Dr Mantis Toboggan said:This is mostly true, I was not a 35P but re-enlisted to go to DLI after I'd already been in for a few years (and already had my clearance). Doing it this way means more total time in service but also allows you to pick your language and makes your time in Monterey more enjoyable, as you are not still in an extended form of basic training and are generally treated like an adult.
The one thing I strenuously disagree with is that studying a language on your own can be just as effective as DLI, it simply isn't--your full time job for 6-16 months depending on your language is studying, you're in class 6-7 hours a day (usually full immersion after the first couple months) plus 1-3 hours a night of homework. It's intense but it's the best way to get fluent or near-fluent in a foreign language, especially the complicated ones like Chinese and Russian, without living in that country (and depending on the language you may get to spend a month or so living abroad--I got to study in Taiwan about 2/3 of the way through the course, the Russian students got to go to Estonia or Lithuania IIRC).
My Chinese is pretty rusty now (need to get that back up) but at the time I graduated it was as close to fluent as I could've possibly gotten without spending several months living in China or Taiwan.
Mandarin or Cantonese?
For the longest time I though enlisting when I was 18 would have been a quick fix for life, but now. Not so sure. Sure, the Coast Guard could have trained me to be a pirate, but...