Fort Huachuca’s Command Sgt. Maj., Todd Holiday, of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Military Intelligence Corps in Arizona, toured the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) and Presidio of Monterey (POM) April 4 and 5.
Having returned from Afghanistan just a week prior to his visit, Holiday said he was impressed by the size of the Institute and savviness of students who use state-of-the-art technology as tools to enhance their ability to rapidly learn a target language.
“Language and culture is very important. Cultural awareness is key to success out there (Afghanistan). If you can understand where they are coming from and can read the graffiti on the walls, you have an advantage,” said Holiday.
Accompanied by DLIFLC’s Command Sgt. Maj. Tracey Bellotte, Holiday observed a 64-week basic Pashto course, where a Marine captain and class leader, briefed him on the mechanics of language learning and curriculum students use. Students took turns explaining the technology and programs they use in the classroom, from Tablet PCs with an electronic stylus pen for writing non-Latin script, to iPods, issued to students for recording and listening to authentic materials.
“So, do you learn slang here in the classroom? I am sure there is vocabulary that the locals use that is not in your books,” questioned Holiday, adding that the only language he was “good at…periodically,” was English, causing students to laugh.
“Yes we do teach the local dialect. There is a lot of vocabulary that is generational and new. They (students) practice by listening to authentic video clips of Afghan interactions,” explained Pashto instructor Dad Salim.
Holiday also met with members of the 229th Military Intelligence Battalion, during which time he toured Bravo Company, and finally had an opportunity to speak with service senior enlisted leaders.
Text and photo by Natela Cutter, Strategic Communications