Language Services

Language Services

Increases in translation capability, culture expertise, new technology, and improved prioritization processes now allow the FBI to promptly address all of the highest-priority counterterrorism intelligence, often within 24 hours.


  • The Language Services Translation Center, a command and control structure at FBI Headquarters, was established to ensure that our foreign language resource base of over 1,400 linguists, distributed across over 100 locations, is strategically aligned with operational and national intelligence priorities
  • The foreign language program was relocated to the Directorate of Intelligence in October 2004 to better integrate linguists into the FBI’s intelligence program.
  • English monitoring centers were established in Idaho and West Virginia.
  • A foreign language incentive program was created in 2010 to recognize FBI employees for substantial use and/or maintenance of languages critical to the FBI’s mission.
  • A translation and interpretation training center was instituted in 2010 for linguists in the intelligence community.
  • A national translation quality assurance program was implemented.
  • Since 2010, there has been increased liaison with foreign partners to share linguists and other language resources.


  • The FBI currently has the capability of translating in 121 languages and dialects, with the number of linguists in certain high-priority languages (e.g., Chinese, Arabic, and Afghanistan/Pakistan languages) increasing by over 230 percent since 9/11.
  • Over 138,000 linguist applicants have been processed since 9/11.
  • The FBI linguist workforce—which includes both FBI employees and contract linguists—has increased from 784 to 1,417.
  • The number of special agents with foreign language proficiency at the limited working proficiency level and above has increased to 1,634.


  • Improved language training, cultural awareness, and/or self study materials were provided in 45 languages to 2,665 FBI employees in fiscal year 2010.
  • The FBI partnered with the Foreign Service Institute to develop and sponsor language training and foreign-duty instruction, which included 17,076 hours of training to 52 FBI employees during fiscal years 2009-2010.


  • All FBI linguists are now connected via secure networks that allow a linguist in one office to work on projects for any other office in the Bureau.
  • A nationwide system of foreign language dictionaries was implemented on the FBI network to improve linguists’ speed of translation and to better control standard terminology.

August 2011


How We've Changed
- Just the Facts: Overview of a Changed Organization
- Investigative Accomplishments: Terrorism | More
- Telling the Story
- Reference Materials


Inside the Investigation
- Response and Recovery
- By The Numbers
- The Flights
- FBI Heroes


The Day Everything Changed