DOD Strives to Promote, Preserve Language Skills

MONTEREY, Calif. — With the Defense Department’s empha­sis on devel­op­ing lan­guage and cul­tur­al skills with­in the force, it’s work­ing hard to ensure those capa­bil­i­ties don’t get lost after stu­dents leave the school­house here.

 -
Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor Joon­ki Baek at the Defense Lan­guage Insti­tute For­eign Lan­guage Cen­ter in Mon­terey, Calif., works with Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Ker­by, from the Utah Air Nation­al Guard, on Kore­an vocab­u­lary via the school’s broad­band lan­guage train­ing sys­tem.
U.S. Army pho­to by Natela Cut­ter
Click to enlarge

The Defense Lan­guage Insti­tute For­eign Lan­guage Cen­ter trains thou­sands of stu­dents every year in more than two dozen lan­guages, some that require more than a year of inten­sive, full-time study. To pre­serve those skills, the school is boost­ing its con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion offer­ings, both through class­room and dis­tance learn­ing.

“Lan­guage skills are per­ish­able,” said Mike Vezilich, dean of the con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion direc­torate. “If one does­n’t use the lan­guage reg­u­lar­ly, those skills atro­phy. And that does­n’t take long,” par­tic­u­lar­ly for stu­dents at low­er pro­fi­cien­cy lev­els.

“It’s not like rid­ing a bike that once you learn it, you know it for life,” Vezilich said. “It’s some­thing you have to con­tin­u­al­ly work at just to main­tain cer­tain lev­els, and then spend lots and lots of time if you want to become real­ly pro­fi­cient and gain high­er skills.”

Oper­a­tional require­ments often make that ongo­ing edu­ca­tion chal­leng­ing, whether at “sur­vival” lan­guage lev­els or for pro­fes­sion­al lin­guists, Vezilich not­ed.

In some cas­es, DLI basic course grad­u­ates may have a two- or three-year delay before they’re assigned in bil­lets that require their lan­guage skills, he said. And regard­less of their assign­ment, it’s often dif­fi­cult for their units to release them from their duties for refresh­er or lan­guage train­ing.

So while 100 to 120 stu­dents attend res­i­dent con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion cours­es at DLI at any giv­en time, far more are get­ting addi­tion­al train­ing through dis­tance learn­ing, mobile train­ing teams and oth­er inno­v­a­tive meth­ods.

“We have had to come up with a dif­fer­ent struc­ture in the way we do train­ing, and pro­vid­ing it in the win­dows [of time] that lin­guists have,” Vezilich said.

For exam­ple, DLI now has 26 lan­guage train­ing detach­ments, all staffed by per­ma­nent instruc­tor teams at loca­tions world­wide, he said.

The pro­gram start­ed in 2003 with four detach­ments pro­vid­ing sus­tain­ment and enhance­ment train­ing for pro­fes­sion­al lin­guists. It proved so suc­cess­ful that more detach­ments were formed to offer lan­guage and cul­tur­al aware­ness train­ing to more ser­vice mem­bers.

Mean­while, DLI’s mobile train­ing teams dis­patch wher­ev­er they’re need­ed around the world to pro­vide both post-basic lan­guage train­ing and pre-deploy­ment lan­guage famil­iar­iza­tion.

DLI’s dozen and a half mobile teams typ­i­cal­ly offer two- to six-week cours­es in Ara­bic, Chi­nese, Dari, Per­sian Far­si, French, Ger­man, Hebrew, Hin­di, Ital­ian, Kore­an, Kur­dish, Pash­to, Russ­ian, Serbian/Croatian, Span­ish, Taga­log, Urdu and Viet­namese.

While increas­ing the avail­abil­i­ty and con­ve­nience of tra­di­tion­al lan­guage edu­ca­tion, DLI is using tech­nol­o­gy to reach as many stu­dents wher­ev­er they are, and when­ev­er they have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to study.

Dis­tance learn­ing pro­grams use video tele-train­ing, instruc­tor mobile train­ing teams and a new broad­band lan­guage train­ing sys­tem to deliv­er instruc­tion in 19 lan­guages.

Last year, the pro­gram pro­vid­ed more than 21,000 hours of instruc­tion to near­ly 1,300 stu­dents, Vezilich report­ed.

DLI hopes to increase those num­bers, in part by using broad­band Inter­net tech­nolo­gies to pro­vide real-time, non-res­i­dent lan­guage train­ing.

The vir­tu­al class­room sys­tem is far less expen­sive than mobile train­ing teams. How­ev­er, Vezilich said, it repli­cates much of the per­son­al learn­ing expe­ri­ence through inter­ac­tive fea­tures such as video con­fer­ences, chat rooms, instant mes­sag­ing and online stu­dent-teacher con­sul­ta­tions.

The pro­gram is catch­ing on, enabling stu­dents even in the most remote regions to refresh or enhance their lan­guage capa­bil­i­ties. In fis­cal 2009, it pro­vid­ed 2,400 hours of instruc­tion, but Vezilich pre­dict­ed big growth as more peo­ple learn about it.

“We had matched that num­ber of hours by the third quar­ter of [fis­cal 2010],” he said. “It’s def­i­nite­ly on the rise.”

Steve Collins, an assis­tant provost who over­sees DLI’s con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion pro­grams, said these and oth­er ini­tia­tives advance lan­guage and cul­tur­al edu­ca­tion through­out the force.

DLI has rec­og­nized that it is not just the place for mil­i­tary lan­guage pro­fes­sion­als and lin­guists,” Collins said. “It is also a sup­port orga­ni­za­tion for any­one in DOD that needs for­eign lan­guage edu­ca­tion train­ing and cul­tur­al capa­bil­i­ty.”

And unlike the old days, when Collins said he “felt like a used car sales­man in a plaid sports jack­et” try­ing to pro­mote DLI’s lan­guage pro­grams, he now finds they’re an easy sell.

“Our great advo­cates are those peo­ple that are com­ing back from deploy­ments,” he said. “They see the advan­tage and the impor­tance of this, and what it con­tributes to the mis­sion.”

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →