Monday, July 17, 2006

The Multilingual Military
Late Saturday night, I finally got back from being a vendor at the Autism Society of America National Conference in Rhode Island for most of the week. My flight back was, of course, delayed by several hours, since my flight up had been completely on time. My very extended layover in Philadelphia and the subsequent flight were enlivened, though, by my striking up conversation with a fellow passenger. A young, multiethnic, polyglot, special forces Marine, to be more precise. It's amazing what you can find out about a person in 5 hours of conversation, especially if he's trying to be charming and intelligent in an understatedly flirtatious kind of way.

In any case, at one point it came up that he had spent two years at the Defense Language Institute at Monterey, and I have to say, I'm jealous. Being able to attend language classes there is about the only reason I can think of to join the military, as it's pretty much the best intensive language school in the country. The Marine in question certainly seemed to have appreciated his time there.

When I had some time the next day, I looked at all the language teaching possibilities there, out of curiosity, and I started thinking about the whole idea a bit more. The idea of the Monterey school is very attractive to me, but on the other hand, it's also very depressing to me that the best language school in the country, and the organization that seems the most dedicated to turning out students who can truly, practicably use the language skills they are taught, is the military. The rest of their operations, at least under the current administration, seem to be intent on keeping the rest of the citizenry isolated from wanting to have much contact with the rest of the world, and the only people really being encouraged to spend an appreciable amount of time learning another language are doing it for, realistically, probably questionable ends. *sigh*

None of which is to say that, if given the opportunity to study a language in such an intensive environment (without having to join the military), I wouldn't do it.

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