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03/16/2012
Kazakh language instructor learns new methods
MONTEREY, Calif. – In the military, one comes to expect the unexpected, and an exchange between military schools in Kazakhstan and California is no different.

Every year, a handful of language instructors from the Kazakhstan Military Institute of Foreign Language visits the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) to learn about the latest technology and methods for teaching foreign languages. This year's visit took place during the first full week of March, and included six instructors who teach Chinese, German, Russian, and Turkish.

The Kazakh Institute is Kazakhstan is the equivalent to a combination of DLIFLC and the United States Military Academy. Since 2008, the partnership between DLIFLC and the Kazakhstan Institute has flourished through annual faculty visits and the enrollment of Kazakh cadets in DLI’s English Language Center at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

Getting down to the nitty-gritty of how to share means and methods, Assenowa Gulnar, a native Kazakh who teaches German at the military institute, began her first day with a classroom observation; the following day had her preparing a lesson plan, under the guide of her American counterpart and an academic specialist; and she finished her third day of the exchange by co-teaching a one-hour German class, concluding with a creative exercise. The end result was practical experience gained, and knowledge and insight into how Americans teach and learn differently.

“Today was an example. We watched a film, then we spoke about the reason for the words used in this film, and the students expressed their opinions, and it all worked out,” shared Gulnar after the success of the practical exercise she led.

The main difference in the teaching methods between the two schools lies in the length of study (in the case of German - five years in Kazakhstan versus 36-weeks at DLIFLC), and the use of technology. The Kazakh institute does not have SMART Boards, issue tablet PCs and iPods, or have the availability of a multitude of other media.

However, the real difference felt by Gulnar lies in how the students and teachers interact. “My colleagues and I like the format. They [students] can change their opinions and express their thoughts,” said Gulnar, praising the freedoms of both teachers and students at DLIFLC.

Earlier, Gulnar conveyed her observations with Saliha Murtic, department chair of  Multilanguage School A, who relayed the underlying principle that DLIFLC’s methods are student-centered, while the instruction in Kazakhstan is primarily teacher-centered.

“They don’t have that flexibility, … that freedom for the teacher to be creative and to bring their own authentic material on a regular basis,” explained Murtic, to describe some of the benefits of DLIFLC’s pedagogy.

Before the delegation departed, Murtic put together a packet for Gulnar about the immersions done by the German students at DLIFLC in hopes that Gulnar can use the ideas to continue developing her students’ learning through new teaching methods.   

Story and photos by:

Sgt. 1st Class Rebecca Doucette, Strategic Communications       

Photo 1: (l to r) DLIFLC German instructor Wolfhild Wolf shares her thoughts with Kazakh German instructor Assenowa Gulnar following a skit performed by German students outside the European and Emerging Language School at DLIFLC in Monterey, Calif., March 8. (Army photo by Sergeant First Class Rebecca Doucette) (Released)     

Photo 2: DLIFLC German students and Assenowa Gulnar (in red), a German exchange teacher from Kazakhstan, listen to feedback from German Instructor Wolfhild Wolf, following a skit the students performed outside their classroom at DLIFLC in Monterey, Calif., March 8. (Army photo by Sergeant First Class Rebecca Doucette) (Released)
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