Bill Poser at Language Log has an excellent post on an important topic, the shortage of interpreters in all branches of the government. Knowledge of foreign languages has always been in short supply in America, but it used to be encouraged; as Bill says:
The military seems to have taken language skills much more seriously during the Second World War. My father went directly from being a buck private in basic training to Master Sergeant in an intelligence position because he could speak French, Flemish, and German. The Army recognized that the ability to speak these languages was useful for interviewing civilians and interrogating enemy soldiers.
Now… well, we all know the problems lack of knowledge of Arabic has been causing, and there doesn’t seem to be much official interest in remedying it. Strange.