Sunday, September 23, 2012

Language, national fleets and prawn sandwiches

Language, national fleets and prawn sandwiches

A friend of mine in Australia (and an experienced maritime expert) sent me this article.  What do you think?  I know languages are important.  But did you know how communication is facilitated at sea?  Check out the article.  I’m curious as to your thoughts.

Also -- be sure to check out www.excusemywhat.com

Friday, September 21, 2012

Language Learning Options

How to Learn a Foreign Language

Finding the right method of language study can help you learn to communicate with confidence.
Sometimes words do fail—especially if they’re not in someone’s native tongue. If you need some language lessons before your next business meeting, trip or way-out-of-town job, there are plenty of options to get you talking.

Private tutor

Though Jenny Schade went to kindergarten in Paris, the Wilmette, Ill.–based president of JRS Consulting was far from fluent when she returned to the city on a business trip as an adult. So for the last seven years, Schade has been working weekly with a private tutor. The personalized classes have helped her learn the business French she needs and, over time, to communicate effectively via email. Schade says that working one-on-one suits the changing needs of her business.
$50 per hour
Best for: Executives who need to tailor their learning experience as new opportunities arise.
Next step: Use a site like language-school-teachers.com, where searches can be narrowed down to tutors in your city or state (it also includes online tutors), or call the languages department of your local college for a referral.


When Michael Lundquist, the executive director of the Massachusetts-based Polus Center for Social & Economic Development, decided that he wanted to stop getting by on his high school Spanish (and a translator’s help) during trips to Central America—which included high-level government meetings—he turned first to classes, then to Rosetta Stone software. “It’s almost an immersion course,” Lundquist describes. “[It] uses images that really help you remember vocabulary.” The company recommends 120 hours of instruction in order to become conversational.
Best for: Visual learners who need an on-the-go experience.
Next step: Tell Me More (tellmemore.com) and Rosetta Stone (rosettastone.com) series have won numerous awards. Read online user reviews to guide your purchase.

In-country immersion

Former investment banker Dustin Dumas Weeks took a position in Denmark and dove into full-on immersion. Aside from all the time she spent in her Danish-speaking workplace, she also took classes for 9 to 16 hours a week. “After three months, I was able to communicate well enough that the locals would not revert to speaking English to me,” Weeks says. “I could make conversation with my colleagues at the bank, shop in the stores and conduct business at the bank.”
Approx. $300–$3,000, depending on number of hours and accommodations
Best for: Fearless learners willing to feel a little lost on the way to fluency.
Next step: Online clearinghouses such as linguaserviceworldwide.com, languagesabroad.com, learningtraveler.com and amerispan.com offer extensive listings.

Weekly group classes

It makes sense that an engineer would want to build a strong foundation when learning a language. After trying to learn Spanish via DIY software, David Hashman, the chief engineer with Denver-based Road 9, turned to his local community college for classes. “I’m much more into understanding the structure of the language and the conjugation and everything else,” he says. He also finds the ongoing classes helpful for learning the written language that he needs for business.
Approx. $400 per course
Best for: Travelers who plan to return to a region or country many times, and would like the added benefit of local classmates for conversational practice.
Next step: Check the class schedules at your local college or community adult education program.

Pre-trip immersion at home

With just two weeks to go before his move to France, James Crespo, now the NYC-based president of Georg Jensen USA, hired a French graduate student to give him an intensive 10-day, eight-hours-per-day immersion course at his residence. Though Crespo reports that it was exhausting, it worked. “I didn’t feel comfortable until the second week in Paris, but it did kick in,” he says.
Approx. $2,400
Best for: Fast learners who need just enough to get by during last-minute trips.
Next step: Contact your local university to find a grad student who can immerse you in your language of choice. Grad students usually have teaching knowledge, and they’re always hungry for extra cash.
New York City–based freelance writer JENNA SCHNUER doesn’t remember much Spanish from high school.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Air Force Changes Foreign Language Proficiency Bonus Program

     As of September 1st 2012, unless you are language coded or a part of the Language Enable Airman Program (LEAP), you will no longer be receiving pay for your foreign language if it is listed as “Prevalent in the Force” -- PIF.
    The FLPB (FLPP) program was (in my opinion) a terrific way to motivate airmen to learn to speak languages and to maintain language proficiency, but now those who can receive pay are among a very small group.  Many career fields (Judge Advocates for example) are not eligible to receive FLPB pay under this new program because their career fields has decided to not allow any participation in the LEAP program and none of their positions are language coded.  The only way for some airmen to receive proficiency pay would be to speak a strategic language like Arabic.
    I’m thankful for that as I speak Arabic, but how does this encourage those only speaking European languages to continue mastering their second language?  If the Air Force wanted to promote language proficiency -- why not expand bonus programs rather than restrict them?
    What do you all think of this new policy?

    Below is from the Language, Region and Culture Program on the new changes to the bonus:


Published: Sep 06, 2012 17:16:29 EDT
By Karen Harrison
Language, Region and Culture Program Office
WASHINGTON-- On Sept. 1, the Air Force Senior Language Authority (SLA) announced changes to the Air Force Foreign Language Proficiency Bonus (FLPB) policy.
The updated policy modifies the criteria Airmen must meet to qualify for FLPB and will affect individual Airmen when they re-certify for FLPB.
The new AF FLPB policy (AFI 36-2605, Air Force Military Personnel Testing System, Guidance Memo 4) is targeted to meet the needs of the Air Force by incentivizing Airmen with proficiency in languages that align with AF requirements.
In cases where the Air Force has more than sufficient existing language capability to meet validated requirements, Airmen will not receive FLPB unless they are serving in a Language Designated Position, are in a language inherent specialty or otherwise require a language to perform their duties. These languages will be listed as Prevalent in the Force (PIF) on the AF Strategic Language List (SLL).The AF SLL is available from base Test Control Officers.
Under previous Air Force policy, Airmen received FLPB if they demonstrated exceptionally high proficiency in a PIF language. With the new policy, Airmen are incentivized in foreign languages and dialects that are of the most strategic importance to the AF mission and where there is insufficient proficient capability to meet validated requirements.
The Air Force is making a requirements-based change to its foreign language proficiency bonus policy. "The service needs Airmen to focus on languages that help us fulfill our mission. This change is for the good of the force" said Ms. Barbara Barger, the AF SLA.
"Given the dynamic and challenging nature of today's global environment, the Air Force needs to be a truly cross-culturally competent force capable of accomplishing its mission in every area of the world" Ms. Barger reiterated.
Airmen who currently receive FLPB can determine if, and/or how these changes will affect them by reaching out to their Test Control Officer.
FLPB Background
FLPB is a monetary incentive paid to eligible and qualified military personnel possessing foreign language proficiency. FLPB was established to encourage Total Force Airmen to acquire, maintain, and enhance foreign language skills vital to national defense.
The ability of the Air Force to interact in the international arena and respond effectively to any global contingency mandates the need for qualified personnel to communicate with allies, local populations and our adversaries.
In addition to receiving monetary benefits provided by FLPB, Airmen with LRC capabilities provide additional value to the Air Force.  FLPB is used to incentivize acquisition of and improvement in those languages that meet validated AF requirements.  Airmen should contact their Career Field Manager to learn about Language Designated Positions in their respective AFSCs. 
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the FLPB policy changing?

The Air Force's long-term goal is to incentivize foreign language proficiency that matches with validated Air Force requirements to enhance the mission. The previous two FLPB guidance memos reflected this policy transformation and began to outline the shift from mapping foreign language proficiency to shaping proficiency to meet specific requirements. Initially, the Air Force Senior Language Authority (SLA) used the incentive bonus to identify language-proficient Airmen. At the same time, the SLA was also gathering foreign language requirements from the Component Numbered Air Forces (CNAFs), so that the AF could understand the inventory of Airmen with language proficiency as compared to the number of requirements for each foreign language. Based on these results, there are many more Airmen with language proficiency than validated requirements in some languages. The new FLPB policy will now aim to incentive language proficiency that more closely aligns with the Air Force mission and validated requirements.

What is PIF and what languages are PIF languages? 

PIF stand for "Prevalent in the Force." PIF languages are those languages for which the Air Force has many more proficient Airmen than requirements. In those cases, the languages were designated PIF and bonus payments for PIF languages are limited to Airmen who are utilizing the language to perform their duties. In addition to the PIF designation, there are also two languages categories for which an Airman is eligible for FLPB.

Enhancement Languages (includes Immediate Investment and Emerging languages) are those in which the Air Force would like to enhance its capability. Enhancement languages are those for which DoD and the Air Force project an immediate need to meet urgent, current demands or for which there is an anticipated future need.

Sustainment languages are those for which there is a continuing, or sustained, need during the next 10-15 years. Whether or not a particular language is considered to be PIF will continue to change with the needs of the Air Force.

The AF Strategic Language List (SLL) is a complete list of the current languages for use in administering testing, training, recruiting and retention incentive programs, including those languages that are PIF languages. Ask your base Test Control Officer for a copy. The AF SLL is For Official Use Only.

Who will be affected most? 

- Airmen who are proficient in Prevalent in the Force (PIF) languages
- Airmen not in a language-designated position or not utilizing the PIF language in support of the Air Force mission
- Airmen who are proficient in PIF languages, whose primary duty requires or is coded for another language, will be most affected.
How can I still get paid for PIF languages? 

Your position must require the language in order to perform your duties. Typically, this means filling a language-designated position. Because many AFSCs use language skills, Airmen possessing these talents increase their eligibility for diverse career opportunities across the Air Force. Airmen should contact their Air Force Specialty Manager to learn about language-designated positions in their respective AFSCs. Another option is studying a language on the SLL that is not PIF. Finally, you could consider an application to the Language-Enabled Airman Program (LEAP). Additional information is available from the Air Force Culture and Language Center at:http://www.culture.af.mil/leap/index.aspx. If you would like to maintain your current language or begin to learn a new language, please contact AF/A1DG at af.a1dgworkflow@pentagon.af.mil for information on free, virtual language resources.

When will the changes take place?

The first changes were effective 1 Sep 2011, when languages of primary training for Cryptologic Language Analysts were separated and paid differently from languages outside of the language of primary training. The second change is effective on the date of publication of the AFI 36-2605, Guidance Memo 4. These changes will more closely focus the Air Force incentive bonus on languages for which the AF has requirements. The policy will affect individual Airmen's FLPB upon re-certification.

How frequently does and will this policy change?

While not frequently, FLPB policy changes as Air Force mission and requirements evolve.

Sound off and let me know what you think.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Nice Article on Learning a Second Language

Forbes article on learning a foreign language:
Direct link:  http://www.forbes.com/2010/07/27/learn-second-language-lifestyle-travel-study.html

How To Learn A Second Language
Laura Keen, 07.27.10, 4:30 PM ET

Italian cardinal Joseph Caspar Mezzofanti was said to have spoken more than 38 languages fluently at the time of his death in 1849, a skill that would have been imminently useful in today's globalized economy.
Unfortunately, most people nowadays have trouble recalling anything more complex than "Dónde está la biblioteca?" decades after their last high school Spanish lesson.
So we set out to uncover what's involved in learning a foreign language as an adult, which methods work best and how you can maintain your new exotic tongue once you've got it down.
Some advertisements would have prospective polyglots believe they're just a 15-minute audio tape away from becoming a U.N. interpreter. But experts say these get-fluent-fast programs are a complete sham. "There is no method that can do that," says Robert DeKeyser, a professor of second language acquisition at the University of Maryland. "The only way to learn a language is to make quite a bit of effort on a daily basis."
Programs designed to mimic the learning methods of children are also a waste of time and money, says DeKeyser. "You cannot expect to just absorb language the way that a child does," he says. "Children are good at learning the underlining system of all the language input they get because they can infer the underlying patterns without understanding the rules. Adults must be conscientious of the rules of the language. Their implicit learning doesn't work all that well."
Lisa Davidson, an associate professor of linguistics at New York University, says one major difference in the language learning process between adults and children involves interference from a native tongue. "When you're a kid all you're working at is acquiring a language, and you don't have anything to get in the way of that," she says. "When you're an adult and you already have a language, the one you already know filters sounds and you get substantial interference from it."
Before the age of one, infants are able to differentiate between sounds that their parents cannot (a notable example is the inability of native Japanese-speaking adults to distinguish between the "r" and "l" sounds). That ability can be reactivated with the proper amount of language input right up until puberty, a stage linguists refer to as the critical period.
And then comes adulthood, and with it many more hurdles.

Many experts agree that the ideal learning method for adults really depends on the individual. "Find the method that works for you and stick with it," says Richard Simcott, a polyglot who has professionally worked in over 14 languages at once for the British Foreign Service. "The main thing is to do a bit every day and to not get discouraged if you miss a day. If audio works for you, do audio. If it's classes, do classes. But find whatever it is and be consistent."
But not all adults are created equal. There are several factors that contribute to the success of one student over another. "First of all you need aptitude for language learning," says DeKeyser. "People vary in their aptitude like they do in learning math or in playing basketball."
These biological differences in aptitude do not mean that individuals with a knack for languages can just move to Japan and passively await fluency. "Motivation is a key part of learning a language," says Davidson. "The more time that you spend during the day speaking your second language, the better at it you're going to be."
Learning from multiple people is another key to success, especially when attempting to cultivate a native accent. "When you are exposed to a lot of people you get a much better sense of what the sound of a word is supposed to be," says Davidson. "You avoid exposing yourself to what could be idiosyncrasies in one individual's speech patterns."
Once an individual masters one language, experts say learning additional foreign tongues can be much easier for a number of reasons. Individuals with previous experience know what's involved in the learning process and are more adept at cultivating strategies for communicating with limited comprehension. "And no matter how different the two languages are, there are some sounds or words that can be carried over," says DeKeyser.
The tricks to maintaining foreign fluency are very similar to the methods used to achieve it--you have to practice.
"Maintaining a language is a matter of dedicating enough time to it," says DeKeyser. "You need to interact with native speakers. Make every possible effort to speak the learned language on a daily basis."
Simcott recommends continually challenging yourself even after you've reached fluency. "Sign up for political science or philosophy classes where you will be tested beyond asking things like 'how much is the bread?' This will help you understand the culture and the people infinitely better as well."

Monday, September 3, 2012

Rosetta Stone

While I hate to admit it, Rosetta Stone is one of the best language learning tools on the market.  When I first started studying Arabic, I used it religiously.  Over the years, the program has improved dramatically, but the basic structure is still the same. 
Using four images, the program will present you a dialogue.  Sometimes it will be a single word.  Other times it will be a complete sentence.  You then have to click on the corresponding picture that represents the dialogue spoken.  Depending on how you use the program, repetition is used to continually reinforce the words/sentences you are learning.   By associating the phrases with pictures, Rosetta Stone helps both the visual learner and the auditory learner.
 You can then take tests to see how well you recall the images.  These tests can be spoken or written.  If you choose to test your speaking ability, the program will examine your tone and determine whether or not you correctly said the particular word or phrase. 
The best part of Rosetta Stone is that your progress is incremental and each level builds upon the next so that you use the words you have already been learning when you start learning other words and phrases.  If used on a consistent basis, Rosetta Stone will really help you build quite an extensive vocabulary.
The only drawback regarding Rosetta Stone is that for the most part every program is exactly the same (i.e. whether you are learning French, Arabic, or Farsi).  So if you beginning to learn Arabic after having used Rosetta Stone for French, you will see the same images for “he jumped,” “she jumped,” and “they jumped.”   It can get very tedious very fast as you have already become very accustomed to seeing the same images over and over.  Thus the boredom factor emerges quite quickly if using Rosetta Stone for a second or third language.  Basically it is the same program with different languages interposed over the framework.  Great strategy if you want to market to the masses expecting that they will only study one language – but not a great product for those individuals who like to study multiple languages.
If you would like to have access to another powerful language learning tool, consider www.excusemywhat.com  -- using mnemonics each book can help you remember hundreds of vocabulary terms in a very short time.  Give it a try today.
As always I welcome your comments and feedback.  What do you think of Rosetta Stone?  Would you recommend it to others?

Saturday, September 1, 2012


     As I’ve stated before, one of the best ways to learn a foreign language is to learn vocabulary words. The more you improve your vocabulary, the quicker you will learn your foreign language.  Grammar is important, but focusing on grammar only gets you frustrated.  Learning vocabulary actually gives you the power to communicate.  Just think of little kids when they want something....while they might not use Shakespearean grammar, a simple “hungee” is usually enough to communicate that the child is hungry.
     Trying to crack the nut on the best ways to learn vocabulary is tough.  I’m bias as I totally recommend my books.  www.excusemywhat.com will give you some ideas about my work using mnemonics.  But if there were one product that I would recommend without any hesitation, it would be a product that is totally free.  What product you ask?  QUIZLET!  Simply go to www.quizlet.com to try it out.  It is a computer based flashcard mega-source.  You can find already made flashcards for just about any language you might be studying.
   Once you sign up, you can track your progress, take tests, or simply play games to reinforce the list of vocabulary that you are studying.  Most of the time you can also have quizlet pronounce the words for you so that you not only practice your reading but also your listening comprehension.  I just recently downloaded the quizlet Ap on my IPhone and I just quizlet when I’m waiting for my wife to shop or while I’m waiting for my kids while they are at their music lessons.  On the application you can set it to automatic flashcard mode so that it will read the new term in your foreign language followed by the English version and then it will automatically go to your next word.  You can stop at any time to focus on a word that has been difficult for you to memorize.
     I especially like the games, like scatter.  Because it is internet based you can compete with anyone else in the world that also uses quizlet.  I like that because it gives me a challenge to match words as fast as possible.  
     Bottom line:  If you are trying to learn new vocabulary for anything -- foreign languages especially....use QUIZLET!  It is a terrific program.  I’d love to hear what anyone else has to say.  Got any similar experience using it?

    Don’t forget to check out my website.  I could use any helpful feedback you might have there as well.  www.excusemywhat.com