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Lackland-based institute teaches English to partner nations

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Matthew Bates
  • Defense Media Activity-San Antonio
Communication is key to maintaining healthy relationships. The same is true of interactions between the United States and members of its allied militaries: strong, clear communication opens the door to a better, stronger relationship.

And being able to speak the same language helps this process tremendously.

With this in mind, the Defense Language Institute's English Language Center at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, teaches English to military members from allied nations across the globe.

On an annual basis, more than 100 countries are represented by students enrolled in the DLIELC resident training programs. Some students attend the school to learn the language at a beginner level, others to participate in follow-on or advanced courses.

"The center is a great place to be," said El Salvador navy Cmdr. Cesar Mejia Polanco, a student in the American English Language Instructor Course. In this course, students are trained to become English language instructors or program managers in their respective countries.

"I learned a lot the first time I came here (to learn English), and now I am learning more that I can use to teach English to other military people in my country," he said.

To be selected for a course at DLI, foreign military applicants must belong to a country that is part of NATO. Applicants then take an English competency test, and if they do well an invitation is extended and the applicant's country pays to send the nominee to DLI.

DLIELC, which was established in 1954, is divided into three resident academic training sections: general English, specialized English and instructor development. Depending on the needs of the students, training can range from nine to 52 weeks. Some students arrive with only minimum English capabilities, then train to a predetermined English comprehension level in general English.

"It's been a rewarding experience," said Djibouti army Sgt. Saad Moussa Bouraleh, who is also attending AELIC. "It's a good opportunity and I'm thankful to be a part of this course."

Though the courses do require hours of classroom study, the center developed a program that enables the students to immerse themselves into American culture. Through this field studies program, students travel to places in San Antonio, Dallas, Austin and even Washington, D.C., to experience their host nation's customs firsthand. These trips include visits to television and radio stations and areas of historical interest.

"It is much easier to learn a language when you learn and experience a country's culture," said Michael Sheridan, an English instructor with DLI's Instructor Development Branch. "It gives students something to draw from and it also reinforces what they're learning."

For the students, experiencing each other's cultures is just as educational.

"I call this place the mini United Nations," Sergeant Bouraleh said. "There are many people from many different places and they all come together to learn one language."

And, hopefully, build relationships.

"I think courses like this do a lot to make and improve bonds between nations," Sergeant Bouraleh said. "That is a very good thing and very important."
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