US: DLI beefs up language skills

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sun Apr 1 15:44:28 UTC 2007

Forwarded from edling-list

DLI Beefs Up Language Skills

Army News Service | Natela Cutter | March 30, 2007

MONTEREY, Calif. - In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist
attacks, the Department of Defense took a more serious look at the
linguistic and cultural preparedness of America's military. More
precisely, DOD looked closely at capabilities of the Defense Language
Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey, Calif., the government's
premier provider of foreign-language training. A landmark institution
since 1941 - when Japanese-American Soldiers were first trained to become
translators and interpreters in World War II - DLIFLC has transformed
several times and today teaches 24 languages, with courses ranging from 27
to 64 weeks.

"Our military missions are so different today than they were during the
Cold War, when Russian and other East European languages were our largest
programs," said Lt. Col. Deborah Hanagan, DLIFLC chief of staff. Basic
language programs at DLIFLC fluctuate with changing international
situations and DOD's needs. In the post-9/11 era, the largest training
program is no longer Russian, but Arabic. What has really changed at the
DOD level, and thus at the institute itself, is the realization that the
nation's armed forces need linguists capable in many less commonly taught
languages, Hanagan said. "If someone had told me six years ago that we
would be teaching languages such as Urdu, Kurdish, Uzbek or Hindi, I would
have told them they were crazy," said Hanagan. A list of most-needed
linguists is issued each year by DOD.

Only months after the 9/11 tragedy, DLIFLC set up a task force to build
courses and train linguists in the major languages of Afghanistan (Dari
and Pashto), as well as in Kurdish, Uzbek and Georgian. The Global War on
Terrorism Task Force has since transformed into the Emerging Languages
Task Force, which teaches such strategically important languages as Hindi,
Urdu, Kurdish and Indonesian, Hanagan said. "We no longer wait for a
region to fall into crisis," said Capt. Angi Carsten, ELTF's associate
dean. "We need to anticipate which languages will be needed in the future
and start building course materials now. As soon as a language program
matures in our department, meaning that the course has been built, we move
it out to one of the eight schools and focus on something new. Dari and
Pashto are examples of maturing programs."

At the DOD level, the need to increase military language training called
for an infusion of money for new technologies, curriculum development and
the hiring of new staff members, as well as for ramping up the production
of language-survival and cultural-familiarization materials intended for
deploying servicemembers. "We have basically doubled the size of our
faculty, staff and student load, while our budget has tripled," said
Warren Hoy, chief of mission support for the Office of the Deputy Chief of
Staff for Operations.  DLIFLC's budget was $77 million in 2001, while
fiscal 2006's budget was $197 million.

DLIFLC today has more than 1,500 professional language instructors and is
expecting to hire another several hundred teachers in 2007. The student
load has grown since 2001 and is now more than 3,500 at any given time.
Linguists come from all four branches of the military, the U.S. Coast
Guard and other DOD agencies, Hanagan said. The institute graduates more
than 2,000 students per year and has degree-granting authority, whereby
qualified students can receive associate degrees in foreign language.
"Technology plays a big role in the classroom, because the younger
generations are used to having access to information at their fingertips.
We now have interactive white boards in every classroom, we issue students
MP3 players or iPods, and are providing them with tablet PCs," said MAJ
John Hoffmenschen, associate dean of one of DLIFLC's Middle East schools.

But DLIFLC's work does not stop with the basic courses. The Institute also
teaches intermediate, advanced and refresher courses to returning students
at the Directorate of Continuing Education. When units are not able to
send linguists back to DLIFLC, teachers are sent to them, via mobile
training teams. These teams are sent to outlying regions to teach courses
for weeks at a time, Hanagan said. Distance learning has also become a
popular means of keeping linguists' language skills current. The institute
provides video tele-training courses, whereby teachers in Monterey can
converse with students located around the world. In addition, DLIFLC
maintains 11 permanent Language Training Detachments located throughout
the continental United States and Hawaii.

Aside from producing basic-language course materials, the institute's
Curriculum Development Directorate has been turning out language-survival
kits since the crises in Somalia and Haiti in the early 1990s. The LSKs
are intended for non-linguists. In 2006 more than 200,000 LSKs were sent
to deploying servicemembers. The LSKs are available in more than 50
languages, and consist of small pocket-size booklets and a CD. They cover
emergency survival phrases, and most languages have additional modules
with topics that range from medical terminology to civil affairs. The
delivery of these products is moving to a Web-based system, which is
available (from .mil sites) at

"It is absolutely vital that every Soldier know a little bit about the
Arabic culture, the dos and don'ts, and some words and phrases just to get
by," said an instructor at one of the Middle East schools, who asked to
remain anonymous. Military language instructors are NCOs and petty
officers who have undergone the basic course, speak the target language
fluently, have served a tour using their language, and have returned to
teach at DLIFLC. "I did a lot of translation for commanders, doctors and
local people, and knowing the culture was very helpful, especially when
there were misunderstandings," the instructor said about her tour in Iraq
and experience in Afghanistan. The newest product to hit the streets this
spring will be the Iraqi Headstart program. Using computer animation and
cutting-edge technology, this product consists of a 10-day course that
teaches survival phrases in the Iraqi dialect of Arabic. Additionally,
other useful Web-based materials are available to linguists and the
general public at

Information on the site includes area studies called "Countries in
Perspective," which provides information on the history, geography and
socio-political settings of nations. There are online language courses and
more than 100,000 reading and listening lessons in a dozen languages under
the Global Language Online Support System. Why put so much emphasis on
language learning and culture? "It is all about winning the hearts and
minds of the Iraqi and Afghan citizens, because we don't want them to
harbor terrorists within their ranks. It is a whole new way of using our
military force," said Hanagan.

(Natela Cutter works in the Strategic Communications Office at the Defense
Language Institute Foreign Language Center.),15240,130693,00.html


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