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Defense Language Institute question

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Zarmutek
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 Message 9 of 21
22 April 2013 at 4:29pm | IP Logged 
If I didn't already have a career, I'd probably be packing up to join the military right away. That was hands down the single best post I have ever read on this site. Silvance, I think you got your question answered! ;)

Not to derail the thread or anything, but I've just got a quick question: does anyone know of a language school for civilians that would offer the same or a close enough quality of language instruction?

Edited by Zarmutek on 22 April 2013 at 4:33pm

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patrickwilken
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 Message 10 of 21
22 April 2013 at 4:54pm | IP Logged 
Zarmutek wrote:

Not to derail the thread or anything, but I've just got a quick question: does anyone know of a language school for civilians that would offer the same or a close enough quality of language instruction?


Language bootcamp? Sounds like there might be a market here...

I can just imagine some sargent-type yelling at you to wake up and conjugate some verbs.
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Ogrim
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 Message 11 of 21
22 April 2013 at 5:41pm | IP Logged 
Skvoznyak, fascinating first post, and a much more interesting insight into American military life than any Hollywood film has ever given me.

A language boot camp would be great. It could even become a big reality TV hit. "C'mon you lazy, you have to conjugate those 50 verbs while doing 60 push-ups or you'll be voted out by the audience!"
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Skvoznyak
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 Message 12 of 21
23 April 2013 at 5:14am | IP Logged 
patrickwilken wrote:


I am curious given how intensive the classes are if you have time to any self-study (e.g., reading books in your TL for fun? or watching movies?). Or is that sort of pointless given all the learning you are doing? Do students generally talk in their TL?


Well, if you're in the upper half of your class the course usually isn't as intensive as you'd think because the teachers will tend to cater to the lowest common denominator in the class and you'll spend a fair amount of time listening to other students getting explanations on things you've already got a fairly decent grasp on. However, that doesn't apply in "Language Lab", which will be two separate hours (one before lunch, one after) in a large room with the ENTIRE class (in other words, not you and the 6-9 others in your book and homework sessions, but your entire graduating class) doing listening exercises (all at the same time, it's one CD, tape or MP3 piped into everyone's cubicle simultaneously). That level of intensity is the same for everyone, and is pretty much designed to be just a bit harder than they expect you to handle - you know, so that you're a little scared and very motivated to really do well on your listening homework at home.

The course is certainly more intensive than a college classroom, but not overwhelming. Even in Arabic you'll see two thirds graduate, and I've seen hundreds of people who don't even speak English that well do really well in their courses.

As for free time, once you add up your class time, your PT, your meals, any other duties you may have, your homework and eight hours for sleep - in that case, depending on which service you're in (some have more duties and other crap in addition to class than others) and your aptitude (in other words, how easily you get through your homework), you'll have 2-4 hours of free time left on a weekday. Sure, you COULD spend that time on self-study, but the only person I ever saw doing that was an Air Force captain doing the French course because he was on his way to France for some diplomatic assignment (the French course, if memory serves, is only 18 weeks, as opposed to 27 for Spanish and 63 for the Cat IV languages) - and remember, I went through three courses there.

Some people did watch movies, but that was almost always in the second half of the course where the homework gets lighter and easier after the pressure of washing out is pretty much gone (and also when you've learned enough to actually get some use out of watching them - after all, if you've only been studying French for a month, you're not going to get much educational use out of watching La Balance).

Lots of students talk in their TL as often as they can, and they're encouraged to when they're on the Presidio and in the Monterey area (the locals know what the school is and are used to hearing students speak foreign languages in bars and restaurants). However, students are generally advised not to do so if they take a weekend road trip to SF for a Giants / 49ers game, to San Jose for a Sharks game, to the Seabright Brewery in Santa Cruz for the best microbrew I've ever tasted in the states (DLI students: if you like amber beers, try theirs - best amber I've tasted anywhere on the planet), or whereever else. Locals in SF and SJ aren't used to it, and the security offices have their degree of usually-justified paranoia.

(Speaking of weekend travel: stay the hell out of Oakland, even if you're an A's or Raiders fan. There's no place in the state where it's easier and more likely to find yourself in unexpected trouble and potentially uncool situations. The place is a war zone these days, and clean cut kids in their twenties who obviously don't live there stick out like sore thumbs and are robbed constantly - I know this from a friend of mine from my military days who is a cop there and BEGS me to advise DLI kids to stay away.)

The best way to answer the crux of your question, though, is the way a grizzled old MLI once answered it. This was many moons ago, but some visiting VIPs came through on a tour to see how language training was done, and someone asked how much time they have for studying on their own, learning vocabulary which covers their interests and might not be part of the Basic course. This MLI, who was about five weeks to retirement and had an air of swaggering "I don't give a ----" indifference, said "Think of these kids as porn stars practicing their craft for hours and hours every day. Sure, they'll have time after work to go to bars and try to pick someone up, but they're not going to want to."

BTW, it should be noted in the Intermediate and Advanced courses life is much, much easier. Homework is easier and there are almost no extra duties because by that time you're an NCO. You'll have to pull CQ duty once during your course, maybe twice (that's a twelve-hour shift on a weekend), and you might get flag duty once (that's five days of getting up a couple hours early to raise the flag in formation, Monday to Friday). Depending on your service you might have an hour of PT a couple times a week, but other than that your entire duty day is going to class. People who lived off base for Intermediate and Advanced, which was most of us, would drive to class in the morning, drive home afterwards, and in many cases we'd do our homework together in a restaurant or bar. My Intermediate and Advanced years were two of the happiest years of my life. Basic, on the other hand, was a challenge - but one which most people manage to conquer.

By the way, thanks for all the nice words regarding my first post, they were all very much appreciated.

Edited by Skvoznyak on 23 April 2013 at 6:37am

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Skvoznyak
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 Message 13 of 21
23 April 2013 at 5:41am | IP Logged 
schoenewaelder wrote:
Skvoznyak wrote:
... it is not by any means "terrifying."


Epic post, but I fear you may have helped confirm, rather than dispel, the idea that it may be terrifying.


Actually, once a pipeline student makes it through boot camp he or she is well-prepared for the intensity of DLI, because even with all the homework your day at DLI is a lot more relaxed than a typical day at boot camp is, even if you're in the Air Force. So, at that point, the only things stopping you from success at DLI are lack of effort, lack of ability / aptitude (extremely unlikely given the OP's DLAB score), and bad decisions in your off time. If the OP follows my advice, he or she will do well. I don't see how anyone could score 141 without having the necessary aptitude for the school.

To the OP: Study hard, pace yourself, give yourself one weekend day per week (Saturday, not Sunday) away from the language entirely don't be an idiot with booze or sex, follow the rest of my advice in my first post and you'll do just fine. It won't be easy, but few things worth doing ever are.

In the early stages of your course, see if you can attend a graduation ceremony in your target language. The class valedictorian will be giving a speech in that language, and take my word for it when I tell you that the rest of the class isn't far behind him or her. Listen to the way that graduate can speak what you're about to learn. That's the payoff, and when you hear that you'll know it's well worth the effort. You may very well get to attend another class's ceremony if you're lucky enough to be sent to DLI a couple weeks before your class starts (and that's not uncommon). Or, if you can't attend a graduation ceremony (you might not be able to, they're usually held on weekdays when you're in class), listen to someone in an Intermediate or Advanced class speak. Then you'll know what you're working for and you won't be short on motivation.

One other piece of advice while I'm thinking of it: You'll undoubtedly run into someone who washes out, and the first complaint you'll hear is that the books were bad or the course was bad (you'll rarely hear them blame the instructors because you'll see five or six different ones every day and they can't ALL be bad). This is pure anger-based drivel from the bitter and should be ignored; such complaints about the books or course are just stupid. Both are brilliantly put together.

And yet another one: If any of your teachers invite you out or to their place during free time, check with your security office first. It's not unheard of for DLI teachers to be "cooperating" with foreign intelligence agencies. It doesn't happen much nowadays, but during the Cold War it was suspected by most that every other Russian instructor was probably working in some way with the KGB.

Edited to add one other thing: it's my understanding that at present, in some and possibly all languages the student is first put through a short course of grammar terms in English which makes sure that the student has a good grasp of what the genitive case is, what the dative case is, what the subjunctive is, what instrumental case is, what a verbal adverb or a gerund is, the difference between prepositional and locative case (if applicable to your language), etc. I believe these "terminology familiarization" courses are tailored to individual languages (if not, they sure as hell should be), but if you don't have a good grasp of the terms I just used, you might want to familiarize yourself with their basic meanings before you go.

Sorry that last piece of advice isn't exactly specific - no such "familiarization" course existed during any of the three times I went through DLI. They could have saved a few people from washing out, because while the overwhelming number of washouts were LOE, half of the LOA drops I saw were people who were far more overwhelmed more by linguistic terminology and the concepts within than the amount of vocabulary they had to study. This was a common complaint by washouts, teachers, MLIs, and pretty much everyone who screamed for years that such "familiarization" courses, while not needed by all, just made sense. Thankfully, someone finally listened.

And in the category of pieces of advice which should have come to me immediately but didn't because this wasn't an option when I went through Russian Basic: take a look at the DLI website before you go! How did I not think of this earlier? I've seen that links are often removed to discourage spammers, but I think we can agree that this one isn't spam: http://www.dliflc.edu/index.html Also take a look at the DLI Wikipedia page and everything it links to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defense_Language_Institute

(Aside from the obvious benefit of learning more about where you're going and what you'll be doing, if you're ever nominated for Soldier / Sailor / Airman / Student of the month, you'll have to go through a Q&A board, and there will be at least a question or two about DLI history.)

Edited by Skvoznyak on 23 April 2013 at 7:38am

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Sterogyl
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Germany
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 Message 14 of 21
06 October 2013 at 9:47am | IP Logged 
This might be interesting to some of you:

Army Language School
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5veD0EnIDoI

Learning Farsi at Army Language School
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siU75ftkAZI
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Silvance
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 Message 15 of 21
09 February 2014 at 3:23am | IP Logged 
I posted this almost a year ago. I wanted to relate my experiences here so far as someone in this thread asked me to.

I went to basic training back in May 2013, and graduated at the end of July. That's also when I got here. I was excited about the possibilities and about what language I could potentially get. Arabic? Chinese? Korean? Russian? These were the languages I was shooting for, but I had no control over which one I got, and I got Pashto, a language that there are probably people on this forum who don't even know what it is.

Most soldiers are here for a month or more before they start their class, but I started mine less than a week after arriving. The first week was an English class where they taught us all the English grammar terms that people should have known already but didn't. It was a useful class, as it's hard to learn another language if you don't know the difference between an adjective and an adverb. When we got to the language itself, I was surprised at how fast things went. Pashto is written in the Arabic script but with more letters, and most classes in a college setting would spend a month or more on just the script alone. We tested on the script a week after starting the language class.

I can't really get into details about DLI itself for security reasons, but as far as the language goes, I've been here for a little over 6 months and am essentially at an advanced level. Maybe 2/2/2 on the DLPT scale, however that translates to the other scoring system that language schools use.
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emk
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 Message 16 of 21
09 February 2014 at 4:17am | IP Logged 
Thank you for reporting back! We're always interested in specialized language schools.

In one of his books, O'Rourke mentions a common Pashto phrasebook:



This is rather a change from the typical Pimsleur and Assimil course. Pashto is an Indo-European language related to Iranian, and the FSI considers it a Category II language with a 44-week program to reach ILR 3/3. For previous discussions of Pashto here at HTLAL, see this Google search.

In theory, DLPT levels are supposed to be based on ILR levels. I don't know if this is true, but if it is, here's a description of ILR 2 speaking skills:

Quote:
Speaking 2 (Limited Working Proficiency) Able to satisfy routine social demands and limited work requirements. Can handle routine work-related interactions that are limited in scope. In more complex and sophisticated work-related tasks, language usage generally disturbs the native speaker. Can handle with confidence, but not with facility, most normal, high-frequency social conversational situations including extensive, but casual conversations about current events, as well as work, family, and autobiographical information. The individual can get the gist of most everyday conversations but has some difficulty understanding native speakers in situations that require specialized or sophisticated knowledge. The individual's utterances are minimally cohesive. Linguistic structure is usually not very elaborate and not thoroughly controlled; errors are frequent. Vocabulary use is appropriate for high-frequency utterances. but unusual or imprecise elsewhere. Examples: While these interactions will vary widely from individual to individual, the individual can typically ask and answer predictable questions in the workplace and give straightforward instructions to subordinates. Additionally, the individual can participate in personal and accommodation-type interactions with elaboration and facility; that is, can give and understand complicated, detailed, and extensive directions and make non-routine changes in travel and accommodation arrangements. Simple structures and basic grammatical relations are typically controlled; however, there are areas of weakness. In the commonly taught languages, these may be simple markings such as plurals, articles, linking words, and negatives or more complex structures such as tense/aspect usage, case morphology. passive constructions, word order, and embedding.

On the CEFRL scale, this would theoretically correspond to a solid B1, with some sub-skills getting into the B2 range (according to various published conversions). This is very respectable for 6 months of study in a category II language with an unfamiliar script—but honestly, trying to convert from from DLPT to ILR to CEFRL is going to introduce enormous error.



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