|
|
|
|
The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • LV Times columnist: Cultural barriers exist for international military students

    • email print
  • The new Command and General Staff College class at Fort Leavenworth has been off and running for a couple of weeks now. There is no new country among the almost 70 countries represented from around the world.
    But, as usual, there are always unusual attendees with other “firsts.” Our family is proud to sponsor two countries, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, central Asian countries that border each other and were former provinces of the Soviet Union.
    The student from Kyrgyzstan is the first officer from his country’s border guards to attend CGSC, and the one from Tajikistan is the second student and first student from the army, as the first one was a National Guard officer.
    The arrival of the new international military students always causes me to reflect on those we’ve known in past years and humorous anecdotes they engendered.
    Since all instruction at CGSC is in English, all international students must pass one or more English tests, if English is not their country’s official language, before they come to the fort.
    If they don’t pass the initial one at the U.S. Embassy in their country, they must attend English language classes at the Defense Language Institute at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.
    I’ve never had it explained what type classes are at the Language Institute, or how long a student must attend. We sponsored the first student from Turkmenistan, a former Soviet republic, who spent a whole year at the institute before coming here.
    As I understood his circumstance, he kept being recycled due to failing the final exam, over and over for a year.
    He finally passed, but even on arrival his English was not strong. His family was to join him, so he needed a car. He studied the driver’s manual, and when I took him to take the test he passed with flying colors.
    But, when the clerk told him she needed $12 for the license, he had only $11. He turned to me and asked “Sir, can you borrow me a dollar?”
    The sponsor guide tells sponsors never to lend an international student money, but says nothing about “borrowing” them a dollar. So, I borrowed him one which, incidentally, he never “loaned” back. Not a problem.
    Although I’m not a linguist, I know English is not one of the easiest languages to learn.  In what other language do people drive on parkways and park on driveways? Where else is a boxing ring square, but all other rings are round?
    Where else is there light when the stars are out, but darkness when the lights are out? I could go on and on, but I suspect most readers see my point.
    Page 2 of 2 - So, the military takes care of the students, but what about spouses and families who do not speak English? A couple of organizations step in to assist admirably with that challenge.
    The Leavenworth-Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce sponsors an English as a Second Language class taught by volunteers, many of whom are former school teachers. Kids take classes also, and school-aged ones are reasonably ready when school starts.  
    Back to the family from Turkmenistan. The wife spent a year here and never learned enough to answer the telephone. The 4-year-old daughter learned little also, but by Christmas the first-grade daughter sounded like a first-grade Kansas girl when she answered the phone.
    Readers can get prepared to be bombarded by the Chamber of Commerce with pleas to volunteer to be a sponsor, as the class coming next June will be twice the size of any previous class.
    More than 100 sponsors will be needed. Start thinking about submitting those applications.         

        calendar