The first class at Fort Carson is only seven weeks as a result of time constraints, but future courses will last 16 weeks. Here's what the article has to say about the relationship between course duration and desired end states:
Soldiers at Fort Campbell, Ky., and Fort Carson, Colo., are now taking language courses that will better prepare them to meet the demands of operations in Afghanistan.
Since Feb.1, more than 70 Soldiers at Fort Campbell have studied either Dari or Pashto in advance of their upcoming deployments to Afghanistan. At Fort Carson, 270 Soldiers began learning Dari, March 8. It's expected some 70 Soldiers will begin Dari instruction in early April at Fort Drum, N.Y.
The three installations now host "Campaign Continuity Language Training Detachments." The detachments are the result of a partnership between the operational Army and the Defense Language Institute. The pilot program is a direct response to requirements put forth by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan, to put more "language-enabled" Soldiers on the ground there.
"His goal is to have one leader in every platoon or platoon-sized element that will
interact with the Afghan population who is familiar enough with the Dari language to go beyond the 'hellos' and 'thank yous' and platitudes -- but to instead have rudimentary conversations," said Lt. Col. Stephen J. Maranian, executive officer for the Army training directorate, G-3/5/7.
The three detachments were built with funding from the Joint Staff from the overseas contingency operations budget. Maranian said money is allocated already for fiscal years 2011-2015 to expand the program to more installations.
(Here's some more information about skill level descriptions from the Interagency Language Roundtable's website. And here's some related video from DLI.)
Most students in the past who have taken a 16-week language course ended up with a "0+/0+" level of language capability -- a rating that refers both to speaking and listening capability -- but many have achieved the higher 1/1 goal.
Clare Bugary, the director of operations at DLI, said the 16-week course will meet the 0+ requirement set by McChrystal, but for Soldiers to exceed that and achieve the goal of a level 1 skill, they will need to push themselves."The key is motivation," she said. "If they want it, they can get there. And what we are seeing at Carson and Campbell now is a motivated group of Soldiers who are applying themselves."
Bugary said to guarantee higher levels of language proficiency, students will need to spend more time in class. The DLI's normal Pashto-basic course is 64 weeks long, for instance. "There's no way the Army can send everybody through that.""It's an issue of time really," she said. But she added that the 16 weeks the Army is committing "says a lot" about their willingness to have Soldiers learn both the language and the culture of Afghanistan. "It's a big commitment for the Army to do that, and it's very
encouraging that the Army takes the steps to incorporate language and cultural training. It's going to have a positive effect."
Bugary said the language skill levels, "0+", or "1", for instance, are defined by the Interagency Language Roundtable. On the scale, a level 0 learner has "no ability whatsoever," while a level 0+ learner is "able to satisfy immediate needs with learned utterances." A level 1 student is "able to satisfy basic survival needs and minimum courtesy requirements."
It may be that I'm not reading closely enough, but I don't see any mention of how many classroom hours this training entails. Courses on-site at DLI are intensive and take up the bulk of the day, so I'd assume that's the model they're transporting to these other installations. But if this is a one-hour-a-day deal, then that's an entirely different story. You can't really expect people to learn a complicated and very foreign language without a serious commitment to the process, commitment that involves not only time but also centrality of focus. This really can't be something that you're doing alongside your other duties and training modules.
That being said...
Sam G. Garzaniti, director of the Campaign Continuity Language Program at Fort Campbell, said the classes focus first on basic listening and speaking skills before moving on to more practical applications for Soldiers in theater. Maranian added that counterinsurgency doctrine makes it absolutely essential to be able to communicate with village elders about such things as governance, economics and security."After a month, they know alphabet and basic phrases," he said. "In the coming weeks, they will learn social, economic, and military vocabulary to assist them when partnering with and operating amongst the Afghan people."...are you effin' kidding me? A month to learn the alphabet and basic phrases? That's about how long it took the language retards in my Persian class to learn the alphabet and basic phrases... except we had class one night a week for two hours, and all other study was self-directed (and not really expected)!
I'm not an expert in philology or anything, or in memory, or in syllabus design or human cognition or pretty much anything relevant to this subject (or in pretty much anything at all, now that we're right down to it), but this strikes me as a shockingly un-ambitious learning plan. If you're doing five hours a day, then the first month involves 100 hours of exposure to the language. The entire sixteen week course of study makes 400 hours! As far as I know, Pashto and Dari are both State Department Category II languages, which are meant to require 1100 classroom hours for "minimal proficiency." I see that designation as being considerably more advanced than "basic survival needs and minimum courtesy requirements," mastery of which is what's necessary to demonstrate Level 1 speaking ability.
Does anybody else know anything about this program (particularly the length of the class day)? Has anyone learned a Cat II or Cat III language at DLI or the Foreign Service Institute? How long do you think it should take to be 0+ or 1 in Dari or Pashto? I'd love it if Lil would chime in here, as she's actually taught a language to USG personnel. Maybe I'm being a bit over-ambitious here.