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Learning languages virtually

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Seraiah Wolf
  • 17th Training Wing Public Affairs

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas Geographically detached from Goodfellow Air Force Base is the 517th Training Group. This group is responsible for training Airmen as linguists and also developing Airmen’s skills and core values. 

Located at the Presidio of Monterey, California, this group is integrated within the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center. 

Within the 517th TRG, there are two squadrons, the 311th Training Squadron and the 314th Training Squadron. Both are essential to training 3,600 students in 24 different languages.  

That training, just like most things, was affected by the novel coronavirus. Although, after only a few short weeks, the 517th TRG and DLIFLC migrated their courses to online learning platforms. 

“My favorite thing is the customizable backgrounds,” said Airman 1st Class Michael Inman, 311th Training Squadron student. “These allow us to illustrate our personality. My least favorite thing is the intermittent backaches, presumably from limited movement and questionable posture on my part.”

The Airmen have almost their entire course available online, with the exception being testing, the 517th TRG is pursuing options to have them test in person while still adhering to all Center for Disease and Control guidelines. 

“On base, we have almost the same interactions as before but from six feet apart,” said Airman 1st Class Natille Elder, 311th TRS student.  “We laugh, joke around, workout, clean, talk, study, and help each other more. Off base, it is almost as if people think that six feet is a social barrier too. The lack of this barrier has allowed us to maintain positivity and to lean on each other, from six feet away, during this stressful time.”

As with any shift to a curriculum going virtual, it has a significant change in how classes are conducted. 

“Our class was almost done with the course,” said Elder. “My personal experience was very different from the other students. It has allowed me to experience my course in person and then witness other students at the same place in the course, just online. Tutoring has to supplement what the students cannot achieve in an online classroom. Some of our instructors provide time before and after school for students to have speaking practice just as they did before, but it is online now, and that is very helpful.”

The classes are not the only thing that has migrated to an electronic approach on activities. Training squadrons are taking full advantage of the resources available through virtual means and using them to mentor Airmen, schedule appointments and check on students.

According to Master Sgt. Crystal Martinez, 314th TRS flight chief, the non-commissioned officers within the training squadrons are coordinating morale boosting events for over one thousand non-prior service Airmen, enhancing connections between staff and students and boosting morale during COVID-19 shelter in place restrictions.

Within these uncertain times, everyone has adjusted their regular routines. Spending less time with friends and family, staying home to prevent the spread. Due to this, we, as military members, as individuals, have adapted to find the things that can still keep us together, ways to lean on each other but from six feet away. As time passes, there will be more changes and adjustments, but we will continue to learn and adapt. We will keep moving forward.