Cultural Awareness and Foreign Language Capabilities

What is it? Cultural awareness capability is the ability to understand the “how and why” of foreign cultures and the roles that culture, religion, and geography have in military operations.  Foreign language capability extends beyond linguists, intelligence analysts, and interrogators to every Soldier and leader; ranging from the ability to communicate with the aid of language survival tools to high levels of proficiency in skilled linguists.

What has the Army done?The Army is pursuing a variety of initiatives to enhance its capability in cultural awareness and foreign language.  In accordance with the Defense Language Transformation Roadmap, the Army is incorporating cultural awareness training into all levels of professional military education.  The US Army Training and Doctrine Command Culture Center at Fort Huachuca, Arizona developed an 80-hour modular cultural awareness training program for deploying units and branch schools.  This center also provides mobile training teams (MTT) which bring cultural awareness training to units in their pre-deployment training.  The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) at the Presidio of Monterey in Monterey, California incorporates cultural awareness in its language familiarization training for deploying units.  DLIFLC also provides CD-ROM language survival kits to deploying Soldiers.  Combat Training Centers (CTC) have completely transformed, using native-speaking role players, to replicate the sights and culture of the contemporary operational environment.  In pre-commissioning, US Military Academy and ROTC have incorporated cultural awareness lessons into their curriculums.

The Army offers Soldiers a variety of ways to obtain foreign language skills and actively recruits native speakers from heritage communities.  Language specialists primarily attend DLIFLC which offers online sustainment training through its Global Language Network (http://www.lingnet.org) and its Global Language Online Support System (http://gloss.lingnet.org).  The Army provides online basic language training with “Rosetta Stone®.”  This is a state-of-the-art commercial software product intended for use by all Soldiers and Army civilians.  MTTs and Language Training Detachments from DLIFLC bring language training at various skill levels to home station, CTCs, and mobilization training sites.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?  The Army continues to develop, update, and expand its offering of cultural awareness training and foreign language materials at all levels.  The Army plans to expand exchange and cultural immersion programs at the US Military Academy and increase advanced civil schooling opportunities.

Why is this important to the Army? The human dimension is such a critical factor in today’s complex environments demanding that Soldiers at all levels possess some cultural awareness and foreign language capability.  It is no longer sufficient for limited numbers of Soldiers in specialized skill sets and units to possess these capabilities.