What is the ILR?
The Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) is an unfunded federal organization. It is where government employees interested in foreign languages can come together with counterparts inside and outside government to discuss and share information and address concerns. The ILR meets monthly from September to June each year, and its members also communicate with each other through the ILR email list. In addition, the ILR has sponsored full-day Showcases in 2003 and 2005.

What is the mission of the ILR?
The mission of the ILR is as follows:

The Interagency Language Roundtable is an unfunded Federal interagency organization established for the coordination and sharing of information about foreign language-related activities at the Federal level. It serves as the premier way for departments and agencies of the Federal government to keep abreast of the progress and implementation of techniques and technology for language learning, language use, language testing and other language-related activities. Participation in the ILR provides organizations and individuals with: (1) an assured channel of communication and cooperation among agencies that have common interests in foreign language use, training and testing; (2) a centralized forum for the dissemination of language-related information across the government; and (3) a working network for the mutual sharing of ideas, information and materials among organizations in government, the academic community, and the private sector.


What does the ILR consist of?
The ILR consists of a broad membership of individuals with professional interests in foreign language use in work-related contexts, including the teaching, learning and testing of effective language ability and proficiency. Approximately 60% of the members are federal government employees, and all members of the ILR Steering Committee are federal employees. Regularly attending entities include the following institutions and organizations. Click here to see list of Institutions and Agencies.

Members of the ILR meet in plenary sessions on a monthly basis between September and June, where lectures or demonstrations on topics of general interest are presented. Immediately before or after each plenary, four ILR committees meet to discuss particular areas of interest. These are the Training Committee, the Testing Committee, the Translation and Interpretation Committee, and the Culture Committee.

In addition to these standing committees, the ILR also currently hosts the ILR Special Interest Group (SIG) on the Center for Advanced Study of Language (CASL). CASL SIG meetings are open only to federal government representatives. The CASL SIG meets in the afternoon of the day of the regular ILR meetings to hear presentations from CASL researchers. These presentations may cover such topics as research methods and techniques, research designs of ongoing projects, and results of completed projects. CASL researchers welcome the participation of SIG attendees during the SIG meetings, and provide contact information for those who desire further information. Detailed information about CASL is available at its website, http://www.casl.umd.edu/.

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Is the ILR a government agency?
No. The ILR has no formal status in the government. It has no operating budget and relies solely on a volunteer membership and the collaborative spirit of the participating organizations to provide their employees with the opportunity to participate in ILR meetings. Much of the effectiveness of the ILR can be attributed to the long-standing practice of interagency cooperation to accomplish tasks of mutual benefit to the agencies and to a dedication to enhancing foreign language use in the federal government.

What is the lead department or agency?
There isn’t one. More than forty different federal government agencies are often represented at ILR meetings, together with almost as many academic and non-governmental organizations. The ILR Steering Committee, which is responsible for planning and overseeing ILR activities, consists of members from eight different federal agencies, each with significant interest in practical foreign language ability. The committees are chaired by federal employees from five different agencies.

Who can be a member of the ILR?
Any individual (whether a USG employee or not) with a serious interest in language use, language learning, or language testing may attend the ILR plenary meetings and may join the ILR-INFO email list. Most of the meetings of the Training, Testing, Translation and Interpretation, and Culture Committees are also open to anyone, as space permits. Some meetings of the Testing and Training committees are open only to government representatives, especially when issues are discussed that may affect contracting by one or more agency. When this occurs, it is announced in advance. Meetings of the ILR Steering Committee are open only to federal government representatives.

How do I become a member of the ILR?
The first thing to do is to join the ILR-INFO email list so that you will receive information about upcoming ILR activities. You can also find out about activities by going to the ILR Web-page at http://www.govtilr.org/. To attend an ILR activity, you will need to register at least two days in advance by sending your name and affiliation to the email address indicated in the announcement. Back to Top

Does it cost anything to be a member?
No. ILR events and activities are open to all interested people at no charge.

How can I join the ILR-INFO email list?

To join the ILR- INFO List, follow these directions:

  • Open a new email message
  • Remove any signature from the body of the message
  • In the To line put: LISTSERV@FSILIST2.FSI.STATE.GOV
  • No subject line is needed
  • In the body of the message type:
    Subscribe ILR-Info your name (e.g., Subscribe ILR-Info Jane Doe)
  • Send the email.

You will receive an email confirming your subscription and providing you with important information about the List that you will need to keep.

To change the email address at which you receive the ILR Listserve messages:

  • Send a message with the text "SIGNOFF ILR-INFO" to LISTSERV@FSILIST2.FSI.STATE.GOV from your existing subscription address.
  • Send a message from the new email address as if initiating a new subscription. Back to Top

To leave the list at any time:

How can I join a committee?
Come to one of the meetings that are held before the plenary. If you think you would like to come regularly, tell one of the co-chairs of the committee to put you on the list. Do plan to come regularly, however, because it is frustrating for committee members if some people have very irregular attendance.

What are the “ILR Language Skill-Level Descriptions”?
Sometimes referred to as the “ILR Guidelines,” these are descriptions of different levels of proficiency for four different language “skills”—Speaking, Reading , Listening and Writing. The scale used to describe each skill has six Base Levels, ranging from 0 “No functional proficiency” to 5 “Functionally equivalent to a highly educated native speaker/reader/etc.” These guidelines are accepted by all agencies of the federal government. They are used as a primary reference in the different government tests of language ability. Level 2 is defined as “Limited Working Proficiency.” Many USG agencies require a minimum of Level 3, “General Professional Proficiency.”

Are there other ILR Guidelines?
Yes. The ILR Translation and Interpretation Committee, with advice from the ILR Testing Committee, has developed the “ILR Skill-Level Descriptions for Translation Performance,” and the “ILR Skill-Level Descriptions for Interpretation Performance.” In addition, the "ILR Skill-Level Descriptions for Competence in Intercultural Communication" and the "ILR Skill-Level Descriptions for Audio Translation Performance" were both approved in 2012.

Where can I find the Guidelines?
They are available on the ILR Webpage.

How can I take an “ILR Language Proficiency Test”?
Sorry. There is no “ILR Test.” The ILR as an entity does not develop or administer language tests itself. Many government agencies refer to the ILR Language Skill-Level Descriptions in scoring language proficiency tests and assigning scores, but each test is different in some important respects. In fact, a test administered by one government agency may not necessarily be used for seeking employment in another government agency. Back to Top

In general, all government tests are administered only at the request of federal government agencies, and they are not available to private citizens.

How can I be tested and rated on the ILR scale?

The ILR Skill Level Descriptions and the ILR Scale are used to develop and score U.S. Government (USG) tests of language skills. USG language tests are used for USG employees only and are not available to private individuals, commercial services, or other non-government organizations. Applicants to USG positions may be tested if they are sponsored by a governmental agency.

There are a number of organizations and resources that provide information on other available tests, or testing services, including:

Is there a full-time ILR staff?
No. There are eleven officers: the ILR Coordinator and Chair of the Steering Committee, the co-chairs of the Training, Testing, Translation and Interpretation Committees, the chair of the Culture Committee, the co-chairs of the CASL SIG, and the Webmaster. All are volunteers who have other very full-time official jobs. Very limited clerical support is provided by the Foreign Service Institute, the National Cryptologic School, and the Defense Language Institute.

Who established the ILR?
The underlying rationale for the ILR arose through discussions in 1955 among James R. Frith, then with the Air Force Language Program, Howard Sollenberger of the Foreign Service Institute, and Clyde Sargent of the CIA Training Division, who recognized a need for better coordination and communication in language training and testing among federal agencies.

Who is the primary contact person for the organization?
At present, that is Dr. Scott McGinnis, ILR Coordinator, Defense Language Institute, Washington, DC. Office Tel Voice: 703-325-0985; fax: 703-325-1179; Email: scott.g.mcginnis4.civ@mail.mil Back to Top