GCHQ is different as an employer of linguists, not only because our linguists work on a daily basis with over 40 languages and dialects and have a capability in over 80 languages, from Arabic to Urdu, Amharic to Swahili, but also because, for us, a linguist is not 'just' a linguist, but a 'language analyst'. A GCHQ language analyst is not only highly proficient in one or more languages (and we have some linguists who have ten or more languages each), but one who is also expert in cultural issues, current affairs, social and religious issues and other background relating to the countries in which their language is spoken.
The main language skills we require are transcription and gisting. We expect our language analysts to be able to scan often lengthy or complex material and use their extra-linguistic knowledge to identify information of interest to government ministers or members of the Armed Forces, for example. Word-for-word translation of lengthy texts is hardly ever required.
As the take-up of foreign languages in schools and universities has been declining in recent years, we also have a programme through which our linguists go out to schools and universities to spread their enthusiasm for language and even teach "taster" lessons in a selection of exotic languages. Our involvement in the national language learning debate has also led to our becoming a member of the Employers Advisory Group at CiLT - the National Centre for Languages, which advises central government on language learning and foreign language in the workplace issues.
And just to underline how important foreign languages and linguists are to us: over 60% of the intelligence we produce for our customers comes from foreign language material, and this figure is growing. So linguists are absolutely vital to our intelligence production effort. We would not be able to provide the service expected by the Government or our Armed Forces without them. GCHQ needs linguists, and linguists will find a stimulating, varied and rewarding job here.
To discover whether you could be the language analyst we're looking for, why not try your hand at making sense of the sentences in our GCHQ Challenges