Mentioned in the News: Infantrymen work hand in hand with Afghans during counterinsurgency exercise
“The SDSU Critical Languages Program is a superb resource for deploying US Marine Corps formations. The Pashto Language and Culture course helps prepare us to meet the tenets of General McChrystal's guidance for success in Afghanistan. My pre-deployment training would not be complete without it.”
- LtCol. Rene Orellana (participant in Elementary Pashto Intensive Course), 2/16/10
“The Pashto course taught by the LARC staff was excellent and met all of my learning objectives. The language and cultural instruction was consistently high quality… overall I rate this course as outstanding. The instructors and instructor-to-student ratio were excellent, and the field trips truly enhanced the student’s cultural knowledge. I would highly recommend the Marine Corps continue to send students to this program.”
“Thought I’d drop you a quick note from Afghanistan. Things are going well out here and I am still immensely happy with the Pashto language training I received at SDSU. I use the Pashto on a daily basis and can’t say enough about the course.”
- Captain JOHN TEMPONE, I MEF Foreign Area Officer, USMC (participant in Elementary Pashto Intensive Course), 3/24/10
“I cannot thank you guys enough for what you helped us achieve. I'm planning on taking the DLI course later on next year…”
- Enlisted Marine, 4/29/10
“I met someone else that was a Pashto instructor in Texas and he told me it was the hardest language to learn and teach. I don't think It’s that difficult though. You guys made it so easy to learn for us.”
- Enlisted Marine, 4/29/10
“We have been in Afghanistan for quite a while now. I can't thank you enough of what you taught us in class. It really does work and it works so well too. The first people we saw were the Afghan Army so Batoor, and Paliwan and I went to go speak with them and they were soooo surprised. They said it sounded like we went to school for a long time. They said we talked so well.”
- Enlisted Marine
“I was a student in one of the Pashto courses the LARC ran for the Marines early last year. I'd love to get some of my Marines into both the Pashto and Dari courses. You guys really have a great program.”
- Marine LtCol Amber Lehning
“I was in the elementary Pashto class last September. Just got back from Afghanistan about a month ago. The language skills and cultural knowledge really paid off.”
- Enlisted Marine
“You guys (SDSU) literally saved my life by teaching me pashto!"
- Enlisted Marine, 1/8/11.
“Sir, I wanted to email you and thank you for giving me your card when I was at SDSU. I certainly enjoyed my time at SDSU and learned a tremendous amount of Pashto. I believe my experience at SDSU will set me up for success during my deployment to Afghanistan. I hope the LARC continues to produce Marines who are able to communicate in diverse languages. I think recent world events indicate that language skills will be in demand for the foreseeable future. Semper Fi,”
- Lt Jim Sullivan, 3/21/11
“Strategic” Corporal messages and stories from the field:
The following is a brief comment regarding Pashto use over here. I hope it's not too late, and I am sorry if it is. We have been very busy over here.
We went out on a mission recently, and I can't get into specific details for security purposes. We were in a district in northern Helmand. The Pashto language ability was definitely an asset for me. The interpreter could not be everywhere at all times, and lacked the knowledge to be able to relate on military terms. We had to share posts with ANA personnel who weren't always tracking on changes going on around us due to lack of communication and military perspective. Using Pashto, I successfully oriented the ANA to our surroundings, friendly personnel locations, points of origin of enemy contact, and our intent for the mission. Also, they were able to communicate with me on tactical terms that I was able to relay to my squad so it made operating as a unit a lot more fluid.
As a bonus, it was nice to be able to communicate with the people we are working with. It's nice to know about the person you are working next to, even if there's a different language to work around. He mentioned how his father was a mujahideen during the Soviet occupation, and how he was also fighting the Taliban afterwards but lost his legs during a mortar attack by them.
That is the end of my commentary. I hope you find it useful and again, I hope it isn't too late. Please give my regards to the teachers engineer saheb, and I hope your family has been doing well. I also hope everything back home is going well for you.
Salem alakium Saheeb
I am in Afghanistan enjoying the heat and people, culture and everything over here is completely identical to what we learned in class. I speak Pashto with the guys here but allot speak dari and most speak slang Pashto. For example one asks me my age and he said "Ta kal oom laree" I new he asked how mean years I have but wasn’t use to the slang. I responded and asked him the same question but the way I learned and he said i spoke good pashto. do Pashtuns get offended if you speak proper? There all teaching me more and they laugh about anything. Seems like there is a comedian in every group. Going to the bazaars is pretty fun, lots of people and everyone asking you to buy something, felt like I was sitting in class at Alvarado. I will write as i get free time, thx again Engineer
Malik Emal Khan
My experience learning Pashto
Over the past 8 weeks, I have been taking part in one of the most difficult subjects I can imagine, and certainly the hardest subject I have ever taken in any class - the Pashto language. I was excited at the idea of getting to come to SDSU to learn another language, but the truth is that I was mainly excited to get away from my job for 2 months. I guess that at the time, learning the language was a secondary bonus for me. I didn't know what to expect but I wasn't too worried about it.
After the first week, I was definitely hooked on learning Pashto. I don't know exactly what it was about it that was so interesting for me. Actually, it is really nice to be able to read and write in another language that isn't a Romantic language or that uses the Roman alphabet. I swear, being able to see passages in Pashto and actually understand what is being said in them is a really nice feeling. Being able to speak in another language that isn't Romantic-based is also very nice, and I look forward to raising my listening skill to be able to keep up with the speed of native speakers... or at least, for the most part. In any case, the ability to be able to have basic day-to-day conversations is a nice asset to have and I really look forward to improving upon it.
Now it's the 8th week, and it's our last day of class. I have to admit that while I feel accomplished for getting to this point, I am quite sad about the fact that we are done with this class as of today. [Our isntructos] were really attentive and helpful with us, and their sharing of their experiences to us definitely bolstered our understanding and appreciation of Pashto language and culture. I feel it is very unfortunate that it has to end now - I would not have minded another 2 months of classes, but the staff I imagine, as well as us, perhaps looked forward to this point. Dealing with so many Marines at once can be a really demanding, draining experience. For that I am very appreciative.
Thank you all very much for the opportunity to learn such a rich language and culture. It was a real pleasure working with you all.
Ze pale do der koshala shom. De Khudai pa'amman! Khudai moo wubakhsha! Dera manana!
Working within a small group of six other students and learning from the same two instructors throughout the entire course fostered a greatly effective learning environment. [The instructors] provided excellent instruction. My main critique would be to start the reading and listening with shorter passages, then build to longer ones later in the course once students have developed a basic ability to comprehend. Additionally, more dialogue between instructors and students outside of the OPI interview framework would better help students develop their ability to create language and speak Pashto at a conversational level.
The one on one mentoring and the review at the end of the day made learning and understanding this very foreign language much easier. I cant stress enough how satisfied i am with this course and especially my teachers. I know at sometimes teaching a very difficult language to students can be stressful at sometimes, our teachers were very patient and determined to help us become decent speakers. I was overall very impressed with this course and struggle to say what can be improved. Thank You
This has been a great experience so far, it is a positive method of creating friendship in Afghanistan with the people because they will be happy that we took the time to learn there language and interested in there culture, it will push the people that are neutral between the taliban and american soldiers towards our side.
The curriculum is very well placed and methodical in our mission for usage of the language. more writing and usage of the language in a more rigorous manner I think would be helpful however, I think that only good things are coming from the course curriculum
LARC Pashto team-
I don't know if you guys remember me but I was a student in the 3 month Pashto class offered March - May of 2011. I just want to express my sincere thanks to the entire team for working with me to expand my language knowledge from Arabic to Pashto. Not only did you guys teach me a lot during the class, but you gave me the foundation and the resources so that I could expand my knowledge by myself and I cannot begin to explain how much that meant to me.
I deployed to Kajaki in the Helmand province from December of 2011 until the end of September. While I was there I was able to translate basic ideas between my unit and the Afghan Police and the Afghan Army, and I was also able to help communicate basic ideas to local villagers while on patrol. To say the least, my Pashto proficiency far exceeded the expectations of my commanders who decided to award me with a Certificate of Commendation for my work which I believe is mostly due to the effort the LARC team put towards the class, thank you. Hopefully now they will see how valuable the SDSU class can be and will begin sending more of our linguists down there to pick up the incredible skills you helped me to acquire.
Please give my best to the team,
Daniel "Arman" Seduski
Sergeant, United States Marine Corps
The skill set I learned in the class offered at San Diego State University was one of the most useful things I had in both my training before deployment and as a tool while I was actually in country. It was not just the language itself that helped me but the portion of the course that taught culture and history as well. I can't find words to say how helpful and grateful I am for the things I learned here and this is why. There was a night during my deployment this past June where my squad and I found our selves in need of a place to stay. We had been walking all day and the night was upon us, the dangers of walking around at night due to ambushes, becoming more lost, and improvised explosive devices in the ground can not be stressed enough. There was a single compound in the middle of the field we had ended up in and we knocked on the door at about ten o'clock. A man emerged and wiped the sleep out of his eyes as we greater him, he asked us what we wanted and was very upset at first because he thought we thought he was hiding insurgents in his home. I was able to communicate to this man that we had no issues with him and that we were deeply sorry to disturb him so late and all we wanted was a place to stay for the night. After a few minutes of talking he finally allowed us to stay for the night in a back room. This was by far the defining moment I had in my deployment that represents the importance of the skill I learned in this language course. My squad had no interpreter that night and on many other occasions and I was able to bridge the gap. I have no idea what could have happened if we had not stayed in that mans house that night. The guidance and teaching from [the instructors] helped in my deployment just as much as the other schools and training I and my fellow Marines have been through. I can't thank you all enough for the opportunity I was given.
Corporal Micah J Navarijo
First Battalion Seventh Marines Baker Company
To whom it may concern,
On behalf of my unit and myself, I would like to express my sincere gratitude towards the San Diego State University Language Acquisition Resource Center, in particular the Afghanistan department. In preparation for my second deployment to the Helmand Province, Afghanistan, my unit 1st Radio Battalion aboard Camp Pendleton sent me to attend a three month Basic Pashto course at SDSU.
By trade, my Military Occupational Specialty is an Arabic Linguist which is the result of studying Modern Standard Arabic at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey for two years before being granted the title of Linguist. I felt, and still feel that because of the language learning strategies I acquired from DLI and the similarities between the two languages I was able to hit the ground running when the SDSU course started at in March of 2011.
Throughout the course the professors bent over backwards to offer the class extra help, extra materials (both of which I gladly accepted), Afghan culture lessons, but most importantly, the basic fundamentals of the language which allowed us to build on our knowledge after the conclusion of the course. It is for this especially that I am grateful; I still possess many of the course materials and am still using the fundamentals to build on my Pashto knowledge today.
After the end of the course in June 2011 I continued to study and correspond by email with the LARC staff which paid off once I deployed the following December. Because of the language skills I learned at SDSU and how I utilized them while deployed, I received a Certificate of Commendation which I've scanned and attached to this email. I feel as if the award is just as much the LARC staff's as it is mine. As stated in the award I used my Pashto to detect advanced warning of enemy intentions in addition to speaking with native Pashtuns while on patrol, at the market, or translating between my commanders and Afghan National Army/Police.
Two specific scenarios when I used my Pashto in Afghanistan that I'm especially proud of are as follows:
1) One day while we were on patrol we were tasked to set up an antenna responsible for relaying communications between two posts. While on patrol we discovered that the best spot for this antenna would be on top of a four-man Afghan National Army post. I approached and spoke with their sergeant, introduced myself to him and told him that I was also a sergeant. We did approximately 5 minutes of small talk consisting of where we were both from (I said New York, but he didn't know where that was so I just settled on America, he was from Kandahar), which posts we were at, how long we'd been in Afghanistan, etc, etc. I then asked if I could put our antenna on top of his roof for a week. He smiled and said yes and then we climbed up the ladder and duct taped it up there. We then had tea with him and said our goodbyes. When we came back to take the antenna down they had fruit, bread and beans waiting for us.
2) Our post (manned by 15 Marines and two civilian American-Afghan interpreters) was on a hilltop. A few times a week two of the Afghan National Police would come up and ask if we had seen anything strange going on in the valley. Most of the time the interpreters would talk with the ANP and I would just sit in and listen. One particular day however, both of our interpreters were down in the market buying food when the ANP approached. The sentry knew that I spoke Pashto so he woke me up and told me the situation. Once again I started with small talk similar to the scenario above. I then translated some of the news in the valley that the sentry wanted to inform them about and vice-versa. They then asked if they could use our binoculars to look at the landscape and the sentry let him. We then said our goodbyes and I went back to sleep.
Once again I cannot fully illustrate into words how appreciative I am for being able to attend this course. I have recommended to 1st Radio Battalion that they send more linguists here, especially ones who already know Arabic.
Thanks again, and best of luck to the program.
Sergeant Daniel W. Seduski
United States Marine Corps