We have one of the most elite and technologically advanced military services in the world, and our Servicemembers are the most highly trained anywhere. But one of the items that were illustrated with the advent of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom is the need for native speaking Servicemembers. The need to speak the language has never been as necessary, nor has the ongoing shortages of trained language personnel been as evident.
The U.S. Army has a special training facility, the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center. It is a center devoted to training and teaching various languages, in both ability to speak and the ability to read and comprehend a different language. Located in the historic Presidio at Monterey, the school is very specialized and teaches various languages. There are twenty-two different languages that a student may study, which vary in difficulty. The schools are situated about sixty miles south of San Francisco and trains linguists for the Military, as well as select other organizations. A few students are trained for allies and other governments, as well as training linguists for other U. S. Federal and State agencies.
The length of study for the various languages vary from languages such as Italian, or French, which are thought of as Category One Languages to more difficult Category Six languages such as Farsi or Arabic. Category One language courses last twenty-five weeks, while the other end of the spectrum Category Six languages are sixty-three weeks long. The language school is fairly large, it has a staff of thirteen hundred, and with one thousand staff members being college educated speakers civilians who speak the language they teach as a native. The other three hundred staff members are specialized military language instructors that teach duty and mission specific type instruction. There is also about four hundred additional military support staff that helps out at any given time in support and administration duties.
Teams of five or six instructors teach up to thirty students, in sections of ten students each. The classes are small, instructors use smart boards; satellite TV, the Internet and other technological based delivery methods to supplement one on one instruction. Each of the language students has a MP3 player that is issued to them, to play back and record important and key learning concepts.
“The students who enter our language school don’t get to select which of the languages to study,” said Dr Stephen Payne. Dr Payne is Vice Chancellor for the Language school. “Students are tested using the Defense Language Aptitude Battery, and placed depending on aptitude, and needs of the service,” said Dr. Payne.