Thursday, April 2, 2009

Language Emerges as Element of National Security

Language Emerges as Element of National Security

By Tim Kilbride
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 31, 2009 – Language and culture are “almost inextricably intertwined,” and military personnel must be knowledgeable in both to be fully effective when operating overseas, the director of a military language school said.

Army Col. Sue Ann Sandusky, commandant of the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, told bloggers and online journalists during a March 30 “DoD Live” bloggers roundtable that the DLI directly supports military commanders by instructing servicemembers in the foreign languages that regional combatant commands identify as mission-essential.

“We are the primary deliverer of military culturally-based language training,” Sandusky said of the Monterey, Calif., school.

The school was established in secret just prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941. Since then, it has been perceived as a resource specific to the intelligence and translation military career fields, but in fact it also serves the needs of the “general-purpose forces,” Sandusky said.

Educating the general service has been a major growth area for DLI since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, she noted.

DLI teaches 24 foreign languages in Monterey, Sandusky said. Instruction in additional languages is available elsewhere through contracted programs.

A separate school, the Defense Language Institute English Language Center in San Antonio, teaches English mostly to foreign officers who come to train in U.S. schools. The Air Force administers that program.

“We're driven by the requirements of the services,” Sandusky said. “They come up with their requirements based on the assessments of the different areas of operation, … coming up with what you might call a strategic language list, and then passing specific requirements for training down to DLI.”

For mission success, learning about the cultures they will be operating in is as important to servicemembers as learning the languages, Sandusky said.

“Culture is both implicit and explicit in our curriculum,” Sandusky explained. “[It is] explicit in the sense that we have area studies and culture courses … delivered in the target language, so they're learning about the history, politics, geography, culture, ceremonies, art [and] literature in the target language in the course. … And the implicit part is our instructors come from the cultures where the language is used.”

Having native speakers from the target countries work as instructors means they bring into the classroom “culture at many different levels, from the behavioral dos and don'ts to food, film, music, art, artifacts, up to the more abstract sort of frames of reference: definitions of culture, the understanding of beauty and evil and authority and obligation - all of those deep-culture concepts that are arising from the same sort of impulses that the language itself arises from,” Sandusky said.

“We see language and culture as very intertwined -- almost inextricably intertwined -- and we handle them together right from Day 1,” Sandusky said...

Makes perfect sense to me! Read the rest of this at Defenselink here.

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