Army Job MOS 09L Interpreter/Translator

Soldiers who understand Arabic and other languages are important to the Army

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN - MARCH 05: An Afghan interpreter with the U.S. Army's 4th squadron 2d Cavalry Regiment helps to question a villager during a joint patrol with soldiers from the Afghan National Army (ANA) March 5, 2014 near Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Scott Olson / Getty Images

Military occupational specialty (MOS) 09L (which is spoken aloud as "zero nine lima") started out as a pilot program when the Army was seeking more fluent speakers of the Arabic, Pashto and Dari Persian languages.

It is an Army job that will likely put you in combat situations in the Middle East or Afghanistan and is crucial to both government relations and tactical strategy. 

To serve in this job, you have to be able to fluently speak and read a dialect of one of these languages. Cultural awareness of Middle Eastern countries is key to this role as well. 

Here's the list of language dialects the Army seeks in candidates for MOS 09L:

  • Arabic-Modern Standard
  • Arabic-Gulf-Iraqi
  • Arabic-Egyptian
  • Arabic-Levantine
  • Arabic-Yemeni
  • Arabic-Sudanese
  • Arabic-Maghrebi
  • Arabic-Algerian
  • Arabic-Libyan
  • Arabic-Moroccan
  • Arabic-Tunisian
  • Pushtu/Pashto/Pachto
  • Pushtu-Afghan
  • Kurdish
  • Kurdish-Behdini (Kurmanji)
  • Kurdish-Sorani
  • Persian-Afghan (Dari)
  • Persian-Iranian (Farsi)


As move up the ranks of this job, your duties and expected skills will become more complex. In the beginning, you'll read and translate foreign language material into English, and vice versa. Then, you'll provide guidance to others, supervising the development of English-speaking skills in foreign nationals and foreign language skills in Army personnel. 

Eventually, you'll prepare written translations and be able to demonstrate foreign language reading proficiency at a rating of R2, as measured by the Defense Language Proficiency Test, or an acceptable equivalent. 

Moving up the ranks, you'll verify documents and serve as a high-level escort as well as an interpreter and translator. 


Soldiers at the upper ranks of this MOS will need to be able to qualify for a secret security clearance from the Department of Defense. It will involve a background check of finances and any criminal record. Prior drug or alcohol abuse may be disqualifying.

Soldiers who need to improve their English skills will spend time at the Defense Language Institute English Language Center. By the end of the training, you'll need to score at least an 80 on the English Comprehension Level Test (ECLT), an L2 (listening) and S2 (speaking) on the Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) in English, and at least a 10 on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) tests. 

If you score below a 10 on the ASVAB, but meet the ECLT and OPI requirements, you may be eligible for an ASVAB enhancement course at Fort Jackson in South Carolina.


For those soldiers who don't need English enhancement training, following ten weeks of Basic Training (also known as boot camp), you'll spend six weeks in Advanced Individual Training at Fort Jackson.

Similar Civilian Occupations

With the experience and training, you'll receive in this Army job will open doors to a host of civilian career opportunities. You can find work as an interpreter or translator for private companies and government agencies, and work in many different positions where bilingual skills are needed.