News / USA

US Military's Language School Draws Positive Attention

Reza Allahyari
MONTEREY, California — The U.S. Defense Language Institute, or DLI, is one of the largest language schools in the world. It was established to provide linguistic and cultural instruction to the Defense Department and other Federal Agencies. Today, the Institute’s Foreign Language Center [DLIFLC] has 26 Language Training Detachments, supporting different types of missions worldwide.

It is hard to believe that the young U.S. military service members at the school are speaking the most difficult language in the world - Mandarin - fluently.

They're among about 3,500 students who are learning 24 different languages at the Defense Language Institute’s Foreign Language Center - located in Monterey, California, a small city on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

Targeting language, culture

And because of DLI's success, there is interest in expanding the concept - to provide support for the growing needs of the U.S. Defense Department, equipping service members with basic language and cultural skills for missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Dr. Donald Fischer, the Center’s Provost, said DLI is different from any other language school in the world because of the cost and length of the learning period.

“For one thing it is free. Our students are about 18 to 22 years old and enlisted in military service, and then they are admitted to Defense Language Institute to study a language," he said. "The length of courses may range from six months for a language that is a fairly easy language for a speaker of English to learn, to 15 months for the languages like Arabic, Chinese, Korean and Japanese. For Persian [Farsi] for example the length of the course is 47 weeks.”  

And some are even longer. Instructor Ching-Lin Lee said it takes 64 weeks to complete the course in Mandarin - one of the most difficult languages for American students.  

“Students, most of them I think, they still are able overcome the difficulties," said Ching-Lin Lee. "It is very challenging task here for us, for students and teachers. But actually it is fun to learn and to teach a foreign language at this kind of difficulty."

Small and focused

The class sizes are small, containing about six to 10 students. DLI currently has 2,250 faculty members, but Fischer said he is short of Farsi instructors.

“We have about 150 at the current time and we need more,” he said.

Shakiba Badihi began teaching Farsi at the DLI in 2000. She said the new students have almost no clue about the language and must start from very beginning.

"Our students do not know anything about Farsi language and Iran and where it is located, on their arrival.  We start teaching them from alphabet of Farsi language and down the road they get familiar with Persian culture, and also national and religious holidays,” she said.

In 2009, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then Commander of the International Forces in Afghanistan, ordered every platoon in his command to have at least one leader who could speak Dari.  

By the next year, the U.S. Army had begun using a DLI pre-deployment program called “Rapport” as mandatory training for all soldiers traveling to Iraq or Afghanistan. The entire Defense Department now has made the training mandatory for all of its personnel. The online training lasts approximately six hours and includes cultural orientation, as well as basic phrases and military terminology.

You May Like

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More