When you bring your language skills to the CIA, you are supporting a mission of national importance. As threats to our country’s safety continue to evolve, it’s important that our employees have the language abilities and cultural expertise necessary to handle both emerging and current national security challenges.
The CIA places such a high value on foreign language skills that we offer monetary incentives to new and current employees who meet and maintain proficiency requirements. In order to accurately assess foreign language proficiency in job candidates, we use the Interagency Language Roundtables scale or ILR for short.
Before you apply for a position where your language skills will be used, we encourage you to watch the videos below to get a better idea where you fall on the ILR scale.
Introduction to Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) Scale
At the CIA, language skills mean everything. In addition to foreign language instructors, we need professionals with language abilities in a wide variety of positions across the agency. Whether your background is in cyber security, economics, logistics, or something else entirely. There is a place to use your language skills here. As threats to our country’s safety continue to originate from multiple locations around the world, it’s imperative that our employees have the language abilities and cultural expertise necessary to handle both emerging and current national security challenges.
When you bring your language skills to the CIA, you are supporting a mission of national importance. The CIA places such a high value on foreign language skills, that we offer monetary incentives to new and existing employees who meet and maintain proficiency requirements. In order to accurately assess foreign language proficiency in job candidates, the CIA uses the Interagency Language Roundtables scale or ILR.
This scale is considered the U.S. government’s standard and ranges from level zero to five. The ILR scale assesses language proficiency based on five elements, vocabulary, grammar, fluency, communication strategies, and pronunciation. This zero to five scale demonstrates all levels of proficiency from no functional ability in the target language to superior socio-linguistics functionality.
It also demonstrates how each level is built on the one before it, meaning that a person at level three is able to do all functions of levels one, two, and three. To learn more and hear examples of each proficiency level, please watch the accompanying videos.
Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) Scale: Levels 0 and 0+
At Level 0 and 0+ on the Interagency Language Roundtable scale, you have no practical ability to use the language. This means that you can only meet your immediate needs by using rehearsed words and phrases. Your vocabulary is severely limited, and you frequently revert to words in your native language to get your point across.
People with foreign language skills can find a number of rewarding career paths at the CIA. Having an accurate idea of your language proficiency will help in the application process and ensure your talents are utilized as effectively as possible.
Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) Scale: Levels 1 and 2
– [Woman 1] This video will explain levels one and two on the Interagency Language Roundtable scale. At level one, you can produce a series of simple sentences on familiar topics such as yourself, daily activities, and survival needs. You can engage in simple conversations and provide basic descriptions or comparisons. However, at this level, you can’t engage in a long conversation or elaborate on ideas.
Your vocabulary is very limited and often inaccurate. You are able to use the present tense to construct simple sentences, but will have frequent errors in basic grammar and other verb tenses. Your speech will be slow with poor pronunciation that often interferes with communication. Here is an example of a person speaking with a level one proficiency in English.
– [Woman 2] Describe the weather today. What’s it like?
– [Man 1] Weather, it’s good. It’s very hot in the summer and it rain sometimes.
– [Woman 2] What kinds of clothing do you wear during the summer?
– [Man 1] I put T-shirts, and shorts, and hat.
– Now, I’ll explain the capabilities of a level two speaker. At level two on the ILR scale, you can speak in present, past, and future tenses, provide a detailed description or comparison, give directions and instructions, make recommendations, and report facts.
You can handle most normal social situations, including elaborate casual conversations about well-known current events as well as work, family, and topics of personal interest. You have enough familiar vocabulary and basic grammar to elaborate on ideas and speak in short paragraphs. However, your vocabulary is still limited, so your speech may be imprecise and labored at times.
Your pronunciation occasionally interferes with communication, and may require the listener to use context to recover the meaning. You can typically understand the information presented in familiar predictable patterns and straightforward descriptions and instructions. You understand factual content in interviews, broadcast news, telephone calls, and messages.
Here is an example of a person speaking with a level two proficiency in English.
– How does the weather in your hometown compare to the weather here? – [Woman 3] I really enjoy the weather in my hometown for the following reason. First, my hometown have a tropical climate, temperatures are generally high, and there are very little change between the season.
It is always summer. Breezes tends to rise after dusk and to making the evening the most comfortable part of the day. Also the rainy season it is hot, and steamy, and the humidity is too much.
But rain…rainfall and sudden short downpour to…fresher the air for a few moments. I really love the weather in my hometown compared to here. Here it is cold and dry most of the time.
– If you feel that your language proficiency level is a one or two, visit cia.gov/careers, and apply to the positions that interest you. If you think your language skills fall at a different level on the ILR scale, please watch the accompanying videos to determine your proficiency level.
Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) Scale: Level 3
– [Woman 1] This video will explain level three on the Interagency Language Roundtable scale. At this level, you can speak with sufficient accuracy to perform a number of complex tasks, such as expressing and defending opinions, hypothesizing, analyzing events, giving advice, and providing complex descriptions and comparisons on a variety of abstract concepts. You can speak in well-organized long paragraphs using a wide range of concrete and abstract vocabulary.
At this level, you will demonstrate fully controlled basic grammar as well as have the ability to use some complex grammatical structures such as passive voice and conjunctions, but with frequent errors. You will speak at a normal rate of speech about topics of general knowledge, making appropriate cultural references and using idiomatic expressions.
While you may sound foreign, you are fully understood. You can understand language containing complex grammar and a broad range of vocabulary, including commonly used cultural references. However, you may still need clarification of some uncommon cultural references, nuances, idioms, and slang. Here’s an example of a person speaking with a level three proficiency in English.
– [Woman 2] Average global temperatures have risen since the Industrial Revolution began, having real and serious consequences on people and nature. Describe what kind of social impact global warming has had in the U.S. – [Man] Well, the weather in my hometown has changed in the last two years as a consequence of global warming.
Imagine that several years ago, this was a beautifully green area with a prosperous agriculture and amazing interesting flora and fauna. The impact of global warming are felt in this area in ways you cannot imagine. For example, pastures have turned to dry lands and as a result, there’s shortage of food and the quality of produce is not as good as it used to be.
This had a huge impact on the economy in this area, and it’s sad to see the detrimental effects of global warming in my hometown. The weather has totally changed the way of living in my hometown. If I was the one in charge, I’m going to take action immediately.
– If you feel that your language proficiency level is a three, visit cia.gov/careers, and apply to the positions that match your background and abilities. If you think your language skills fall at a different level on the ILR scale, please watch the accompanying videos to determine your proficiency level.
Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) Scale: Levels 4 and 5
– [Woman 1] This video will explain levels four and five on the inter-agency language round table scale. At level four, you use sophisticated and nuanced language fluently and accurately on a wide range of highly complex topics. You are able to convince, negotiate, advise, handle objections, and advocate a position at length using sophisticated verbal strategies.
At this level, you can produce extensive speech with complexity, precision, and sophistication. Tailoring speech to a variety of audiences and settings. Your dialogue naturally and appropriately includes a wide range of cultural references, literary allusions, figures of speech, and poetry.
Pronunciation, intonation, and stress patterns are used appropriately to add emphasis on certainty and authority. You can understand a broad range of spoken language across a wide variety of literary, philosophical, technical, aesthetic, and cultural subjects that encompass abstract concepts, conjecture, and both literary and popular references.
Here’s an example of a person speaking with a level four proficiency in English. – [Woman 2] We know that climate change will cause tremendous devastation, and that the extent of the harm depends collectively on us. Many would agree that climate change is a moral issue, and that we are obligated to act. But there’s little clarity on what our obligations entail.
What moral questions do we need to consider if we are to succeed in working together to meet global goals in order to curb the catastrophes of climate change? [Woman 3] Climate change presents a severe ethical challenge forcing us as individual moral agents and members of larger political systems to confront difficult questions.
It is genuinely global and seriously inter-generational and crosses species boundaries. It also takes place in a setting where existing institutions and theories are weak, providing little ethical guidance. Essential component of this perfect moral storm is the threat of a tyranny of the contemporary. A collective action problem in which earlier and current generations exploit the future ones by profiting from them, while passing on potentially catastrophic costs to later generations.
The critical question as we seek to combat such tyranny and address climate change, is to decide which moral framework is in play when we make decisions. Oftentimes, we do not even notice when this question arises, because we assume that the relevant values are so widely shared, and similarly interpreted that the answer should be obvious to everyone.
Nevertheless, the question of values is not a trivial one, since our answer will shape our entire approach. The real climate challenge is ethical and ethical considerations of justice, rights, welfare, virtue, political legitimacy, and humanities relationship to nature are at the heart of the policy decisions.
Ongoing political inertia surrounding our action on climate change suggests that so far, we are failing the ethical test.
– Now, I’ll explain the capabilities of a level five speaker. At level five, you can speak at the highest socio-linguistic level and produce impromptu language that is highly creative, philosophical, and appealing. You use the language with complete flexibility and intuition, including a breadth and depth of structures, vocabulary, idioms, colloquialisms, rhetoric, and cultural references.
Your speech is like that of a native speaker at the highest level of elegance and sophistication. However, very few native speakers are rated at this level as being a native speaker does not necessarily mean that someone can demonstrate the full range of language registers, including the elegant and sophisticated language required to be rated a five.
Well, a native speaker’s pronunciation and fluency are likely to be assessed at level five, the breadth and depth of the vocabulary demonstrated, the highly complex sentence structures used, and the highly sophisticated verbal strategies employed are unlikely to be sustained at this level, unless rehearsed for a particular purpose. Here’s an example of a person speaking with a level five proficiency in English.
– [Woman 4] Climate change is one of the most challenging issues facing the world today. It has also been argued that climate change as natural of a phenomenon as it may be for some, is the greatest moral challenge our species has ever faced, and that any action or inaction with respect to this global inter-generational threat confronts serious ethical dilemmas.
To what extent do you agree with the need to consider the moral and ethical dimensions of climate change? – [Man] Climate change is arguably the greatest and most urgent problem confronting humanity. But we’ve done little to head off this looming catastrophe. If you’ve ever read the book, “The Perfect Moral Storm,”philosopher Stephen Gardiner, sheds light on our dangerous inaction with regard to the imperative to stop climate change considering it an ethical failure.
As a matter of fact, Gardiner describes climate change as the perfect moral storm because it brings together three major challenges to ethical action in a mutually reinforcing way. The first challenge stems from the fact that climate change is a truly global phenomenon. Greenhouse gas emissions, once emitted, can have climate effects anywhere.
And this is often said to result in a prisoner’s dilemma, or a tragedy of the commons played out between nation states. In other words, although collectively, all countries would prefer to limit global emissions so as to reduce the risk of catastrophic impacts, when acting individually, each country still prefers to continue to emit unimpeded. At the same time, they’re skewed vulnerabilities.
Many of the most vulnerable countries and people on the planet are those who have emitted the least. Now, this seems unfair and casts a notable shadow on efforts to secure global cooperation. I think that rather than seeking to remove the spec in someone else’s eye, laying the blame, it’s best to remove the log in one’s own.
The second challenge is that current emissions have profound inter-generational effects. This too seems unfair, because future climate impacts can be severe and cumulative. The third challenge to ethical action is that our theoretical tools are underdeveloped in many of the relevant areas such as international justice, inter-generational ethics, and the appropriate relationship between humans and the rest of nature.
Because of this, we are engaging in willful self-deception. When the lives of future generations, the world’s poor, and even the basic fabric of life on the planet are at risk. To step, as many climate alarmists do, onto the slippery slope of the ends justify the means, is in my mind to embark upon the moral decline now currently represented in the global warming debate.
Climate change has become a moral issue, and we should wake up to this profound ethical failure and demand more of our institutions, our leaders, and ourselves.
– If you feel that your language proficiency level is a four or five, visit cia.gov/careers and apply to the positions that interest you. However, if you feel your language skills may align with a different level on the ILR scale, please watch the other videos to better establish your proficiency.