Information Papers

Cultural and Foreign Language Capabilities

What is it?
Cultural capability enables Soldiers and leaders to understand the “how and why” of foreign cultures and the roles that culture, religion, and geography have in military operations. Foreign language capability reaches beyond the roles of linguists, intelligence analysts, and interrogators to every Soldier and leader; language can be a survival tool as well as an entrée to the cultural capability that is crucial to every Soldier and leader. The human dimension in which the Army must operate as part of today’s complex environments necessitates that Soldiers at all levels possess some cultural and foreign language capability.

What has the Army done?
The Army is pursuing a variety of initiatives to enhance its capability in culture and foreign language. In accordance with the Defense Language Transformation Roadmap, the Army incorporates cultural training into all levels of professional military education. The Army has designated the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) as the Army’s proponent of cultural training. As proponent, TRADOC assesses requirements and determines the Soldier’s cultural training needs. The TRADOC Culture Center has developed modular cultural training programs for deploying units and Army schools. This center also provides mobile training teams (MTTs), which bring cultural training to units in their pre-deployment training. In pre-commissioning, the U.S. Military Academy and Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) have incorporated cultural lessons into their curricula, as well as the ROTC Leader Development Course. The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) at the Presidio of Monterey in Monterey, California, incorporates cultural training in its language familiarization training for deploying units. The DLIFLC also provides CD-ROM language survival kits to deploying Soldiers. Combat Training Centers (CTCs) have completely transformed, using native-speaking role-players to replicate the sights and culture of the contemporary operational environment. The Army offers Soldiers a variety of ways to obtain foreign language skills and actively recruits native speakers through the 09L, Interpreter Translator Program from heritage communities. Linguists primarily attend the DLIFLC for language training. The DLIFLC offers online sustainment training through its Global Language Network and its Global Language Online Support System The Army also provides language familiarization training to all Soldiers and Army Civilians through state-of-the-art commercial software products (currently Rosetta Stone®). MTTs and Language Training Detachments from DLIFLC bring language training at various skill levels to home stations, CTCs, and mobilization training sites. TRADOC is developing standards for collective cultural and language training in a comprehensive culture and foreign language strategy.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?
The implementation of the Army Culture and Foreign Language Strategy will require more extensive training for Soldiers and leaders in the near future. Developing a robust Army-wide cultural capability is the main effort (big C), while imparting some foreign language capability to each Soldier is the supporting effort (little l). The primary goal is for every Soldier and leader to have cross-cultural competence, which develops into regional competencies over the course of their careers. While foreign language training is a secondary goal, every Soldier and leader must possess some foreign language capability. Specifically, the Army plans to expand immersion programs at the U.S. Military Academy and increase advanced civil schooling opportunities. TRADOC is in the process of developing and staffing language and cultural education and training opportunities targeted at the nonprofessional linguist. TRADOC is also exploring language study incentives (monetary and non-monetary) and possible requirements for ROTC cadets. Non-monetary incentives might include awards such as the order-of-merit list. The Army is working with the National Education and Security Program to assist colleges with ROTC units in developing programs for languages of strategic importance. The Army is also expanding the already developed gaming technology that teaches cultures of foreign lands. Finally the Army is developing plans to expand the 09L Program from the existing CENTCOM program to the PACOM and AFRICOM Areas of Responsibility.

Why is this important to the Army?
Because the human dimension is such a critical factor in today’s complex operating environments, Soldiers at all levels must possess some cultural and foreign language capability. It is no longer sufficient that such capabilities be limited to Soldiers with specialized skill sets or in specialized units.