By Christine June, George C. Marshall European Center for Security StudiesNovember 18, 2018
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany - Georgian diplomat Khatuna Okroshidze's daily tasks involve bilateral relations between her country and the Baltic States of the Republic of Lithuania, Republic of Latvia and Republic of Estonia.
"My tasks vary depending on the dynamics of the domestic developments in those countries," said Okroshidze, counselor with the Department of Europe for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Georgia. "What does not change is that I complete these tasks such as writing, reading and speaking in English, because that is the language of communication with diplomats from those countries."
Okroshidze and six other diplomats from the Republic of Albania, Republic of Kosovo, Ukraine and Georgia attended the three-week Partner Language Training Center Europe's Language for Diplomacy course at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies from Oct. 22 to Nov. 8.
"English is the language of international diplomacy, and successful diplomats require sophisticated language skills," said Peggy Garza, chair of the English Language Programs Department for the Marshall Center's PLTCE. "In Language for Diplomacy, the diplomats can enhance their public speaking skills, practice nuanced communication, and engage in discussions on security issues."
Garza added, "This course focuses solely on diplomats, and it is a career-building opportunity for them."
The Language for Diplomacy is designed for Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials with an advanced level of proficiency in English. The central aim of the course is to polish participants' English language skills to an executive level, with a view toward preparing them to interact in English in professional settings with both confidence and accuracy.
This course came about during a visit of the Kosovo Diplomatic Academy staff at the Marshall Center in December 2014. In the following July, the Marshall Center held its first Language for Diplomats for six members of the Republic of Kosovo's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The second course, which was held in 2016, was also only for diplomats from Kosovo, but in 2017, PLTCE began having the course twice a year and opened it up to participants from Georgia, Ukraine and Albania.
"I think it's always important to bring groups of people from different nations so even if you don't interact directly with those countries, you can see how many similarities or differences there are, especially in regards to the work that we do," Okroshidze said. "We are all representatives of diplomatic service, and we mostly face the same challenges, opportunities and daily work.
"During these three weeks, we have shared experiences with each other and have exchanged ideas on how this country is tackling this problem or what their challenges are," she added. "This has been a very good additional insight for me."
These diplomats are now a part of the Marshall Center's alumni network, which has more than 13,000 security professionals from 154 nations. Out of that number, there are now 55 Language for Diplomacy alumni from four countries.
For 2019, two Language for Diplomacy courses are planned, Garza said.
During these three weeks, participants completed tasks which further their competence in English along different dimensions, such as targeting various audiences both orally and in writing, and analyzing written and spoken English from various sources.
Participants attend lectures and discussions on foreign affairs and security topics with Marshall Center faculty in order to prepare them for settings such as professional conferences and multilateral meetings, where they will be expected to communicate in English at a very high level.
More specifically, Language for Diplomacy seeks to sharpen participants' ability to summarize, analyze and persuade - both orally and in writing - for audiences of different types on subjects typical in the diplomatic field.
In support of these goals, Garza said that considerable time is also devoted to building and refining participants' vocabulary, not only with regard to the specific terminology of the diplomatic profession, but also the more academic and nuanced vocabulary needed to discuss the topics and themes of international affairs at a professional level.
"I extended my vocabulary in every dimension, greatly increasing my speaking and writing skills," Okroshidze said. "Throughout the course, I received very useful feedback not only from the instructors, but also from my colleagues in the course."
Participants are taught strategic communication skills such as framing an argument, crafting and delivering a message, how to do presentations, negotiations and panel discussions, and verbal briefs on policy.
They also learn how to analyze based on data and synthesizing information from various sources and professional terminology for defense, security and diplomacy.
"I realized while doing this course that it helped me a lot in terms of getting a more structural view of the language because it's not just about knowing the language, but it's also using it in an efficient and correct way," Okroshidze said. "There are so many nuisances and things you really need to feel while you are writing something in English."