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10 Facts About the U.S. Military’s DLIFLC GLOSS

The DLIFLC is the language school where the U.S. military trains the interpreters that it sends all over the world. GLOSS is one of its many programs.

The acronym stands for Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC), Global Language Online Support System (GLOSS). Now that’s a mouthful!

If you truly wanna go deep, and I mean really deep in learning your target language, you can’t afford to skip this resource. 


10 Facts You Didn’t Know About the DLIFLC and GLOSS

1. It’s DoD territory.

The DLIFLC is under the Department of Defense.

It is regarded as one of the finest foreign language learning institutions in America. Located in Monterey, California, this premier language provider considers its mission deadly serious.

Exactly how serious?

Seven hours a day serious. That’s the length of time students spend in classes, supplemented by 2-3 hours of nightly homework. This continues for 5 days a week in a 26 to 64-week basic course.

Why the intensive course?

Well, because this is where America trains the people who talk to the world. The center churns out military linguists who serve on federal agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the U.S. Border Patrol–which means you can’t get in the program unless you’re a member of the Armed Forces or are sponsored by a government agency.

2. The first language it taught was Japanese. (Know why?)

The DLIFLC started in 1941, on the eve of America’s entry into World War II. It began as a secret language school with 60 carefully selected U.S. soldiers—mostly of Japanese ancestry. Why? Because it was a reflection of the realities on the ground. Japan was on a war footing in Asia, and America needed soldiers who understood enemy intelligence.

The programs in the center often reflect world affairs. During the Cold War, many programs were geared towards the Slavic languages. Today, in the post 9/11 world, Arabic, Dari and Pashto (Afghanistan) are getting a lot of focus.

3. They have their own “immersion facility.”

When you want to immerse yourself in your target language, one of the things you can do is spend a few months abroad and soak in all the learning experiences at your country of choice.

But do you know how Uncle Sam does immersion?

Well he builds a whole simulation—furnishing a whole facility with kitchen and sleeping quarters where students can live for 1-3 days.

So for example, if you’re learning German, the DLIFLC immersion program will isolate you in a world that only understands German. Not a word of English will be spoken while you are in the immersion facility. So you may be on U.S. soil, but it will really feel like you’re in Germany. And you’ll be put in real-world situations like bargaining for food and clothing at a market place.

How cool is that? You don’t have to get creative with your imagination. The simulation is so real, it’s like you’re there.

4. The GLOSS is unparalleled anywhere else.

So at this point, you may be thinking, “What does all this have to do with me? I’m not a member of the Armed Forces, so I’ll never be in that program anyway.”

Well, you stand to benefit more than you think.

The DLIFLC has an online component which can be freely accessed by you and me.

This is where the “GLOSS” of “DLIFLC GLOSS” comes in. The Global Language Online Support System was especially designed for independent online learning.

Since not everyone can go on campus and attend the classes, DLIFLC has developed online lessons for its students.

And like I said, that material is open to anyone. Which means we can participate in the intensive learning program intended for the select language learners of the armed forces of the United States.

If that doesn’t make you rejoice, I don’t know what will.

5. There are 7,000 lessons in GLOSS.

There are lessons for 40 different languages, including lesser-known tongues like Balochi, Pashto, Hausa and Dari. The lessons are divided into two modalities (Reading and Listening) and seven learner levels.

Each lesson contains 4-6 tasks. So for example, in a listening lesson, one of the tasks would be to match an image with its correct audio. Another task might be to type in an answer to an audio question.

GLOSS lessons cover a rich variety of topics that include: culture, economics, environment, geography, military, politics, science, security, society and technology.

6. The lessons are interactive (and come with certificates too).

GLOSS’s lessons are interactive. Meaning, you’re very much involved in your learning process and you’ll probably be busy doing something at any point in time.

So let me tell you beforehand, the lessons are not for the faint of heart. The tasks in GLOSS might just be some of the most challenging ones you can have online. The “beginner” modules here are considered “advanced” in other websites. (You’ve been warned.)

Other sites mark the learners’ progress through a “points” system. More points means the further you are in the lessons. The lessons in GLOSS come with “certificates,” which are given to you after every lesson. Certificates are proof of the hard work you put into learning your target language. You can print them out and collect as many as you can. It will be a nice pat on the back.

7. The audio recordings and conversation examples will set your ears ablaze.

DLIFLC is one of the few language learning sites that gives a fitting nod to the importance of listening in language acquisition. A testament to this are the GLOSS’s listening lessons themselves.

As mentioned previously, GLOSS lessons can either be about listening comprehension or reading comprehension. (DLIFLC focuses on these two because they are the most important skills on the field.)

GLOSS is one of the most comprehensive resources of language audio recordings online. Where can you find, for example, 140 audio recordings of Albanian conversations, 69 for Uzbek and 111 for Hindi?

In addition, DLIFLC has an accent library for Arabic and Spanish languages. I ask you again, where can you find the same text read in 11 different Spanish accents (eg. Argentinean, Chilean, Columbian, Honduran, Mexican, Peruvian, Venezuelan) or 10 different Arabic accents (eg. Egyptian, Iraqi, Jordanian, Saudi, Tunisian, Sudanese)? Only at GLOSS.

8. Their Online Diagnostic Assessment can take around 1-2 hours.

Think GLOSS lessons aren’t challenging enough? Or do you simply want to know what areas need more work for you?

DLIFLC developed the Online Diagnostic Assessment for that very purpose. It will identify your strengths and give you feedback on sticking points.

Create an account and you can take the assessment. There will be two kinds of tests. One is for reading comprehension, and another for listening ability. You will read/listen to sets of passages followed by 4-6 questions. The questions will not only test your comprehension of the passages/recordings, they will also test you on vocabulary, sentence structure and text structure.

Sometimes you will be asked to give your answer in a multiple-choice format, but most of the time you will be asked to type in your answer.

The tests take 1-2 hours per skill and are available for 13 major languages. So if you’re itching to know where you stand on the issue of comprehension, I challenge you to take the assessment.

9. GLOSS actually teaches both language and culture.

If you take a look at DLIFLC’s other programs, you’ll quickly notice that the center is as serious in teaching culture as it is in teaching language. One can quickly sense this in programs like “Cultural Orientations,” “Legends and Folktales,” “Countries in Perspective” and “Cultural Awareness Assessment.”

GLOSS, in its listening and reading lessons, espouses the philosophy that you can never divorce a language from its culture. You can never distill language from the people who speak it–their history, experiences and aspiration as a group.

You don’t sense this from the other language learning sites. This is one of the biggest advantages of learning in DLIFLC. You don’t get cultural lessons as interesting asides, instead you get heavy doses of it. Because of this, you acquire not only a new set of vocabulary or grammar rules, but an enduring appreciation for the culture that produced the language that captured your imagination.

If you’d like to simulate this experience somehow for yourself, you can get creative and engage in online language immersion through websites like FluentU.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

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10. GLOSS champions the concept of “language maintenance.”

DLIFLC believes in the importance of maintaining competency in a language. Just because you have already acquired French, for example, doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road for you. Nope, you need to continually review, practice and pile on to your skills. Otherwise you’d slowly backslide and lose those language gains.

You need to go back in order to move forward. That’s why for four hours a week, DLIFLC allows its analysts and linguists to go into independent study.

In line with that belief, the DLIFLC created GLOSS not only as a teaching tool for first time learners, but as a refresher course. It was made available online so that former students, assigned and dispersed in the far reaches of earth, won’t have return to campus to get the highly needed language refresher and reviews.

DLIFLC GLOSS is quite unique in that it emphasizes the importance of “language maintenance,” regardless of skill level.


So, you now know 10 things about the DLIFLC and GLOSS. I’m sure you can’t wait to give those listening and reading lessons a shot. Enjoy!

And One More Thing...

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