Go beyond English

  • Published
  • By Maj. Jennifer Pearson
  • 911th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
As our military continues to be involved in joint and coalition training and wartime missions, we as Airmen are exposed to different cultures and languages. In most situations, when working with partner nations the two official languages used are English and French.  So you might ask yourself - if you already speak English why should you try to learn French beyond a few basic phrases?

The answer is, many of our allied nations and partnership for peace nations speak French and it is not a good feeling sitting at a table when everyone else is communicating in one language and you are only able to catch a word here and there; because you do not speak the language.

As reservists, we often have to seek out opportunities to further our education and career broadening, but they are out there.  I just had the privilege to support the Inter-allied Confederation of Reserve Officers (CIOR) Language Academy that brings together NATO and Partnership for Peace nations to learn and progress to take the NATO Standardization examination in French or English.  I attended as an English instructor.

I worked with students from Albania, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Spain, Tunisia and Ukraine who were trying to improve their English. There were other students from Austria, Romania, some of the previously listed countries and three students from the United States attending to learn and improve their French skills.  Students for both languages, worked on the four language components: reading, writing, listening and speaking.

As more opportunities are becoming available for reservists to serve on joint staffs, the Language Academy is one resource available to develop and improve language skills, resulting in better trained and prepared individuals.  Attending training, such as this, also fosters interoperability in an ever changing environment.

I first learned basic French in middle school, and I still remember some basic phrases and a few words, not enough to hold a proper conversation.  Now, I am driven to learn French and hopefully attend as a student of the CIOR Language Academy.   We all know the expression 'when opportunity knocks, be prepared' and opportunity is knocking more often for reservists. So be as prepared as possible so you can open the door, walk through and succeed.