Approximately 25 foreign attachés from all around the world toured the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) on Tuesday, May 17.
The visit was part of the attachés’ annual spring tour that this year focused on Navy-Marine Corps and Joint Commands in the western United States.
The senior foreign military officers, most of who work in their respective embassies in Washington, were exposed to major cultural, industrial, governmental, and historical aspects of the United States during their travels.
Col. Danial D. Pick, commandant DLIFLC, spoke to the foreign attachés upon their arrival, reinforcing the importance of teaching language through culturally-based instruction.
“We have an extraordinary breadth and depth of knowledge here in our faculty. The vast majority [of faculty] are native speakers of the languages [they teach]. They come from the country where the language is spoken, so they bring with them a deep, deep reservoir, not only of linguistic knowledge but also cultural knowledge; historical knowledge, and they pass that on in both a structured form and a not so structured form,” said Pick.
Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Lemmons, Navy Director of International Engagement, was among several escorts who accompanied the visitors during their tour, providing an opportunity for the Department of the Navy to extend courtesies on par with those given to U.S. Navy attachés abroad.
Lemmons observed classroom instruction along with several of the attachés, and was awed by the current technology used to teach language.
“Today I saw a much expanded, online, interactive, distributed way of increasing language aptitude,” said Lemmons. “And I was very impressed [by], not only what I saw in the mid-term and the later-term students but what I saw in the…instructors’ ability to adapt and embrace this new technology.”
Lemmons also had praise for the students and their ability to utilize the technology. “The material you have access to and the speed in which you know how to access it is pretty impressive.”
Another aspect of DLIFLC’s transformation and modernization is the Institute’s plans to switch from a military network to an academic network.
“We teach a lot of material in a very short period of time…what you would learn here, in the basic course, would take years and years and years of college study to replicate. So it’s just a very compressed, intensified learning environment,” explained Pick. “We are expanding this capability by pursuing an academic network…which will allow us to be a bit more flexible, in terms of our educational mission.”
Sgt. Noah Mott, who has been studying Dari at DLIFLC for approximately ten months, demonstrated to the visitors some of the new innovations in language study, and the speed and availability in which students are able to access study materials on an academic network.
“The comparison, hands down, is so much faster and so much better, and any linguist could tell you that the more exposure that you get to the language the better off that you are,” Remarked Mott.
Though the majority of the foreign attachés were Navy, other service components were represented. Denmark’s Air Force Lt. Col. Jan Kristensen, who visited the classrooms with Lemmons, had the opportunity to see his fellow compatriots demonstrate negotiation techniques in Dari.
“I’m very impressed. We just witnessed a class of four Danish students conducting a role-play of negotiations in Dari,” said Kristensen. “They were very language proficient, and also very proficient in gestures as well. It was actually almost like watching someone – a local from Afghanistan.”
While speaking to the visitors, Pick emphasized the need to keep up with the students’ enthusiasm and technological abilities, and had much to say about the new technology that is making a significant difference in the way students study language and the speed at which they are able to acquire information.
“Our curriculum is evolving very rapidly, and practices in the classroom are allowing students to see knowledge in ways, that frankly, blow my mind,” Pick commented. “The students have an appetite for and a comfort with technology in the classroom and learning environment…We are challenged as an institute to train our faculty and enable the learning environment to meet that knowledge level.”
Text and Photos: 1st LT Scott Ghiringhelli, StratComm