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Who Can Become an Analytic Linguist and What Skills Do They Need?

Posted in: CAPE Blog

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“Analytic Linguist” is the official term used to define the profession of those who perform court-authorized wiretaps under Title III, in support of law enforcement engaged in criminal investigations by gathering and analyzing source, or primary data in the form of the words that fall from the lips of suspects themselves.  Who can do this work and how one goes about beginning the process of becoming an Analytic Linguist is an interesting topic.  In the general population, there are few people who are “cut out” for the types of tasks that Analytic Linguists are called upon to do on a daily basis.  This deserves some explanation to those who are interested.

Beginning with basic requirements, the US government requires that anyone working as an Analytic Linguist for any agency or entity of law enforcement in the US be college graduates and US citizens.  To satisfy the government’s concern about security of information and the dangers of bribery, they must have an excellent credit history and no criminal record.  Finally, they must be bilingual, and their English writing skills must be native-like and educated.  These requirements are relatively easy to define and document.

In addition, there is an array of other essential skills which Analytic Linguists must master.  Most of these are relatively easy to identify and define, but they demand conscious effort through study and constant practice to acquire.  Besides being bilingual (and at a high level of proficiency in both English and a second language), Analytic Linguists must be able to monitor calls in real time and pick up on subtle nuances of colloquial speech, criminal jargon and even be able to identify background noises.  They need critical thinking skills to sift what matters from what does not.  Analytic Linguists also produce verbatim transcripts of the calls they monitor, provided that the content of a call is deemed important, based on the summary the Analytic Linguist writes upon hearing the communication intercept.  Making a verbatim record means “exactly as spoken.”  This may seem easy, but not a word can be missed, not even a stutter or non-linguistic sounds such as a cough.  Even a speaker’s “mistakes” must be recorded, and each utterance must be properly attributed to the proper person on a recording.  In case you are wondering, voice recognition software, even the best, is only a tool to confirm and represent graphically a voice match identifiable only by an expert human ear.  Finally, Analytic Linguists must be able to produce a translation of a foreign-language oral intercept into US English – and yet preserve the register of the language of the speakers (e.g., educated or uneducated, generational linguistic markers and other idiosyncrasies).

This array of skills is quite complex and demanding.  Even so, some of the skills that Analytic Linguists possess are required of other language professionals as well, but none of the other language-related professions, considered separately, require the particular constellation of skills which Analytic Linguists must be able to choreograph and use almost all at once.  Consider typing speed.  It is an essential skill of typesetters in a publication operation of any kind and, likewise for Analytic Linguists, an ability to type at least 40 wpm is necessary in order to meet the requirements of the fast-paced environment of the wire rooms in which they work.  Translators need to be bilingual, but they typically work from a polished printed text, not from an oral recording of colloquial, or street-language, subsequently transcribed.

As you have seen, Analytic Linguists need to satisfy some basic requirements under the law, but in addition, they must master others that have to do specifically with the kinds of tasks that Analytic Linguists perform on a daily basis in a wire room.  Finally, there is one more skill they must possess: the discretion or, if you please, the common sense to not discuss the details of their work with anyone, not even with their spouse, friends or family members.

Dr. Vogt has published numerous articles dealing with Spanish and English literature and has produced several volumes of critical editions of works of Golden Age Spanish literature, many from original, hitherto unedited manuscripts. He also has produced critical, bilingual editions of works, among them, The Complete Poetry of St. Teresa of Avila (University Press of the South: New Orleans, 2nd edition 2015). In addition, Dr. Vogt has published six books with McGraw-Hill on Spanish grammar for English-speaking students of Spanish. For the past several years, Dr. Vogt has worked to update and expand the content of courses developed by Ms. Elena Rojas, thus creating the Analytic Linguistics training programs offered by Continuing and Professional Education and TST™.

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