• Tue. Mar 28th, 2023

Discovering the World by way of Languages: Deployed Troopers’ Tales | Article


Mar 18, 2023

1st Lt. Aivaras Barkaitis poses with a Lithuanian flag whereas deployed in Kosovo, Feb. 9, 2023.
(Photograph Credit score: Sgt. 1st Class Herschel Talley)


KOSOVO – In line with the U.S. Census Bureau, 21 p.c of individuals in the USA of America communicate one other language, apart from English, at dwelling. Whereas 78 p.c of People communicate just one language, this may make issues tough for them overseas. The tales of those that can communicate extra languages, and the way they realized it, can typically be as fascinating because the language itself.

U.S. Military 1st Lt. Aivaras Bartkaitis is a Medical Operations Officer with the 2nd Battalion, 151st Infantry Regiment, 76th Infantry Brigade Fight Crew (IBCT), Indiana Military Nationwide Guard and was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The son of Lithuanian immigrants, his dad and mom had a tough time elevating him and his siblings resulting from their monetary state of affairs. Bartkaitis, his brother and sister had been despatched to Lithuania to stay with their grandparents and godparents. When he turned 16, Bartkaitis and his siblings returned to the USA and completed highschool earlier than enrolling in faculty and the Military Nationwide Guard.

Bartkaitis says he speaks fluent Lithuanian and English, but additionally grew up figuring out Russian as effectively.

“In Lithuania, the Russian language is quite common as effectively,” Bartkaitis stated. “I wish to say I’m fluent in Russian; I’d say I perceive it and might communicate it to a fourth-grade stage, as a result of I’m struggling to maintain up that language talent.”

Russian was a required language for all of the Soviet States and was a secondary language of Lithuania, when it was a part of the Soviet Union after World Warfare II.

“They [Lithuania] had a really historic occasion referred to as the Russification,” Bartkaitis stated.

Russification started below the Tsars, or Russian emperors, within the late eighteenth century and continued till the collapse of the Soviet Union, December 26, 1991. The Russification was a type of cultural assimilation wherein non-Russians, whether or not voluntarily or involuntarily, gave up their tradition and language in favor of Russian tradition and language.

“The language is a really sacred a part of Lithuanian tradition as a result of we needed to cope with the entire state of affairs of Russia attempting to do away with our language and having to do underground faculties, books, smuggling and all that to maintain the language alive,” stated Bartkaitis.

Bartkaitis stated although the Soviet Union collapsed on the finish of 1991, lots of his family members nonetheless spoke Russian and it was utilized in many television exhibits and books. He added that it turned a second language that was provided in faculties, however was not necessary.

“I simply picked it up from being round family members and speaking to different folks,” Bartkaitis stated.

Bartkaitis famous the similarities between his choosing up of Russian and the Troopers he’s at the moment serving with in Kosovo, studying up Albanian.

“It was sort of the identical state of affairs particularly while you went right into a restaurant. They’d have Lithuanian written and Russian written proper beneath, or the road indicators would have Lithuanian written on prime and Russian beneath it, so it was a really fast option to choose up issues,” Bartkaitis stated.

Cultural immersion is one other option to study a language. When an individual is engaged in a tradition, they’ve the alternatives to choose up the language and perceive it. Bartkaitis stated plenty of the tradition comes from slang or humor, and is a direct reflection of the world.

“When you recognize the language, you perceive extra of the tradition; the place the language got here from and the tradition places you in a greater perspective [to learn] how folks stay in a special a part of the world,” stated Bartkaitis.

U.S. Military Sgt. Logan Babcock agreed that cultural immersion is a good way to study one other language.

A Soldier with the Headquarters and Headquarters Firm, 76th IBCT, Indiana Military Nationwide Guard, deployed to Kosovo, Babcock studied at Indiana College and enrolled within the Turkish Flagship program. This program was completely different from most as a result of the scholars would meet with a local speaker twice every week, conduct one-on-one conversations and the speaker would additionally assist them examine. He additionally stated the scholars would do language immersion journeys inside Indiana and communicate in Turkish all through the weekend with the native audio system.

“I additionally did a summer time and two semesters overseas at Baku Language College, in Baku, Azerbaijan,” Babcock stated.

Touring to Azerbaijan, Babcock continued his program there. He nonetheless stayed with households who had been from Turkey, however lived and labored in Azerbaijan.

“It was a singular problem of not solely attempting to study Turkish overseas, but additionally attempting to study Turkish in a rustic the place Turkish isn’t essentially the dominant language,” Babcock stated.

Babcock was drawn to studying Turkish and had at all times related it with the Ottoman Empire being the bridge between the East and West in Asia and Europe. He additionally stated the Turkish language makes use of the Latin alphabet, which was a gorgeous characteristic of the language.

Babcock has used his Turkish language in Kosovo throughout a visit to the town, Prizren. Turkish can be one of many minor languages of Kosovo and Babcock had a number of conversations in Turkish with a few of the locals.

“I feel they anticipated that we might all communicate English to them, so it was cool I may discuss to them in Turkish,” Babcock stated.

Kosovo Power hosts a contingency of Turkish Troopers and Babcock used that as a chance to observe his extra talent.

“I’ve been capable of work together with the teams of Turks who work with us, as a part of our Kosovo mission,” Babcock stated.

He stated the Turkish Troopers are sometimes bowled over at his potential to talk Turkish with them.

“It’s a much less studied language all through the globe, so it’s very shocking once they [Turkish Soldiers] discover any person capable of communicate it,” Babcock stated.

Whereas Latkaitis and Babcock have each realized their languages by way of immersion into the tradition by dwelling within the nations, U.S. Military Spc. Joshua Steelman took a special path.

Steelman joined the Indiana Military Nationwide Guard in 2020, and now serves with the Headquarters and Headquarters Firm, 76th IBCT, deployed to Kosovo.

Previous to leaving for primary coaching, Steelman had the chance to take the Protection Language Aptitude Battery, which evaluates how effectively a local English speaker can study a brand new language. Questions on the check vary from choosing phrases which have completely different sounds and making use of primary grammar guidelines to made-up phrases. Based mostly on their outcomes, candidates are divided into 4 classes by problem to study. Steelman’s scores positioned him within the Class III language: Farsi.

Class I is taken into account the simplest and shortest course at 30 weeks. It has six languages together with Spanish, Italian and French; whereas Class II has 4 languages: German, Romanian, and Indonesian. Class III is the biggest class, having 28 languages together with Polish, Ukrainian, Russian and Farsi, that are realized over 48 weeks. Class IV is the best stage, with languages like Arabic, Chinese language, Japanese and Pashto, requiring 63 weeks of studying.

After primary coaching at Fort Leonard Wooden, Mo., Steelman was despatched to the Protection Language Institute Overseas Language Heart in Monterey, Calif. for 48 weeks to study Farsi.

Discovering the World through Languages: Deployed Soldiers’ Stories

Spc. Joshua Steelman reads his Farsi Bible whereas deployed in Kosovo, Feb. 8, 2023.
(Photograph Credit score: Sgt. 1st Class Herschel Talley)


“It was intense,” Steelman stated, when requested what the coaching was like. “It was eight hours a day of studying the language with lecturers, within the classroom setting after which, along with that, we had two hours of homework, so it was a really intensive examine of that one language.”

Steelman stated the course began with sound and script for the primary two weeks, studying the alphabet, the sounds of the language and the way to write the script. He stated even to start with, the scholars had been required to study 30 new phrases a day. After the primary two weeks, the scholars went matter by matter starting with household, meals, locations of curiosity.

“There was talking observe on the finish of the day the place we participated in made-up eventualities,” Steelman stated.

“Via two thirds of the course, one hour every day was devoted to a brand new grammar level and in the direction of the top, the matters acquired a little bit extra advanced, like with economics and politics. On the very finish [of the course], it was simply learning what we felt we would have liked to work on probably the most.”

Regardless of being deployed in Kosovo, Steelman nonetheless retains up with this Farsi nonetheless he can.

“I’ve a Farsi Bible that I learn typically,” Steelman stated. “I hearken to the Farsi BBC, and YouTube and there’s some Farsi podcasts and discuss exhibits that I watch.”

Maintaining on a language is usually a matter of necessity for people with household who communicate one other language, or, within the case of U.S.Military Spc. Tristan Reed, can’t communicate in any respect.

Reed is Fight Engineer, and likewise a member Headquarters and Headquarters Firm, 76th IBCT, Indiana Military Nationwide Guard, deployed to Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo. He grew up with an aunt who was fluent in American Signal Language (ASL) as a result of her dad and mom had been deaf.

“I’d at all times go and hang around with them nearly each different weekend or each weekend and it simply intrigued me to study extra about signal language,” Reed stated.

Reed attended highschool in Indianapolis, Ind. and wanted to take an elective international language class to get his core 40 honors. He determined to take signal language as a result of new trainer truly being deaf. Reed stated he noticed this as a chance to study extra and be capable of shock his aunt along with his information.

“I used to be very intrigued on studying the way it all labored and simply studying extra about signal language,” Reed stated, as he knew nothing of the tradition previous to the category.

Discovering the World through Languages: Deployed Soldiers’ Stories

Spc. Tristan Reed (left) exhibits Spc. Connor Templeton (proper), each from the Headquarters and Headquarters Firm, 76th Infantry Brigade Fight Crew, Indiana Military Nationwide Guard, the way to spell his identify in American Signal Language, in Kosovo, Feb. 25, 2023.
(Photograph Credit score: Sgt. 1st Class Herschel Talley)


As with studying any new language, the category began with the alphabet and greetings, earlier than shifting on to shows on signing and getting hands-on observe. Reed stated yearly the category would placed on a live performance in signal language throughout Christmas time.

“I keep in mind my junior yr, we did ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ in signal language and her [the teacher] whole deaf neighborhood got here out as we sang and signed,” stated Reed.

Reed nonetheless used his abilities outdoors of college when he labored within the native hospital’s cafeteria. He stated the nurses knew he may signal and would ask him to assist talk with sufferers.

“Most nurses would know one other language or they’d have some sort of translator, however they had nobody for signal language,” Reed stated.

In ASL, figuring out the tradition and the nuances is important. Reed stated he realized plenty of signing is utilizing your expression and physique language when talking, if you wish to be understood.

“The straightforward truth is while you ‘communicate’ in signal language, it’s important to use expressions and feelings, in any other case the context is misplaced,” Reed stated.

Reed, together with Bartkaitis, Babcock and Steelman, all agree that figuring out a second language is invaluable. Whereas with the ability to talk in one other language is helpful, it’s the understanding and appreciation of one other tradition that makes the wrestle to study worthwhile.

“It provides us a special perspective of life total,” Bartkaitis stated.

He stated he is aware of it’s no straightforward activity to study one other language, however with every language an individual learns, the extra concerning the tradition they will perceive.

Steelman stated figuring out one other language helps develop your horizons and perceive completely different views.

“I feel it additionally gives a deeper look into different cultures,” Steelman stated. “I realized quite a bit about it’s [Farsi’s] folks, about how they view the world, their perspective on all the things, and I feel the language actually helps with that.”

Leave a Reply