The Defense Language Institute

Learn a New Language For The Military

Table of Contents
Students at DLI
The picture displays a typical makeup of the students attending DLI at any given time. The civilian staff and teachers are in front of the military formation. Official DOD Photo

You cannot ask for a much nicer duty station when you go to immerse yourself into foreign language training. The DLIFLC (Defense Language Institute, Foreign Language Center) is located on the Presidio of Monterey, in Monterey CA. While the school is located on an Army Post and is run by the Army, it is officially a "joint-service" school. The DLIFLC is the primary foreign language training institution within the Department of Defense (DoD), conducts full-time foreign language resident training, exercising technical control of nonresident foreign language training in the Defense Foreign Language Program. The DLIFLC provides foreign language services to DoD, government agencies, and foreign governments.

If you arrive at DLI right out of basic training, you're essentially treated like you're in Army AIT/Air Force Technical School/Navy A-School, and you are required to comply with the normal restrictions of technical training (See Technical Training School Restrictions in side bar). If you're Army, this means you're assigned to Bravo Company, with Drill Sergeants as well. After passing all phase testing for phase four and five, you move to another company, based on language. The Marines, having gone through Marine Combat Training (MCT), are considered careerists, and have privileges from the day they get here.

The Army Drill Sergeants are not the same as the Basic Training Drill Sergeant. All Army Sergeants are linguists, and have been to DLI as students at least once. Most of them have been Military Language Instructors (MLI). Standards are much higher here than in Basic, because they expect you to act like you know what you're doing, rather than having to be told every little thing.

About The Language Training Program

No matter what language you are learning, it is going to be insanely fast-paced and difficult. If it's a more difficult language, they may spend a month on basic alphabet and sounds, but once you've got that down, they pour on the vocabulary. If the language isn't in a different alphabet, they start pouring on the vocab from day one, because they've got a much shorter time to work with. Consider this: All teachers work to prepare their students to the same level of fluency. Some have 16 months to accomplish this, some only have six months.

Class is all day long - similar to high school - from 0755-1530, Monday through Friday, with PT and other training AFTER scheduled class time. All classes ("sections") have no more than ten students (mine is down to six) at any given time. They share a teaching team with one or two other sections. There is often more than one teaching team in an "class", which consists of 40-60 students. The senior ranking student in each section is the section leader and the senior ranking student in the class is the class leader. This is your academic chain of command, along with your MLI. You will have between four and six teachers, who are all (with very rare exceptions) native speakers of the language you are learning.

So, you're stuck in a tiny room with nine other people and a teacher. You get a break every hour, and it's a good thing! By the end, your brain is numb and spinning from the amount of information you're trying to parse. If it's not, be happy. You may have a serious talent for this language.

What A Typical Day Is Like at DLI

0530 Wake up.

0530-0655 shower, dust off boots, inspect freshly pressed uniform for stray threads, etc., dress, make bunk tightly (with military linen), find the vacuum and clean, straighten desk, dust, raise window shades to halfway, do your hall chores (clean bathroom, hallway, etc.) go to dining facility and eat (if you have time).

0655 Anything less than 10 minutes early is late, so it's time to start heading for the parking lot for 0710 formation. Take the trash with you; leaving any will get you gigs on any room-walkthroughs.

0700 Reveille. Face the music and salute. Shortly after this, platoon guides will start falling in the platoons.

0710 Formation. The Drill Sergeants and other cadre stroll to formation. During formation, accountability is taken, information is passed out, awards are given, and uniforms and boots are inspected, both formally (open-ranks) at least once a week, and informally every day. Appearance standards are very strict.

0730 Formation ends. You've got 25 minutes before class, so if you didn't take time to eat before, now is it. Of course, you now have to fight through the hordes of other people just getting out of formation as well. Or, you can go relax and review your homework in the classroom.

0755 Class starts. Class is 50 minutes long with a 10 minute break every hour.

1150 Time for lunch. Go read the Action Notice. Failure to do so is to risk of an Article 15 (nonjudicial punishment) if you've skipped it often enough.

1340-1530 More class.

1530 Out of class, but not done for the day. Read the Action Notice on the way to your room. Change quickly into the proper PT uniform, and hustle to the proper venue.

1600 Do PT. On M-W-F, this is usually running of some sort, long runs, medium runs, sprints.

1700 Retreat. Face the music and salute. If you haven't been dismissed from PT yet, you'll do it as a formation.

1710 Go back to your room and shower. Put on clean PTs and go eat.

1900 Mandatory study time. You can go to the library if you want, but otherwise, it's in your room with the door open, studying.

2100 Study time ends. Iron your uniform, and start on your boots before you have to go to formation.

2145 Bedcheck formation. Answer your name with "Here, Drill Sergeant!" and go back to your room.

2200 Curfew. Be in your room. Finish ironing and polishing, and if you're behind in class or didn't finish your homework during study hour, do so now. Collapse into bed, because tomorrow is identical, except PT is at 0515 (pushups/situps) and soldierization training is after school.

As you progress through the phases of training, curfew and mandatory events decrease. Eventually, there is no curfew, but if you are planning to drink (and are of legal age), you still need an alcohol pass, and plan. This is to prevent any possible liberty incidents. If you're doing well in school, you'll have plenty of free time. Essentially, any time after 1700 and before 0730 is yours.

Language Selection

Right now only eight Languages are being taught (for Navy) - Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Persian-Farsi, Serb-Croatian, Hebrew, Russian and Spanish. Korean is the hardest language here, apparently it is 75 weeks long now, and they are trying to make it a Cat V language. Russian is hard to get because they don't really need too many Russian linguists anymore, but that is starting to change. Arabic, a lot of people get Arabic and Farsi. The word on class wait time is 4-6 months, however, class openings occur throughout the year as sections fill up and the needs of the military are increased.