DVIDS – News – Sailors from IWTC Monterey participate in cultural immersion activities

By Sara A. Schmitt, Crypto Technician, Interpretive Lead

MONTEREY, Calif. – At the Defense Language Institute (DLI), Sailors assigned to Information Warfare Training Command (IWTC) Monterey focus on their specialized training in Navy military employment, while also being immersed in their target language lessons, Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

This is the basis of language acquisition. However, many seafarers are in school by 7 a.m., stay until 4 p.m., and attend additional study sessions later in the evening, while completing daily homework and meeting other obligations. Navy training.

You might be wondering how a sailor can be more immersed. Short of going to the target language country, which is almost impossible for a Russian or Farsi student, some sailors have the opportunity to travel to places in the United States and participate in cultural immersions. There they exist in their target language for nearly 12 straight hours a day, seven days a week for two weeks.

“[The Persian-Farsi Schoolhouse] at the IDD offers few opportunities to talk after the school day,” noted a participating sailor. “The immersion offered near-constant speaking practice.”

U.S. Army Sgt. Adam Jones, Military Language Instructor (MLI) and Immersion Chaperone, also noted the difference between the everyday IDD experience and cultural immersion.

“DLI is stressful, and it was clear from the start of immersion how much more [the students] were able to invest in the language when it was learned by participating in fun activities. Whether it was playing ping pong, having lunch, or sitting by a fire with the teachers, there was never a time when the learning didn’t happen.

For nearly two years, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, service members undergoing language training at IDD experienced both an all-virtual learning environment and mask-wearing in the classroom – which most linguists would agree is extremely difficult for initial language learning, especially with the pace of IDD instruction. Meanwhile, all immersion opportunities also remained on hold.

With some light at the end of the tunnel and an almost fully immunized student and staff population, IDD reopened cultural immersion opportunities in April of this year. Since then, several sailors have been able to take advantage of this opportunity not offered to those who were previously undergoing training during the pandemic.

If the first post-COVID immersion was a success, with generally very positive feedback, it was not without problems.

“It could be triple the work and a lot of crisis management, but we managed it,” said Sameera Sharif, immersion specialist at IDD.

Among the challenges, the team had to re-establish relationships with internal and external stakeholders, work with the travel desk, secure COVID testing for flights, manage flight delays and changes, and deal with positive COVID cases. ; immersion specialists really had their work cut out for them.

The Concordia Cultural Immersion Site in Minnesota, a location used by the program since 2018, transforms Minnesota’s North Woods into culturally authentic language villages; naming cabins after important places and dedicating some to culturally relevant activities, such as Russian-style banyas (saunas) and the Bolshoi Theatre. Although authentic, some students pointed out that the accommodations were variable and perhaps a bit too rustic for some.

Meals are always family style with authentic cuisine linked to the target language.

One of the sailors who attended the immersion in April said: “At every meal we talked in Russian about any subject under the sun, and the instructors sat next to us and talked with us. He continued: “At dinner, we would read and discuss answers to the question of the day, tell a joke, tongue twister, give the saying or vocabulary word of the day, and then continue to eat and talk in Russian. ”

With long days and varied challenges, cultural immersion constantly pushes students to step out of their comfort zone and maintain a high level of autonomy and motivation.

“I really can’t say enough about the benefits of participating,” Jones said. “Of course, that’s what you make of it. You have to put in the effort, but if you do, there are a lot of positives to take away.

“The immersion was naturally quite difficult,” said the April student, “but it got easier as the days went by and the brain got used to Russian. It gave me a lot of confidence speaking and it reinvigorated my interest in things to do with the target language, and I have since used much more authentic material and spoken more.

Sharif confirmed by saying, “What I have learned throughout my after action report sessions over six years and over 40 immersions, students are more confident to speak and more motivated. Talking all the time in the target language doesn’t feel like practice, it becomes their language…some students say they dream in the target language.

For some, the experience was so immersive that adjusting both sides of the experience was a bit jarring.

“Being away from my spouse was a challenge,” noted a Farsi student. “Another challenge was adjusting [to being] away from military life and then readapting to military duties, including school life.

Not only does experience provide the benefits that enhance a sailor’s confidence and cultural knowledge, but the numbers don’t lie either. DLI found in a study of Arabic, Chinese and Korean schools that immersion students were 20% more likely to pass the end-of-course language proficiency test, with an additional 10% exceeding standards.

Students and staff at IWTC Monterey continue to move toward normality. Previously, language students were sent to nine different immersions abroad around the world; getting back to that will take time.

“After COVID, due to restrictions, we are only sending overseas students to Korea, Oman and Ecuador in the next two months. In the United States we send them to San Diego and Concordia,” Sharif said.

While returning to the full pre-pandemic cultural immersion program will take time, sailors at IWTC Monterey are excited about the opportunities ahead.

Date taken: 22.06.2022
Date posted: 22.06.2022 08:08
Story ID: 423484

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