There are language students, and there are Students of Language. People who train at the Defense Language School in Monterey California are trained to be linguists for a variety of military, federal agency, and other applications. There are even a few linguists that are trained for liaison type jobs with allies and friendly nations to the United States.
But the language student selected to study Arabic is a special breed. It takes a special kind of student to attempt it and only a select few emerge successful after an intense sixty-three week course of study. It takes an extremely gifted and special type of student to tackle Arabic, said Dr. Payne. Dr. Payne is the Vice Chancellor at the Defense Language School. Students and soldiers who apply and are accepted into the Arabic linguistic program are the brightest and the best, said Dr. Payne.
One such student is Specialist Corporal Brad Robertson. He has a zeal for Arabic, and a long time interest. Arabic is something I have always wanted to learn and become fluent in, stated Robertson. I looked into it when I was still in college, and the Defense Language Institute was always consistently at the top level of schools in proficiency. The instructors are native speakers, and that influenced my decision a great deal, remarked Robertson.
Having instructors that are native speakers is truly the element that is key, Dr. Payne agreed. We have instructors in Arabic with cultural and linguistic knowledge that cannot be surpassed, said Payne. What helps the most is how committed our instructors are, and supportive, said Private First Class Desiree Vassallo. Vassalo is also a student in the Arabic program at the Monterey School. The instructors have taught for decades, and they are experts, and they treat us with respect, assistance and concern, stated Vassalo.
Arabic is just one of the languages taught at the Defense Language Institute, but as such it is a category Six language. Other, more elemental languages are Category One, Two, or Three. Students are taught Arabic in steps, or phases. One of the first is Script and Sound and features an introduction to the spoken sounds and the Alphabet. Students listen to recordings they make in class, view newscasts on satellite and Arabic Television, and study politics, current events and culture as well as their language studies.
Students study hard, and have up to two hours of homework a night. The selection process is rigorous, but even so about one in three students, or thirty percent, do not make it and are dis-enrolled.