James R. Child

James R. Child

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James R. Child had a long and distinguished professional career. A pioneer in language testing, his Agency cryptologic experiences began in Arlington Hall even before NSA was established. Jim retired after more than 50 years of government service. By then, he possessed the rare ability to read more than 40 different languages.

Mr. Child began his career at NSA’s training facility as a teacher of Slavic languages and Indonesian. He built on this experience as an analyst concerned with various operational language problems, and then as a scientific linguist, analyzing the languages themselves. Later, he presided over the development of standardized reading proficency tests, which were novel because they contained authentic tests, in a large number of languages. They were designed to be given to university language majors and minors applying to the Agency. Many of Mr. Child’s tests are still in use.

Recognizing the need to define levels of difficulty of spoken and written tests, Mr Child work intensively with the Agency, other government, and academic colleagues to develop the Interagency Language Roundtable’s Language Proficiency Scale (Levels 0-5). This is now used throughout the United States government and in grades K-12, colleges, and universities to determine language proficiency. Jim also touched countless lives because of his development of the VORD, a test he built to assess language learning potential in languages unlike English. It is now given to every language applicant at NSA.

Parry, T.S. & Child, J.R. Preliminary investigation of the relationship between VORD, MLAT, and language proficiency. In T. S. Parry & C.W. Stansfield (Eds.), "Language aptitude reconsidered." Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall Regents/Center for Applied Linguistics.

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