes, and lying.

The ability to do this in a dangerous, violent environment is a valuable skill, and it is one that is difficult to teach, not unlike the difficulty in training a specialized combatant. And these translators can be a critical determinant in whether a Navy Seal or a fighter pilot accomplishes a mission or fails, lives or dies.

Quote:
Well, folks, and then people wonder where the Tea Party is coming from. And why not everybody believes the notion that the American government is competent and wisely spends the taxpayers' money.
Yes, you're exactly right. The Tea Party is full of ignorant know-it-alls who think they know a lot more about the world than they really do.
Old 11-15-2010, 03:54 PM
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Location: Alexandria
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Quote:
Originally Posted by code_grey View Post
I see... So developing some fairly simple get-the-job-done mobile technology is really hard or constrained by some mythical gesture/trust/interaction whatevers (where is the evidence that there is any sort of "trust" in the first place between the occupying forces and the locals, btw? why do you need any "trust" to go snitch on the local al qaedah or racketeer gang?). People who were lucky enough to learn Arabic as first language while being a citizen apparently are worth comparable amount of money to navy seals, fighter pilots or other such folks who took massive amount of money to train. 6 figure salaries are chump change for government contractors amidst the budget crisis and collapsing economy.

Well, folks, and then people wonder where the Tea Party is coming from. And why not everybody believes the notion that the American government is competent and wisely spends the taxpayers' money.
What does the tea party have to do with anything? Have you ever dealt with an interpreter or tried to do any yourself. Even if you speak the language correctly and can understand what is being said, being able to provide a simultaneous interpretation is still difficult. Intrepreting is a skill, and you can either do it or you can't. Look at the salaries being offered for Spanish to English interpreters in pulykamell's link. Those run in up to $90,000.00. There are a hell of a lot more Spanish speakers than there are Arabic speakers.

Have you used Skype or one of it's competitors. The connection can be fuzzy and if you are using video conferencing there is a delay which makes it difficult to really catch body language.
Old 11-15-2010, 04:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by code_grey View Post
People who were lucky enough to learn Arabic as first language while being a citizen apparently are worth comparable amount of money to navy seals, fighter pilots or other such folks who took massive amount of money to train.
As others have said, there's a huge difference between being bilingual and being a translator/interpreter. Translation and interpretation are very specific skills. Knowing both languages is a prerequisite, but it's far from being sufficient.

I'm bilingual, so I can explain my intentions and opinions in either language. But I can't just hear someone else's comment in one language and spit it out instantly in another. I'd have to understand it, then switch my mind around, then try to communicate that understanding in the other language. It's hard enough when I try to do it between colleagues from both countries, or between my parents and my in-laws, let alone strangers.
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