Arabic language class may save lives

12 May 2004 | Pfc. Matthew K. Hacker

Marines of II Marine Expeditionary Force are learning the Arabic language in a 20-day course at the Work Force Learning Center here, May 10.

The course teaches basic history and culture lessons so the students may better understand whom they may talk to in the future.

“They learn basic conversational Arabic augmented with military terms and language,” said Ed Paradysz, retired Marine Corps master sergeant, now instructor for the Defense Language Institute.

The students are not required, but instructors prefer, they take the Defense Language Aptitude Battery and score around 100 out of a maximum score of 160.  The test is like the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery all service members take before they enter their branch of service, only it is strictly language-based.

“The DLAB gives us an idea of how well the student will be able to absorb the knowledge that is presented in class,” said Paradysz.
“From day one, it is a nonstop intense course.”

The course is a total of 160 hours consisting of 20 eight-hour days.  The goal of this class is to get the students to a zero plus level of listening and speaking comprehension, which is survival level.  The students are exposed to approximately 1,200 vocabulary items leaving the course with a working vocabulary of about 500-700 words, according to the course syllabus.  They will learn basic grammar covering nouns, verbs, pronouns, sentence subject and object, prepositions, syntax and sentence structure.

The students will be able to count from zero to 10,000 and recognize written numbers.  They will be able to tell time in Arabic and be familiar with basic fractions.

Planning for the Arabic Immersion Language Course started in the fall of 2001. 

“The course was up and running in three months, partially because of the events of Sept. 11,” Paradysz said.

Three classes ran in 2002 and 2003.  There are nine classes scheduled for this year.  Paradysz has trained 119 Marines and only four of them would have failed the class if students could fail.

“The students are not failed or recycled, if they start they finish,” Paradysz stated.

“The instructor breaks down the material, which is helpful and a good method of teaching,” said LCpl. Sharon Arviv, radio operator, Headquarters Co., 8th Communication Battalion.

Marines who take this Arabic language course and get deployed to the Middle East will have the advantage of knowing more about the culture, history and will be able to interact with the indigenous people.

“Anyone who goes over to the Middle East needs to learn the basics of the Arabic language,” said Staff Sgt. Randall S. Schwandt, explosive ordnance disposal technician, Marine Wing Support Squadron 271, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.