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Thread: Language and Cultural Awareness Transformation

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    Default Language and Cultural Awareness Transformation

    ...rather than drop this in to the thread that has struck off debating Krepinevich's piece, I felt it deserved its own place, as it presents his and others' viewpoints on this issue. To put it simply, please continue to use the other thread to debate the need for a balance between COIN vs HIC training for the force, but use this thread for discussion of the most effective (and operationally practical) method of implementing the ideal of language and cultural capabilities as presented to the committee.

    9 Jul 08 testimony before the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee on Defense Language and Cultural Awareness Transformation:

    Richard Brecht, Center for Advanced Study of Language, University of Maryland
    Summary Conclusions and Recommendations

    • The end state is a “globalized total force,” with defined organic capabilities supported by force multipliers based on outsourcing, localization, and reach-back.

    • The core to this capability, the Defense Language Transformation Roadmap (DLTR), must be completed and its funding and programs maintained or enhanced.

    • Successful recruitment depends ultimately on vastly improved language education at the K-12 level, and the DoD should continue to support and serve as the “bully pulpit” for improvement in the nation’s schools, colleges, and universities.

    • A national coordination point for language, similar to the Office for Science and Technology Policy, should be created in the White House and charged to provide guidance in integrating the national architecture upon which this end state depends.

    • A network-based language and culture resource access system should be developed that is capable of locating and providing needed language and cultural resources anytime and anywhere, leveraging the extensive USG investments in language and culture as well the resources of academe, industry, and the nation’s heritage communities.

    • A concentrated effort should be made in the areas of African and Asian languages and cultures.

    • Finally, a short term solution should be a priority, specifically the creation of the. network-based language and culture resource access system.
    Andrew F. Krepinevich, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments
    ....given the overwhelming success of our ground forces in conventional warfare operations, and the shift of rival militaries and nonstate entities toward irregular warfare, orienting 48 active Army brigades, 28 National Guard brigades, and three Marine Corps divisions primarily on conventional warfare operations would appear to reflect a desire to prepare for the kinds of challenges we would prefer to confront, rather than those we will most likely encounter.....
    Montgomery McFate, Joint Advanced Warfighting Division, Institute for Defense Analyses
    ....For any of these solutions to be sustainable beyond the immediate conflicts, they should be rationalized, coordinated and institutionalized. Otherwise, the capabilities will be lost and will have to be rebuilt yet again....
    Amy Zalman, SAIC
    ....Very loosely, here are some of the practical steps toward cultural and linguistic transformation. Although I have primarily folded foreign language learning into the broader cultural awareness rubric today, it is probable that there are supporting activities related only to the special activity of language acquisition that should be undertaken.

    • Develop a cultural and linguistic awareness transformation strategy.

    • Conduct a Cultural Awareness Training and Education Audit for Congress.

    • Find a home base for cultural awareness and linguistic transformation planning, or create room for one within existing organizational structures.

    • Design and test a requisite first "layer" of cultural awareness learning that will be required of all military members in the future.

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    The language issue alone is a huge hurdle. AFROTC came out with language requirements a couple of years back, and then had to scale them down when they discovered that more than a few universities didn't offer two year foreign language programs. The list of targeted languages was also disconnected from what is offered at universities, let alone the K-12 level. How many places offer courses in Tagalog, for example? We're lucky where I am if we get kids who have some Spanish or French, with German or Japanese an outside chance. My prior university had a much more robust foreign language program, but even there you were pushing it to get past the "big three" with Russian, Japanese, and Arabic thrown in for good measure.

    Some schools do offer other languages, but at nowhere near the depth to meet even scaled-back scholarship requirements. This school now has Arabic and some Chinese, but no more than two semesters worth. And often the courses focus on language and not so much on culture (and often not any regional history or background). My old school did have a blended language curriculum (with cultural, literature, and historical studies thrown in), but only for a few languages. And again that doesn't even touch the K-10 level. And for the most part improvement isn't going to come without a major infusion of funding.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
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    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    To begin with, I have never really understood the fascination that some have with language training. Here in the SOF community we have been dealing with that mess for years. It is not all that it is cracked up to be. In order for language training to be truly useful it is very time intensive, more time than most leaders can afford to spend on it. A few words are nice to know for certain situations but that isn't going to cut it for anything complex and may even be counter-productive. Nothing will beat having a good terp and I realize that there are not enough of those to go around but I really don't believe that spending the time and resources to bring squad leaders up to the kind of proficiency that is needed to have any sort of meaningful dialog in the absence of a terp is going to pay off.

    As for trying to push language down to K-12, well I will be happy if they can consistently start teaching our children to read and write in English, never mind a foreign language. Besides, as Steve pointed out, you aren't going to get much in the way of variety in these language programs. I went to a private school where we had a relatively robust language program, meaning we had German, French and Latin. My family is in Pueblo Colorado now and the only language that is taught in any of the public schools there, as far as I know, is Spanish. None of that is really going to be all that useful. Latin is useless, German won't help unless the Germans start feeling froggy again , French may have some utility in Africa and I don't think that the military has ever suffered a shortage of Spanish speakers. Language programs tend to be the first thing to get cut out of the budget when it comes time to tighten the budgetary belt. Trying to get schools to ADD language programs, particularly in languages that are very difficult like Arabic or Chinese is probably a bridge to far, and that's assuming that sufficient instructors in those languages could be found.

    SFC W

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    To begin with, I have never really understood the fascination that some have with language training. Here in the SOF community we have been dealing with that mess for years. It is not all that it is cracked up to be. In order for language training to be truly useful it is very time intensive, more time than most leaders can afford to spend on it. A few words are nice to know for certain situations but that isn't going to cut it for anything complex and may even be counter-productive. Nothing will beat having a good terp and I realize that there are not enough of those to go around but I really don't believe that spending the time and resources to bring squad leaders up to the kind of proficiency that is needed to have any sort of meaningful dialog in the absence of a terp is going to pay off.
    Understanding one's ability to comprehend languages and cultures is indeed fascinating. You'll never appreciate it til you witness first-hand just how much that ability can save your Alpha (when you most need it). Using terps is a mixed bag, and best left to those who truly understand the culture (there's little pay off if the terp is communicating via his/her culture (no matter how much we're paying) - the one you don't comprehend).

    Language and cultural training is certainly time consuming and definitely won't be productive overnight. There's no proficiency lessons in the USA - gotta get on the ground and practice under fire.

    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    Latin is useless, German won't help unless the Germans start feeling froggy again , French may have some utility in Africa and I don't think that the military has ever suffered a shortage of Spanish speakers. Language programs tend to be the first thing to get cut out of the budget when it comes time to tighten the budgetary belt. Trying to get schools to ADD language programs, particularly in languages that are very difficult like Arabic or Chinese is probably a bridge to far, and that's assuming that sufficient instructors in those languages could be found.
    Gotta disagree with you here. Latin is the base of most languages to include Estonian. Without a basic understanding of English however, the rest will merely be Greek. The educational system we have is broken and weak, and pushing some foreign language at an early age will not only increase interest, but will increase our next generation's ability to learn and adapt to new cultures.

    Check out Inlingua in Arlington. There are far more language institutes and instructors around than meet the eye.
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    Latin is only a very distant ancestors of modern languages, mostly French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.
    To learn any of these languages provides the same basis to have it easier learning others.

    French is relevant because the French are not much inclined to learn English but still allies and because a third of Africa understands French.
    Spanish is relevant because of Latin America and because it's similar to Portuguese, which is understood in some African countries.

    Russian is well understood at the NATO's Eastern frontier and Arabic at NATO's southern frontier.
    Americans might want to learn Chinese because of their assistance obligations in the Northwestern Pacific, but the other NATO troops should focus on English, Russian, Arabic, French and Spanish - in that order.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stan View Post
    Understanding one's ability to comprehend languages and cultures is indeed fascinating. You'll never appreciate it til you witness first-hand just how much that ability can save your Alpha (when you most need it). Using terps is a mixed bag, and best left to those who truly understand the culture (there's little pay off if the terp is communicating via his/her culture (no matter how much we're paying) - the one you don't comprehend).
    I agree, in principle but...

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan View Post
    Language and cultural training is certainly time consuming and definitely won't be productive overnight. There's no proficiency lessons in the USA - gotta get on the ground and practice under fire.
    Is it going to be productive enough to spend all the time and resources to get every leader proficient in it (an extremely unlikely scenario given the number of people who lack either the aptitude or the interest to become proficient)? When I went through the Q course, Arabic was a six month course of eight hour days, five days a week. At the end of that time the students were expected to achieve a 0+/0+ to graduate. Most struggled to meet that goal. Some did excel but most were back to a 0+/0+ within a year because we simply do not have the time it takes to maintain proficiency, and that's the guys who have deployed to Iraq. If they have not then it is even harder.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan View Post
    Gotta disagree with you here. Latin is the base of most languages to include Estonian. Without a basic understanding of English however, the rest will merely be Greek. The educational system we have is broken and weak, and pushing some foreign language at an early age will not only increase interest, but will increase our next generation's ability to learn and adapt to new cultures.
    This is the exact argument that my parents used when they made me take two years of Latin high school. I can honestly say that it was two years of my life that I will never have back.

    SFC W

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    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    Is it going to be productive enough to spend all the time and resources to get every leader proficient in it (an extremely unlikely scenario given the number of people who lack either the aptitude or the interest to become proficient)? When I went through the Q course, Arabic was a six month course of eight hour days, five days a week. At the end of that time the students were expected to achieve a 0+/0+ to graduate. Most struggled to meet that goal. Some did excel but most were back to a 0+/0+ within a year because we simply do not have the time it takes to maintain proficiency, and that's the guys who have deployed to Iraq. If they have not then it is even harder.
    To be fair, successful language training begins long after graduation and requires a significant amount of cultural experience if one is to master the Colloquial versions (at least with me). I don't mean the ability to manage 2,000 words and some dirty phrases.

    The folks studying Serbo-Croatian in Arlington were pressed into service within 15 weeks, and I was pushed to learn Estonian in less than 13 weeks (both are 45 to 50 weeks at FSI and DLI). I've worked with so many Officers (FAOs) and SF NCOs that managed not only colloquial fluency, but managed to maintain 2 or even 3 secondary languages. I think if we start now, we'll be better off down the road.

    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    This is the exact argument that my parents used when they made me take two years of Latin high school. I can honestly say that it was two years of my life that I will never have back.

    SFC W
    I guess it's different for everyone. Between listening to Swiss German as a child to studying German in HS, I conclude it has really helped me with my other languages (some of which I literally learned in the bush).

    Regards, Stan
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Americans might want to learn Chinese because of their assistance obligations in the Northwestern Pacific, but the other NATO troops should focus on English, Russian, Arabic, French and Spanish - in that order.
    Hi Fuchs,

    On the whole, I would agree with the rank order. Personally, I would like to see Latin as one of the basic languages taught (it's the root of six modern languages: French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Romanian, and Romanche) along with English (especially grammar!). Other basic ones, IMO, should be French, German and Mandarin (NB: there is no such spoken language as "Chinese", only a written one). BTW, by "basic", I mean starting in kindergarten.

    Marc
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    Default Agree on languages, but...

    we also should look at the cultural and historical contexts of those languages and the people that speak and/or write them. And that will be a HUGE hurdle in this country given the lack of emphasis (and value) placed on history in this country. Cultural studies tends to float back and forth, and often crawls up without context. It will be a MAJOR change at most education levels...and we (sadly) may never see it.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
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    We can do all training in languages that we like however as a matter of practicality we need to look at the areas that most likely will be hot spots and focus on those languages. That is really the best we can do.

    We really have focused on conventional warfare for the last 50 years. We need to have a military flexible enough to address the demands of a conventional war and person skills (culture, language, tradition, custom) needed to effectively counter an insurgency.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Darksaga View Post
    We can do all training in languages that we like however as a matter of practicality we need to look at the areas that most likely will be hot spots and focus on those languages. That is really the best we can do.

    We really have focused on conventional warfare for the last 50 years. We need to have a military flexible enough to address the demands of a conventional war and person skills (culture, language, tradition, custom) needed to effectively counter an insurgency.
    First and foremost, Welcome Aboard !

    Concur with you, however... concentrating on or determining a potential hot spot and then spooling up language and cultural training is a non-starter. We can and should be better prepared. The folks in Kosovo as an example, are only now at peak proficiency (having began Serbo training in 94 and 95).

    I think the FAO program is an excellent example of preparing cross-cultural skills, by training and placing our experts into many diverse cultures without a 100% focus on a regional hot spot. Those individuals often are our eyes and ears, and diplomats at ground zero and having them switch gears and move into another culture is far easier than starting a soldier from dead zilch. You're right, it is also a question of personal skills and some just won't cut the mustard.
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    We're still trying to figure out the right mix; big C, little L and so on. SOFLO is only interested in projects that get to 1+ on the language side of the house while JFCOM is working on culture. SOCOM has had some pretty good results with SOFTS.

    We are about a week away from getting delivery of DLPT-1 Tactical Iraqi. This was a drive from CG MCIA, he has linked FLP-1 (spoken & listening) pay ($100.00 monthly). His intent is to reward Marines that go the extra step for language.

    I think the CMRS is the right direction to go for Corps wide learning:

    http://www.tecom.usmc.mil/caocl/Regi...ies/region.asp

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    10 Sep 08 testimony before the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee on Transforming the U.S. Military’s Foreign Language, Cultural Awareness, and Regional Expertise Capabilities:

    Gail H. McGinn, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Plans)/Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness)

    BG Gary Patton, Senior Language Authority, Office of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff/J-1

    BG Dick Lake, Director of Intelligence USMC

    RADM Daniel Holloway, Director, Military Personnel Plans and Policy Division (OPNAV N13)

    Joseph McDade, Director, Force Development (HAF/AID)/Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower and Personnel USAF

    BG Richard Longo, Director of Training, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-3/5/7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    10 Sep 08 testimony before the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee on Transforming the U.S. Military’s Foreign Language, Cultural Awareness, and Regional Expertise Capabilities:

    Gail H. McGinn, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Plans)/Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness)

    BG Gary Patton, Senior Language Authority, Office of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff/J-1

    BG Dick Lake, Director of Intelligence USMC

    RADM Daniel Holloway, Director, Military Personnel Plans and Policy Division (OPNAV N13)

    Joseph McDade, Director, Force Development (HAF/AID)/Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower and Personnel USAF

    BG Richard Longo, Director of Training, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-3/5/7

    I would like to know the language skills of each of these senior leaders and managers. It has been my consistent observation over the years that those who are charged with maintaining language and cultural skills have none and therefore have no base line for understanding what it really takes to develop and actually maintain those skills.

    Tom

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    I would like to know the language skills of each of these senior leaders and managers. It has been my consistent observation over the years that those who are charged with maintaining language and cultural skills have none and therefore have no base line for understanding what it really takes to develop and actually maintain those skills.

    Tom
    I couldn't have worded it better...

    DEFENSE LANGUAGE TRANSFORMATION ROADMAP


    Goal 3 Establish a Cadre of Language Professionals Possessing an
    Interagency Roundtable Proficiency of 3/3/3 in
    Reading/Listening/Speaking. Address Language Requirements
    (Below 3/3/3 Ability)
    Who exactly determines that based on a congressional language aptitude of 0+/0+/0+ in DC lingo?

    Didn't they just recently chop the legs out from under our PME ?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stan View Post
    I've worked with so many Officers (FAOs) and SF NCOs that managed not only colloquial fluency, but managed to maintain 2 or even 3 secondary languages.
    I have been in SF for a while now and with a few rare exceptions, the only guys I have known who had anything approaching fluency in anything other than English either A) had English as a second language or B) were married to someone who had English as a second language. As I stated there were a few exceptions but they are few and far between. I understand the desire for for more fluent speakers, I just haven't heard any workable plans to get significantly more people fluent.


    Quote Originally Posted by Stan View Post
    I guess it's different for everyone. Between listening to Swiss German as a child to studying German in HS, I conclude it has really helped me with my other languages (some of which I literally learned in the bush).

    Regards, Stan
    I'm not sure what that has to do with Latin, which is what the original post that this was in response to was about.



    SFC W

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    I have been in SF for a while now and with a few rare exceptions, the only guys I have known who had anything approaching fluency in anything other than English either A) had English as a second language or B) were married to someone who had English as a second language. As I stated there were a few exceptions but they are few and far between. I understand the desire for for more fluent speakers, I just haven't heard any workable plans to get significantly more people fluent.
    Different regions, occupations and crowd I guess? Although I agree with version B, during my DAS days both here and in Africa, I knew many folks from the SF and Ranger crowd that spoke foreign languages and don't fit into either A or B. Other than the Army's FAO program and the DAS, I also have not seen any real attempts to get folks proficient.

    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    I'm not sure what that has to do with Latin, which is what the original post that this was in response to was about.
    SFC W
    As opined below and echoed by others, my point was it has more to do with studying any foreign language at an early age, which provides a base for learning others. I don't think that's a generalization -- there's sufficient evidence to prove it among foreign language speakers from any culture.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    ... To learn any of these languages provides the same basis to have it easier learning others.

    Regards, Stan
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    I'm pretty lucky in my wife is German. I know when I'm in trouble when I start getting yelled at in German!

    I've tried doing the Rosetta Stone program which the Army touts as the be all end all answer to our need for langague adept soldiers. It wasn't a bad tool but in no way could compete with working with the locals. On my first advisor gig in 2004 (pre-Rosetta Stone), I worked not only with my interpreter to pick up a few additional Iraqi phrases a day but with the soldiers I interacted with daily. The soldiers did not need to know a word of english and I obviously didn't understand much Iraqi. However, by some simple friendly gestures, hand signs and repetition, I picked up numerous words and phrases from just trying to talk with the soldiers. I found they wanted to try and learn English just as much as I wanted to try and learn Arabic.

    Having the background and experience (7 years of German in school and 7 years living in Germany) in another language definately helped me pick up more of the Arabic quicker than some of my peers who had no other langauge ability. However, being able to understand parts of a language (which I think is the most we can expect out of our soldiers and leaders) clearly does not equate to cultural awareness. Many people get the two confused...often with ugly results.

    Thanks for all the testimony. I thought Tom's comments on what the presenter's language abilities actually are was very interesting to ponder.
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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    If anyone is going to the IUS Canada conference (RMC in Kingston, Nov 7-9th), there is going to be a workshop on cultural training in the military that will probably look at a lot of these problems (it's being organized by Kerry Fosher). There is also a largish session on the "Culture Turn" in military PME organized by John Hawkins (I'm in that one).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    I have been in SF for a while now and with a few rare exceptions, the only guys I have known who had anything approaching fluency in anything other than English either A) had English as a second language or B) were married to someone who had English as a second language.
    Have you checked with your CLPM? SOFLO produced some pretty good 'language facts' during the SOCOM Language Conference last month at Ft Walton Beach.

    @ Tom, from my limited perspective, I've seen that the culture skills normally outweigh the language skills. I'd be more interested in seeing how much time those people have overseas away from the flagpole.

    Interesting observation from my wife the other day. We were at our kids school talking about Tomas' lower vocabulary skills then the others in the class. I told the teacher that I pretty much expected this becuase he is bi-lingual......I then explained that Czech is the primary spoken language in the house. She asked if I spoke Czech to which I honestly said 'no, I've never been able to learn it,' My wife jumped in an said that I did speak Czech........I still don't think that I can speak it yet a native claims that I can
    Last edited by nichols; 09-16-2008 at 07:03 PM.

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