Basic Arabic

#1
IraqWar said:
US Marines arming themselves with Arabic
By: Barbara Ferguson • Arab News on: 29.12.2004 [04:31 ] (224 reads)


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SAN DIEGO, 29 December 2004 — It shouldn’t take a genius to realize that US troops being deployed to Iraq needed to be armed with a basic and critical skill — Arabic. Few, if any received language training when first deployed, which resulted in many unfortunate misunderstandings, and even deaths, stemming from an inability to communicate.

Marines returning from duty in Iraq spoke of the difficulties they faced because they were unable to communicate the simplest commands, such as: “Come back tomorrow.” Or, “Have you seen any weapons or anything suspicious?”

As a result, many Marines now being redeployed to Iraq are requesting Arabic language classes.

Commanders have also realized the lack of Arabic language was hurting their Marine’s mission and endangering their men on the ground. Their Marines were being sent to Iraq with a difficult order: To win the war, but also to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi civilians — a difficult task without the ability to speak Arabic.

At Camp LeJeune, the largest Marine base on the East Coast, Maj. Gen. Stephen Johnson, commander of II MEF (Marine Expeditionary Forces) Forward has ordered each infantry squadron to have at least one Marine who speaks rudimentary Arabic before their massive redeployment scheduled in early 2005.

As a result, over 260 Marines are taking Arabic language courses at the nearby Coastal Carolina Community College. The Marines don’t have enough time to become fluent in Arabic, but the aim is that by the time they return to Iraq they will know enough basic grammar, military vocabulary and conversational Arabic so that they will not have to constantly rely on an interpreter.

These skills are also expected to help Marines at checkpoints and during house searches.

Demand for the program has been so high that the college brought in another Arabic linguist. The Arabic classes are 160 hours over 20 working days. The military students also receive 26 CDs in Arabic to continue their learning once they graduate from the classroom.

One Marine corporal told a local journalist that after these classes, he hopes to be able to identify words in sentences, such as “bomb” and/or “insurgent” even if he doesn’t understand the entire sentence being said to him. His aim is to be able to perceive a potentially hostile situation before it happens.

The professors say even if Iraqis have to speak slowly when they communicate with the Marines, he is sure that most Iraqis will appreciate the effort these young Marines have made to learn their language and culture.

Many of the Marines taking Arabic classes are preparing for their second, or even third deployment in Iraq, so they already know the importance of ‘arming themselves with Arabic.”
Someone correct me if I'm wrong but isn't it British Army policy to arm all soldiers with basic phrases in the language of the country that they're working in.

Seems common sense to me that the soldiers on the ground should be able to speak to the man in the street for HUMINT and public relations.
 
#2
This is a case of one little thing being overlooked causing many F ups, the yanks may have missed out on a lot of opportunitys to do good cause of this.
 
#3
Good effort by II MEF, but it seems hard to believe that troops are routinely deployed without ANY basic language exposure or language card.

Admittedly it didnt happen routinely for Op Granby (different situation), and I know not what provision there is for Telic.

Always remember to cross out that phrase on the last section of your language card which means "Take me to the minefield". :roll:
 
#4
I wonder if one of the Americans on the boards could tell us how deep the American education system goes into languages in comparison to ours. E.g. two languages at high school level.

In fact they're now learning french in state primary schools as well.

This may be a factor as to whether they're willing to train their soldiers in language basics.

Another may be the mass need for instruction. Think how desperate the UK was to find people who could speak arabic. I know we're being told in my lessons that if we learn to speak it fluently there's a huge market for the skills.

I know personally I find Arabic far harder than any European language I've been taught. So unless it was very much parrot fashion with english sounding out, e.g. annah isme, then it could also be quite time consuming teaching them to read Arabic.
 
#5
At the time of the problem in Minden between the locals and the Jock regt that was there, there was a big problem over german reference to Poison Dwarfs - I'm sure not the one who posts here.
Larry Adler of all people came up with idea that problem was that not enough troops could speak Geman. HQ BAOR took this up big time and started massive language learning drive. Ran courses based on what they called language laboratory. Students sat in their own booth. Tape played them a german phrase three times. Student repeated it and only if passable moved onto next phrase. Minimum of grammar. Instructor could tune into any student to listen. Was a great success in learning german in a very easy manner. After two week course most could carry on a conversation with a german without shouting at them in english. Don't know what part language may have played in solving trouble germans/english/jocks.
What I found about arabic was that most locals could in fact speak quite good english. Stop on canal road miles from anywhere and could bet that within ten minutes a 10 year old kid would appear offering to sell eggsy bread.
 
#6
OldRedCap said:
At the time of the problem in Minden between the locals and the Jock regt that was there, there was a big problem over german reference to Poison Dwarfs - I'm sure not the one who posts here.
Purely coindidental my good man, on account of my malicious streak and short nature :twisted:
 
#7
Wholmeal Ghost said:
Someone correct me if I'm wrong but isn't it British Army policy to arm all soldiers with basic phrases in the language of the country that they're working in.
Yes. But this doesn't help too much when, for instance, you ask where the rest of the mines / cluster bombs / weapons are and get a 5 minute set of directions back...
 
#8
Not long complted OPTAG prior to a Telic. Language training supplied courtesy of an ex-pat Iraqi, who also gave out a leaflet with basic phrases on it, and briefed us on a few cultural basics.

Good effort on the part of the MOD to splash out on this.
 
#9
Tried to learn a bit of Arabic in Egypt, All I remember is "Fukc off" for the beggars.

It's difficult to learn. I managed in 20 years to pick up French, German and Iti after serving within those places. Can get fed, and if lucky, well in the past very lucky a shag and have a talk about tanks and guns and Army stuff.

It is V. hard for anybody to learn a new tongue. Unless they have a natural ability.

BAOR 1983? ‘auf Deutsch bitte?’ Who remembers the jerry trout with the talking parrot? Yes maybe you can, but can you remember to ask for ‘zwei alte Schafe mit einem Pint zum Gehen’- I think not.


The Americans (as a nation) are/were trying to introduce Spanish, I believe as a new language depending on the State. With some States deciding it ‘was not their THANG’ as they are all inbred.

Saying that I know a US linguist just back from his first tour in the sand-pit. A US Native from ‘killthefuckers I’m a whiteboy ‘South Dakota MY ITALLICS AND WORDS. He, in basic learnt Serbo, moved onto Russian and as I said just came back from Iraq after learning Arabic.

Its *kin hard, a book helps as you can point to the words but that takes time when time is needed.

I remember Bos in 94. Duty rumour was .. We will be here for another 10 years ..
Well fcuk me we still are now.

Now we are here in Iraq …we might ? be here for 10 years

Can’t the big boys see we need folks who can talk the lingo. Send Blair or TCH out there on a foot patrol trying to ask’ have you seen any bad boys’ and we might have a chance.
 
#10
Bison said:
Not long complted OPTAG prior to a Telic. Language training supplied courtesy of an ex-pat Iraqi, who also gave out a leaflet with basic phrases on it, and briefed us on a few cultural basics.

Good effort on the part of the MOD to splash out on this.
Good, although from what you say, that sounds a bit less than what used to be included in pre-Balkan OPTAG packages. Different requirements no doubt.
 
#11
old_bloke said:
Tried to learn a bit of Arabic in Egypt, All I remember is "Fukc off" for the beggars.
Remember that Arabic in Egypt is different to Arabic in Iraq or another country. Apparently the dialects are quite different leading to some confusion. However everyone apparently understands the 'root' arabic but it's considered quite formal.
 
#12
Yeah there's a whole mish mash of different versions, but if you think about the very few nations that use english as primary language i.e. about 5, and all the differences their e.g. brit eng. to yank eng. colour-color etc. and how many arabic speaking nations their are, it puts things into perspective.
 
#13
antphilip said:
old_bloke said:
Tried to learn a bit of Arabic in Egypt, All I remember is "Fukc off" for the beggars.
Remember that Arabic in Egypt is different to Arabic in Iraq or another country. Apparently the dialects are quite different leading to some confusion. However everyone apparently understands the 'root' arabic but it's considered quite formal.
nehk ni ,mamhoon :lol:
 
#14
hackle said:
Bison said:
Not long complted OPTAG prior to a Telic. Language training supplied courtesy of an ex-pat Iraqi, who also gave out a leaflet with basic phrases on it, and briefed us on a few cultural basics.

Good effort on the part of the MOD to splash out on this.
Good, although from what you say, that sounds a bit less than what used to be included in pre-Balkan OPTAG packages. Different requirements no doubt.
Link to another US article about language/cultural exposure as part of pre-deployment training package:

http://www.washtimes.com/national/20041228-102810-3142r.htm

As similar reports have been appearing for months, I get the impression that contrary to British myth, US personnel are actually getting more of this kind of formal training than our own troops.

If Bison got the benefit of ONE Iraqi Arabic speaker in his OPTAG, I suspect we are employing far fewer Arab speakers proportionally than the impressive 1,000 apparently assisting US training.

Longer tours must make it more worthwhile for Spams to undergo longer pre-deployment training. Unlike us (apart from the occasional hospital), they are deploying formed reserve major units and even larger formations. Repeat tours no doubt help to improve our "collective memory", but the same must apply to some extent to the spams.

Training is of course only part of the picture. Basic national attitudes and cultures also help or hinder. We dont have to deploy half way across the world to get there.
 

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