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Thread: A War Of Words

  1. #21
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pcmfr View Post
    I'm going to take a slightly different tack here: some language/culture training is better than no training. I doubt anyone who forks out the money to go to these courses is naive enough to believe that they are going to be completely wired to interact with the indig's in these countries, but at least they will give the impression that they have made some attempt to try to communicate in a native language. Yeah, it would be great if every single military, civilian or contractor who deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan was 3/3 in Arabic, Farsi, Pashto, Darri, you name the language, but that just ain't realistic.
    Granted, any training is better than none - but at almost 1500 a pop plus TDY / TAD travel - I think that units / individuals could do much better for their money for five days worth of training / education.

  2. #22
    Council Member CaptCav_CoVan's Avatar
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    Default Language Training

    Duriong my first tour 1965-1966 working with the CAP units at Phu Bai, I picked up a 30 or so words that were just enough to make me dangerous. As part of the training for my second tour assignment as an advisor to the Vietnamese narines, I attended the MATA course in 1966 at the JFK Special Warfare Center for the 8-week course for advisors heading to Nam. We had four hours of Vietnamese a day, six days a week for 8 weeks with Vietnamese nationals for language instructors. We were encouraged to speak Vietnamese as much as possible out of class and we weregiven a two-track reel-to-reel tape recorder. A Vietnamese would speak a phrase on one track and we would speak the same phrase right after it on the second track. We would play them both back and compare. This amounted to a couple of hours of study a night plus the four hours a day we got in class. I would have liked to have attended the 9-month course but there was a war on. We left the MATA course with about a 600-word vocabulary. I still had a tough time talking with the villagers and the Vietnamese Marines when I first got to Vietnam, but by the time I completed my tour 13 months later, I had developed a pretty good ear for the tonal variations that are critical. Five-day course...I don't think so!

    The Army has started using Rosetta Stone as part of their language training and I have suggested the same to SCETC and the Marine Corps Cultural Training Center at Quantico.

  3. #23
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    Default Two Related Items

    1 November Washington Times - Soldiers Train in Languages by Eric Pfeiffer.

    The Army has invested $4.2 million in a Web-based software program to improve the foreign-language skills of overseas personnel.

    The program was created by Rosetta Stone, which provides training software in 30 languages. The contract, entering its second year, allows software access to any member of the active-duty Army, National Guard or Reserve, and civilian personnel in the Department of the Army.

    "You can't send everyone to language training school," said Stan Davis, project manager for the Army's E-Learning program. "But this is a capability the Army needs in today's operational environment."

    More than 64,000 soldiers are using the software, Mr. Davis said, and that number is expected to double next year. "We're getting about 2,000 to 3,000 people signing up a month," he said.

    The military has been criticized for a lack of foreign-language speakers during the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Rosetta Stone provides courses in Pashto, spoken in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan; Farsi, widely spoken in Iran; and Arabic, which is used throughout the Middle East...
    1 November Washington Post - First Ears, Then Hearts and Minds by Renae Merle.

    For science-fiction buffs, it's probably a common-sense solution. Two months after arriving in Iraq, a second lieutenant with the 16th Military Police Brigade was handed the Phraselator, a hand-held device that promised to digest his English phrases and produce a prerecorded Arabic translation with an Iraqi accent.

    But after a brief test last year, the soldier gave up the gadget, deciding that, while helpful in some instances, it wasn't useful to his unit, which conducted raids and provided convoy security. He had even tried to teach himself Arabic using the device but decided that it was no match for the complex language. Even such simple phrases as "What is your name?" are spoken differently in Fallujah than in Baghdad, he found. "This may have been the reason why many of the Iraqis . . . did not appear to understand the Arabic phrases & words" stored in the device, according to a report prepared for the Army.

    An Annapolis firm, VoxTec International Inc., developed the device and said it has steadily made improvements. But the goal of having a machine replace a human interpreter remains elusive, and the military is mounting a multimillion-dollar campaign to find a more capable successor, one that can translate both sides of a conversation, from English to Arabic and vice versa...

  4. #24
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    From what I'm seeing in the AF side, much of the language assessment stuff is more of a box-checking exercise than anything else. Many universities do not have language programs that go beyond the Big Three (Spanish, German, and French), and even then may not offer more than a year or so of real language instruction.

  5. #25
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    From what I'm seeing in the AF side, much of the language assessment stuff is more of a box-checking exercise than anything else. Many universities do not have language programs that go beyond the Big Three (Spanish, German, and French), and even then may not offer more than a year or so of real language instruction.
    Ouch! That's "multiple-quess" not language training! Mybe the AF should look at the CAN-8 Virtual Language lab system. The only real problem with it is that it is a lab-based system - works for the classroom, not the field.

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

  6. #26
    Council Member CaptCav_CoVan's Avatar
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    Default Blackwater Language and Cultural Survival Course

    Here is the Blackwater "curriculum". Sorry for the poor job of formatting on my part.

    BLACKWATERLANGUAGESCHOOL


    Learn to Communicate…and Survive in a Foreign Culture…</SPAN>
    These classes are intended to arm you with language skills and cultural knowledge essential to survival in the Middle East. When time is short and results may decide matters of life and death, choose Blackwater Language School.


    IRAQI ARABIC13 to 17 November PASHTO/DARI27 to 1 December
    INTENSITYLive and breathe in Arabic or Pashto/Dari
    Blackwater Language School provides an intensive language learning environment in which participants challenge themselves and learn at a rate beyond normal limits. This intensive experience has proven to be very successful. Because you and your team-mates have limited time to study the language and culture of Iraq or Afghanistan, we substitute time with intensity. Every student is encouraged to communicate as much as possible in Iraqi dialect Arabic or Pashto/Dari during the entire week-long course. This is no ordinary course of study— it is an endeavor that is emotionally taxing— and rewarding!

    SURVIVALCultural Awareness = Situational Awareness
    If you don’t understand the culture…you can cause real trouble. Our team of accomplished staff is dedicated to helping students survive and thrive in the subject culture. A series of cultural activities will take place throughout the program. Students will be encouraged to use their new skills as they eat Middle Eastern meals and engage in situational interviews— in the immersive environment. This highly intensive language environment empowers you to immediately put your language skills into action and test the boundaries of your cultural survival skills!

    EXPERIENCETrain with Professionals
    This course was developed by LEIRA Beyond Words and Blackwater USA and is tailor made for operators, analysts, military and civilian support personnel working with or deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan. This course is based on the "Leira Method" developed by Christina Leira to provide a unique language instruction method imparting the maximum amount of language skills and cultural knowledge in a short period of time. It has proven highly effective for instructing US Navy SEAL language students during the past 15 years at the Naval Special Warfare Command.
    This is a forty hour course delivered over five days and is intended as a survival course in the target language.

    Day 1 Language: Basic Phonetic Sounds, Important Expressions, Greetings - Oral Practice, Numbers,How to Complete a Personal Interview Form
    Cultural Awareness: Introduction to the Region Climate and Terrain, Modern History, Problem Solving Activities

    Day 2 Language:Important Questions, Days, Months, and Seasons, Telling Time, Pronouns and Basic Verbs, Formal Commands, Dialog "Introducing Yourself" ,
    Cultural Awareness Religion in the Area, Political Situation, Economy (Money), The City and Road Signs, Maps and Danger Signs, Problem Solving Activities

    Day 3 Language: Getting through Customs, Tariffs, Stamps, and Travel Documents, Food Vocabulary "Please, I want...", Prepositions of Time and Place, Giving Directions "Getting from here to ..."
    Cultural Awareness: Social Etiquette Do's and Don'ts, Superstitions and Taboos, Emergencies at the Airport, Food and Drinks of the Area, Proper Eating Etiquette, Problem Solving Activities

    Day 4 Language: Parts of the Body, The Hospital and Doctor's Office,Plurals/Possessive Adjectives,Field Emergencies,My Autobiography" by the Instructor, Text for Personal Presentation by the Students,
    Cultural Awareness Basic Body Language, Non-Verbal Communication, Social Gatherings and Festivities, Education, Crime, Women in Society, "Means of Transportation, Solving Activities

    Day 5 Language: Brief Personal Presentations, Instructions for Handling Weapons
    Cultural Awareness: Social Situation before... Weapons and Munitions ...and After September 11, 2001, Etiquette for Personal Queries

    Final Training Exercise: Practical Field Interviews

    COST: $1495 includes cultural lunch each training day. Bunk in 4 man room and breakfast may be available for only $120.00 per person. Call for availability.
    Proper communication skills can influence matters of life and death!
    Reserve a space for you or your unit today.
    Space is extremely limited.
    Call or email us:
    (252) 435-2016-or- languages@blackwaterusa.com

    Powered by

    Blackwater Tactical Weekly | PO Box 1029 | Moyock | NC | 27958
    Last edited by CaptCav_CoVan; 11-02-2006 at 03:13 PM.

  7. #27
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default Curriculum???

    Quote Originally Posted by CaptCav_CoVan View Post
    Here is the Blackwater "curriculum".
    I am shocked, SHOCKED! Not a single "The gun of my aunt is red"??????

    Well, I will admit to being highly prejudice in favour of immersion training, but this does seem a little on the Mickey Mouse side

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

  8. #28
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default A Fool and His Money

    reminds me of the Saturday Night Live bit on spies...

    "Where are the nuclear submarines?"

    of course changed to fit the regional setting

    but I guess

    "Where are the nuclear weapons?" would be OBE at this stage

    Also reminiscent of those "X-ray glasses" they used to advertise in the back of comic books when I was a kid. although dramatically more expensive, this is less likely to work.

    Tom

  9. #29
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    Default What The Phraselator Says

    14 November Washington Post Letter to the Editor - What The Phraselator Says.

    What The Phraselator Says

    There is a pervasive misconception in our society that technology can do just about anything. Although well-applied technology is useful and at times astounding, poorly applied technology more often than not is costly, wasteful and frustrating. Such is the case with the Phraselator and other devices mentioned in the Nov. 1 Business article "First Ears, Then Hearts and Minds; Facing Shortage of Arabic Interpreters, Pentagon Seeks a Technological Solution."

    Language is perhaps the most human of all human expressions. It is a manifestation of our thoughts, desires and emotions. The notion that a synthesized voice from a small electronic device saying in Arabic "We're here to search your house. Please stay in this room. Do you have any weapons?" could calm or reassure a frightened Iraqi is absurd.

    The interpretive devices and so many other projects like them are misguided attempts to use technology to solve a problem that requires a human solution: linguists who understand both languages and cultures.

    Rather than spending $20.8 million this year on "translation technologies," the Pentagon's money would be better spent on training qualified people to work as interpreters and help our troops do their jobs.

    Barry Slaughter Olsen, Falls Church

    The writer is a freelance interpreter and translator who has done work for federal agencies.

  10. #30
    Stan Reber
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    Default Fast Course to Where ? Culture you say ?

    Tom and I worked together in some very unstable conditions. 5 days anywhere would amount to nothing. Even after years of cultural experiences, we made simple mistakes. Probably why we carried firearms in civies.

    Language will indeed break some barriers, but culture cannot be taught or understood in a CONUS classroom. You have to go there. Put the soldier in the mud !

    Is the instructor in this course ready to provide a warranty period, that little Stan will make it back for Christmas in one piece ? Even so, is Stan willing to go at it. Read some of Tom's chapters that I have spent 12 years trying to forget.

    We should be ready to say goodbye to a soldier after a 5 day course, because we just did him/her in, sending them there.

    I now live and work in a place that permits one mistake...EOD. I have sent 20-year olds to Afghanistan and Iraq. Cultural exchange classes ? Hardly, but I did try to impress apon them the significance of learning a new culture and respecting it, even if you hate it. I know, I did it in Africa for 11 years. Put your mind to it and save 1,500 bucks.

    In late 95, 10th group sent us 4 soldiers for Russian imersion training in Estonia. Little did they know, that Estonians hate Russians and the Russian language. "If you must try to learn a foreign language, learn ours, or speak Engilsh like the rest of America !" The Ambassador sent them home the next day. That was far more than some BS 1,500 dollar course in whatever.

    I teach situation awareness nearly each month. If you can live in DC, you can probably get along elsewhere so long as your eyes are open. I did (live in NW DC for most of my youth and then continued with a 23 year life in the Army).

    I know Tom could write another book on this subject from memory.

    Let's save some money and lives, teach our soldiers correctly together with good equipment and then they can see the over-23 mark.

    Regards, Stan

  11. #31
    Stan Reber
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    Default Another 1,500 dollar course

    I attended an ITI anti-terrorism course in West Point, VA. An old airport, runway, etc. 4 plus days of intense driving, shooting and training. All designed around my next assignment.

    Now this was a course to spend time and money on.

    Little did I know, the instructors were watching me from the start. My habits, driving skills, etc. You only meet all of them on the last day when you do or do not graduate.

    They spend a great deal of time telling you how the DATT to Egypt died and why it was such a waste. Then they teach you how to get out of that situation, be it in a car on the way back from work, or going to a watering hole.

    This is not cultural training, but a simple and effective tool combined with your common sense which will save you butt.

    I use some of this to this day and teach the same.

    Regards, Stan

  12. #32
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default Culture, Training, and Mindset

    Stan,

    We did the one day version of that; it was fun and I had a blast. But I noticed that my instructor seemed familiar and I just could not place him until I put the car into deliberate skid and ran over some of the spray heads. he came somewhat unglued and started yelling. It triggered a memory. I stopped the car, looked at his last name, and asked, "Is your first name, Angel?" He looked surprised and nodded. Next question was, "were you in the 82d in 1978?" Again a nod, yes. "Were you in the 313th CEWI?" Another nod, yes. "Were you in the GS company?" When he nodded yes, I for the first time yelled back, " Well I was your G$# D&^%$## executive officer so quit friggin yelling!" At that stage he looked at me and said, "Lieutenant Odom?" We both started laughing and the rest of the day was a blast. Turns out he had left my unit for SOF as I went down on the street as an S2. Nevertheless the training was well worth it. It prepared me for driving with you

    My other favorite was the High risk Personnel Shooting Course at Quantico; No BS involved all run by 4 Marine NCOs and we fired some 4000 rounds of 9MM in 4 days.

    Least favorite was the official FTX phase of the course as it too involved cookie cutter solutions to all possible conflict situations. I made the "notoriety" list because I acted as I planned to act in Zaire and stood up to aggressive role players when the school solution called for being nice nice. Such behavior--the accomodating nice person--in Zaire equates to inviting trouble.

    You get the same kind of "one size fits all" approach down range. Sometimes it arrives from CONUS. Stan and I had difficulty convincing a security inspector from DC at one stage that putting alarms on our houses in Kinshasa was not a good idea; a wailing burglar alarm was very much like a "Blue light Special" in K mart. You were simply asking for more looters to show up. To the guy's credit, he eventually believed us; he had made the mistake of coming in unannounced at NDjili airport and spent several hours under the control of "security" folks there. After that experience, he developed a more open mind. Sometimes it resides in country. Some RSOs, some FSOs, and some FAOs can be the most culturally obtuse folks in the world. We had an assistant RSO get robbed at gunpoint by the FAZ security forces near his residence when he decided to walk his dog at midnight. Stan and I had been reporting for weeks that these same troops had been killing currency exchange mamas in broad daylight. And here was an assistant regional security officer walking his dog at midnight. Our DCM with nearly 8 years total in country still regarded what happened in Gombe--the area we lived in--somehow magically protected from the lesser fortunate areas of the city. Our Charge actually remarked the refugee crisis in the east of the country would be over in 2 weeks and was most irritated when he too had to go to Goma for a few days (he did not stay long). I had to send my counterpart from across the river back home during the refugee festival when he irritated the French so badly in Bukavu that they accused him of spying. he later became VP Gore's advisor on Africa. And finally, my replacement arrived in country and proceeded to simply report what ever the Zairian military had to say as fact, kinda like a protoype of Baghdad Bob. In this case, she insisted that the former Rwanda military and the militias in the camps were not training and that the Zairian military was in control.

    All of this rambling does have a point; you cannot train experience in cultural awareness. It has to be experienced. You can however train to keep an open mind just as you train a scout to really look at what is happening and you can provide basic survival tools. The final ingredient, however, is the individual. The individual has to open his own mind, analyze the results, and react accordingly. Too many folks just put on blinders or rose colored glasses.

    best

    Tom

  13. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom
    ...All of this rambling does have a point; you cannot train experience in cultural awareness...
    Back in '98, after having worked a decade as an Arabic speaking MI guy, with plenty of time spent in-country, my branch manager attempted to get me to re-language into Chinese Mandarin. His point was that AD was "overstrength and declining in importance" (real funny now, eh?) and CM was the future.

    To your point Tom, I tried to explain that professionally, it went way beyond language skills, and required a complete AOR reorientation as regards cultural awareness, geopolitical knowledge, and all the tiny local idiosyncrasies that one picks up over many years of working in different countries. With a change of that magnitude, by the time I was at a comparable level in CM - if I could ever get to that point - I'd be retiring.

    However, I did say I'd be willing to accept a Farsi slot - seeming as how that was more or less a second language within the same AOR - but branch didn't seem to think that was a good idea.

    What my bit of rambling boils down to, is that the Big Army tends to care less about appropriate skills and experience than it does with simply filling slots with available bodies. If it works out, great. If not, well, hell, the guy will PCS/re-deploy eventually, and maybe the next guy will do better....

  14. #34
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    exactly Jed and that is the problem; this issue brings out the cynic in me because I listened to the same kind of bureaucratic nonsense for years

    now it is fashionable via Power Point to use trite and non-achievable bullets such as "every soldier a (fill in the blank)" when the folks writing the bullets are clueless about what that actually means, know that they are clueless, and more pointedly don't care--because they are playing to an audience driven by the key issue of making life simple for the decision maker, all in the interest in promoting their own fortunes.

    case in point--I am sure that that personnel ghuru that advocated making you a chinese linguist got promoted because the way to get promoted is getting "select" postions and the best way to do that is work assignments, not actually perform the role of the folks you are "handling"

    best

    Tom

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