Defense Language Institute Aids Deploying Troops, DoD Personnel
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 7, 2008 A Defense Department program is providing some of the department’s military and civilian personnel with cultural and linguistic training before they deploy abroad.
The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center provides special pre-deployment training by sending mobile training teams to teach cultural familiarization and simple phrases in Iraqi Arabic and the Afghan languages of Pashto and Dari.
In addition, the organization supplies servicemembers and qualified Defense Department employees with language survival kits that include basic language CDs and pamphlets that outline common greetings, military commands, medical vocabulary and other useful phrases in the native tongue of the students’ destination.
The Monterey, Calif.-based language institute also has developed a new Headstart Program, which uses cutting-edge technology and computer animation to teach survival phrases in Iraqi and Afghan dialects in a 10-day course.
The Defense Language Institute is a component of a comprehensive Defense Department language roadmap published in January 2005 and the National Security Language Initiative that President Bush proposed a year ago.
Gail H. McGinn, deputy undersecretary of defense for plans, oversees the Defense Department’s foreign-area officer program, a linguistics initiative that embeds cultural and linguistic specialists with military members in their region of expertise.
McGinn said language has a unique ability to connect U.S. operators with their foreign counterparts and local civilians.
“To be able to communicate with the people, to understand what they’re saying, to understand what they’re thinking, to understand what their habits are and the correct way to interact with people is incredibly important,” she said during an interview with American Forces Press Service in December.
The cooperation among federal agencies, Congress and the White House on linguistic initiatives underscores the increasingly prominent role language skills play in U.S. missions at home and abroad.
“Deficits in foreign language learning and teaching negatively affect our national security, diplomacy, law enforcement, intelligence communities and cultural understanding,” a National Security Language Initiative fact sheet on the State Department Web site says. “The NSLI will dramatically increase the number of Americans learning critical need foreign languages … through new and expanded programs from kindergarten through university and into the work force.”