ROTC Cadets travel to Spain to teach English
July 24, 2012
For soldiers in non-English speaking countries, understanding basic words from the allies they work with can be the difference between life and death. To help facilitate better communication for Spanish soldiers, 20 U.S. Army Cadets spent several weeks with the Spanish Airborne at their base near Madrid helping teach conversational English.
Their instructor, Glynis Terrell, said having the Cadets help teach English to soldiers was a great teaching tool because they could relate to each other.
"On the first day we did an introductory kind of thing," Terrell explained. "The Cadets introduced themselves and told the soldiers where they were from. Then we looked at the (curriculum) books (the Cadets brought) and I introduced the lesson to the soldiers. The Cadets did the follow up activities with them."
Terrell, who is an English teacher with experience in all levels of education, is contracted through North Georgia College and University to be the director of instruction for the intensive English class work. She said she paired the Cadets up with her "new students" by having the soldiers take a test before she got to Spain. Then she used that information to pair them up with the Cadets who she had also talked to in an effort to find out what level of Spanish they spoke.
Because of the pairings, she said she felt if offered the Cadets and the Spanish soldiers' better opportunities to bond. The Cadets were pretty happy with that arrangement as well.
'We were paired great because I am actually a 5th year senior and I graduate and commission this December," said Cadet Bryan Barabas. "So it works out well that he is a lieutenant and I will be one very soon. I would ask him what he recommends as a platoon leader for a new lieutenant, and he told me some things.
"But my Spanish is good enough so that I could speak to him most of the time, and he would speak English to me. I could help him with English and he could help me with Spanish. If we didn't understand something we could switch back and forth and figure it out. I have learned a lot about him, met his platoon--usually do PT every day with his platoon. I couldn't ask for a better student for sure."
Barabas also spend time off the installation with his soldier, Spanish Lt. Alvaro Palacios, and his soldier's friends seeing the city, shopping in a local grocery store and seeing how locals live.
But the Spanish soldiers also seemed pleased with their match ups, and spent as much time as they could talking to the Cadets to practice their conversational English and socializing with them.
"I learned a lot things, for instance, expression," Spanish Staff Sgt. Aso Cordodes said. "(Cadet Andrew Tanner) also helped me to understand the U.S. Army--the structure, the ranks and stuff. I think the U.S. is similar to us. In the beginning I thought we were more different in our way of thinking, but I found it to be very similar. We have the same things and the same interests."
"We got along so well that we exchanged email address and Facebook links and I we'll be in touch for a long time to come," he added.
But it wasn't just the challenge of learning a new language that drew the soldiers to the class the Cadets were helping to teach.
Cadet Tiara Brown, who attends Saint Bonaventure University, said the importance of learning English had more to do with knowing a common language and being able to function in an international society.
"Something interesting that I learned, my student is about to be 30 and when he was in school they didn't teach a lick of English," she explained. "Apparently they teach it now. But he was explaining to me that everywhere he goes somebody speaks English and he wanted to at least say, 'Hi, how are you doing,' and have a small bit of conversation.
"And they are going over to serve in Afghanistan with our troops and to understand basic terms like 'go,' 'stop,' and 'don't' can be the difference between living and not living. I think English is important to learn because it prevents a language barrier," she added.
Spanish Maj. Guillermo Ferrer, who is the chief of operations for the parachute brigade, said that it is important for their soldiers to learn English, and the soldiers who attended the class said they learned a lot from it.
"We think we should maintain these activities for many following years. I think the cadets did a good job and the soldiers are happy," Ferrer explained. "They think they have better achievements from the classes. And they (think) they received higher learning than in any English course they attended before.
"We deploy in different scenarios where we must work in an international environment and the tool for communication is English. Perhaps if the Cadets stay here for a longer time next time we can include a visit to other exercises in other areas of Spain, and include more units."
Spanish Staff Sgt. Antonio Pallers said he felt it was important to communicate to people he came across, and English was pretty much universal.
"I loved this class. I learned much and I feel my English level is better," Pallers explained. "I feel more comfortable talking to people in English because when I started the course my presentation was pretty bad. Now it is a little better. I understand the (talk) of the U.S. people better. And I think it is very important to continue to learn English. I go to the academy in the afternoon to improve my English.
"I feel more comfortable now because I feel the American people can understand me. And I enjoyed my time with the Cadets because they show us the way they live in their country and we can compare with us."
But the Cadets learned just as much in return. Cadet Travis Alexander, from Georgia Southern University, said this trip was a experience from which he learned a great deal.
"I have learned that even though we tend to have small differences, our armies are very much alike," he said. "There a lot of things that they excel at where we are can improve on and things that we excel at where we can help them so together we can work really well.
"The biggest thing I will take away from this is to keep an open mind. When you work with other people keep an open mind because you don't know how much they can help you. "