The USA's Largest Foreign Language Institute

Located on a vast bluff that commands a breathtaking view of Monterey Bay, on the site of the original Spanish landings of 1602 and 1770, the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) on the Presidio of Monterey is the largest language institute in the nation. Its role is simple yet sweeping:

“DLIFLC provides culturally based foreign language education, training, evaluation, and sustainment for Department of Defense personnel in order to ensure the success of the Defense Language Program and enhance the security of the Nation.”

The Institute has called Monterey home since 1946. It began as the Fourth U.S. Army Intelligence School in November 1941 as a secret language school at Crissy Field on the Presidio of San Francisco to teach Japanese to carefully selected U.S. soldiers, most of them of Japanese ancestry. The school, renamed the Military Intelligence Service Language School in June 1942, moved during the war, first to Camp Savage, Minnesota, then to Fort Snelling, Minnesota. It was relocated to the 395-acre Presidio of Monterey after World War II and renamed the Army Language School. During the mid-1970s it became the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center.

“DLI FLC is the largest educational institution in Monterey, with a continuous presence since the 1940s. With a large number of students attending year-round, DLIFLC’s faculty and staff contribute to the multicultural ambience the city offers to visitors,” said DLIFLC Provost Dr. Donald Fischer.

With a faculty of over 1700, DLIFLC today offers courses in two dozen languages and dialects. Basic course lengths are from 26 to 64 weeks, depending upon the difficulty of the language taught. While a basic Romance language program lasts 26 weeks, language instruction in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Arabic lasts eighteen months. DLIFLC offers intermediate, advanced, sustainment and refresher language instruction at its Continuing Education Directorate located near the Presidio, on the former Fort Ord. Many of these courses, including cultural familiarization and basic language training for deploying troops, are conducted via Mobile Training Teams (MTTs), whereby teachers travel to field sites. All of the programs conducted at DLIFLC include instruction in the history, culture and current events of the nations in which the languages are spoken.

DLIFLC not only offers courses to students and deploying forces via its MTTs, but also uses satellite offices, called Language Training Detachments (LTDs) to “sustain our linguists in the field,'' said Mike Vezilich, Senior Dean of Post-Basic Instruction. Using state-of-the-art technology, this Continuing Education division provides two-way visual and audio inter-action between a DLIFLC instructor and U.S. service members who cannot leave their jobs to attend classes full time. About 7,000 hours are broadcast to military bases each year in several languages.

The Institute's academic programs are supported by more than 600 classrooms, each equipped with interactive whiteboards which allow instructors to access authentic materials via the Internet, perform listening exercises, or write notes on the board, which can then be electronically downloaded to student laptops or thumb-drives. Students studying languages which are non-Latin alphabet-based receive tablet-type personal computers for note-taking and writing exercises. All students are issued portable audio devices containing digitized listening lessons.

“Harnessing new technologies, both in the classroom and as part of our continuing education effort for graduates, individuals, and units in the field, is an important element of our overall effort,” said Col. Sue Ann Sandusky, DLIFLC’s commandant and commander of the Presidio of Monterey.

At any given time, there are about 3,500 students from the four branches of the military attending the Institute. DLIFLC is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and grants students Associate of Arts degrees in Foreign Language upon the successful completion of their course, To achieve this goal, the Institute partners with the Monterey Peninsula College where students can take courses in math, English and science, to attain 15 units needed to complete their AA degree. Students may also transfer units from other accredited institutions to satisfy the requirements.

As DoD’s premiere language provider for military linguists, the Institute also teaches foreign languages to other DoD agencies; the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the U.S. Border Patrol.

The languages taught at DLIFLC reflect world affairs. The end of the Cold War meant a decrease in the number of students studying Slavic languages, while in the post 9/11 era, languages such as Arabic, and Dari and Pashto spoken in Afghanistan, are on the rise.

DLIFLC is known for its intensive curriculum. Students are in class five days a week, seven hours per day, with two to three hours of homework each evening. To improve the proficiency level of students, class sizes have been reduced from 10 to six students in the more difficult to learn languages, while easier languages, such Spanish and Italian, have eight students per class.

Each spring, DLIFLC holds Language Day, an annual open house for high school and elementary school students. It features cultural displays and activities, ethnic foods and entertainment. More than 5,000 visitors generally attend.

If you would like more information about DLIFLC, visit their website at