American soldiers can now get closer to their Iraqi and Afghani neighbours before their feet hit the ground. With virtual teachers, soldiers learn the lingo and the local customs at the same time... in a virtual game..
When the US Army touched down in Afghanistan in 2002, they barely spoke anything but English. When villagers ran into the streets, the soldiers, unable to communicate, couldn't work out if they were friend or foe. It was as the situation unravelled that a Californian defence professor came up with the idea of launching a "tactical language" programme www.tacticallanguage.com. Now, soldiers are briefed by their virtual counterparts in Arabic, Pashto or Dari, and given a few hints on how to follow the local customs and avoid cultural boo-boos. Former soldiers in Iraq tell us why the training isn't to be laughed at.
Jami Gibbs served in Iraq in 2005. She writes the blog Patriot Missive.
Christopher Coppola is a paediatric surgeon. He served in Iraq.
James Reilly works for Alelo, the company that develops the Tactical Language programmes.
We estimate (via our distribution channels) that over 20,000 U.S. Military personnel have trained with Tactical Iraqi, Tactical Pashto or Tactical Dari (both for Afghanistan) to some degree."
From Tactical Dari, one of the programmes for Afghanistan.