1st Lt. Aivaras Barkaitis poses with a Lithuanian flag although deployed in Kosovo, Feb. 9, 2023.
(Photo Credit: Sgt. 1st Class Herschel Talley)
KOSOVO – According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 21 % of folks in the United States of America speak a further language, other than English, at residence. Although 78 % of Americans speak only 1 language, this can make points complicated for them abroad. The stories of these who can speak more languages, and how they discovered it, can usually be as exciting as the language itself.
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Aivaras Bartkaitis is a Health-related Operations Officer with the 2nd Battalion, 151st Infantry Regiment, 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Group (IBCT), Indiana Army National Guard and was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The son of Lithuanian immigrants, his parents had a difficult time raising him and his siblings due to their monetary circumstance. Bartkaitis, his brother and sister had been sent to Lithuania to reside with their grandparents and godparents. When he turned 16, Bartkaitis and his siblings returned to the United States and completed higher college prior to enrolling in college and the Army National Guard.
Bartkaitis says he speaks fluent Lithuanian and English, but also grew up realizing Russian as nicely.
“In Lithuania, the Russian language is extremely prevalent as nicely,” Bartkaitis stated. “I want to say I’m fluent in Russian I would say I comprehend it and can speak it to a fourth-grade level, due to the fact I’m struggling to hold up that language ability.”
Russian was a expected language for all the Soviet States and was a secondary language of Lithuania, when it was aspect of the Soviet Union immediately after Globe War II.
“They [Lithuania] had a extremely historical occasion referred to as the Russification,” Bartkaitis stated.
Russification started beneath the Tsars, or Russian emperors, in the late eighteenth century and continued till the collapse of the Soviet Union, December 26, 1991. The Russification was a type of cultural assimilation in which non-Russians, no matter if voluntarily or involuntarily, gave up their culture and language in favor of Russian culture and language.
“The language is a extremely sacred aspect of Lithuanian culture due to the fact we had to deal with the complete circumstance of Russia attempting to get rid of our language and obtaining to do underground schools, books, smuggling and all that to hold the language alive,” stated Bartkaitis.
Bartkaitis stated even though the Soviet Union collapsed at the finish of 1991, a lot of of his relatives nevertheless spoke Russian and it was made use of in a lot of television shows and books. He added that it became a second language that was supplied in schools, but was not mandatory.
“I just picked it up from becoming about relatives and speaking to other folks,” Bartkaitis stated.
Bartkaitis noted the similarities in between his selecting up of Russian and the Soldiers he is at present serving with in Kosovo, finding out up Albanian.
“It was type of the identical circumstance particularly when you went into a restaurant. They would have Lithuanian written and Russian written proper underneath, or the street indicators would have Lithuanian written on major and Russian beneath it, so it was a extremely speedy way to choose up points,” Bartkaitis stated.
Cultural immersion is a further way to understand a language. When a individual is engaged in a culture, they have the possibilities to choose up the language and comprehend it. Bartkaitis stated a lot of the culture comes from slang or humor, and is a direct reflection of the region.
“When you know the language, you comprehend additional of the culture exactly where the language came from and the culture puts you in a improved point of view [to learn] how folks reside in a distinctive aspect of the planet,” stated Bartkaitis.
U.S. Army Sgt. Logan Babcock agreed that cultural immersion is a excellent way to understand a further language.
A Soldier with the Headquarters and Headquarters Business, 76th IBCT, Indiana Army National Guard, deployed to Kosovo, Babcock studied at Indiana University and enrolled in the Turkish Flagship plan. This plan was distinctive from most due to the fact the students would meet with a native speaker twice a week, conduct 1-on-1 conversations and the speaker would also aid them study. He also stated the students would do language immersion trips inside Indiana and speak in Turkish all through the weekend with the native speakers.
“I also did a summer season and two semesters abroad at Baku Language University, in Baku, Azerbaijan,” Babcock stated.
Traveling to Azerbaijan, Babcock continued his plan there. He nevertheless stayed with households who had been from Turkey, but lived and worked in Azerbaijan.
“It was a distinctive challenge of not only attempting to understand Turkish abroad, but also attempting to understand Turkish in a nation exactly where Turkish is not necessarily the dominant language,” Babcock stated.
Babcock was drawn to finding out Turkish and had normally connected it with the Ottoman Empire becoming the bridge in between the East and West in Asia and Europe. He also stated the Turkish language makes use of the Latin alphabet, which was an eye-catching function of the language.
Babcock has made use of his Turkish language in Kosovo throughout a trip to the city, Prizren. Turkish is also 1 of the minor languages of Kosovo and Babcock had numerous conversations in Turkish with some of the locals.
“I believe they anticipated that we would all speak English to them, so it was cool I could speak to them in Turkish,” Babcock stated.
Kosovo Force hosts a contingency of Turkish Soldiers and Babcock made use of that as an chance to practice his more ability.
“I’ve been in a position to interact with the groups of Turks who function with us, as aspect of our Kosovo mission,” Babcock stated.
He stated the Turkish Soldiers are usually taken aback at his capability to speak Turkish with them.
“It’s a much less studied language all through the globe, so it is extremely surprising when they [Turkish Soldiers] locate somebody in a position to speak it,” Babcock stated.
Although Latkaitis and Babcock have each discovered their languages via immersion into the culture by living in the nations, U.S. Army Spc. Joshua Steelman took a distinctive path.
Steelman joined the Indiana Army National Guard in 2020, and now serves with the Headquarters and Headquarters Business, 76th IBCT, deployed to Kosovo.
Prior to leaving for standard education, Steelman had the chance to take the Defense Language Aptitude Battery, which evaluates how nicely a native English speaker can understand a new language. Inquiries on the test variety from picking words that have distinctive sounds and applying standard grammar guidelines to created-up words. Primarily based on their outcomes, applicants are divided into 4 categories by difficulty to understand. Steelman’s scores placed him in the Category III language: Farsi.
Category I is regarded the easiest and shortest course at 30 weeks. It has six languages which includes Spanish, Italian and French although Category II has 4 languages: German, Romanian, and Indonesian. Category III is the biggest category, obtaining 28 languages which includes Polish, Ukrainian, Russian and Farsi, which are discovered more than 48 weeks. Category IV is the highest level, with languages like Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Pashto, requiring 63 weeks of finding out.
Following standard education at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., Steelman was sent to the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey, Calif. for 48 weeks to understand Farsi.
Spc. Joshua Steelman reads his Farsi Bible although deployed in Kosovo, Feb. eight, 2023.
(Photo Credit: Sgt. 1st Class Herschel Talley)
“It was intense,” Steelman stated, when asked what the education was like. “It was eight hours a day of finding out the language with teachers, in the classroom setting and then, in addition to that, we had two hours of homework, so it was a extremely intensive study of that 1 language.”
Steelman stated the course began with sound and script for the very first two weeks, finding out the alphabet, the sounds of the language and how to create the script. He stated even in the starting, the students had been expected to understand 30 new words a day. Following the very first two weeks, the students went subject by subject starting with loved ones, meals, locations of interest.
“There was speaking practice at the finish of the day exactly where we participated in created-up scenarios,” Steelman stated.
“Through two thirds of the course, 1 hour every single day was devoted to a new grammar point and towards the finish, the subjects got a tiny additional complicated, like with economics and politics. At the extremely finish [of the course], it was just studying what we felt we required to function on the most.”
Regardless of becoming deployed in Kosovo, Steelman nevertheless keeps up with this Farsi even so he can.
“I have a Farsi Bible that I study at times,” Steelman stated. “I listen to the Farsi BBC, and YouTube and there’s some Farsi podcasts and speak shows that I watch.”
Maintaining up on a language can be a matter of necessity for people with loved ones who speak a further language, or, in the case of U.S.Army Spc. Tristan Reed, can not speak at all.
Reed is Combat Engineer, and also a member Headquarters and Headquarters Business, 76th IBCT, Indiana Army National Guard, deployed to Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo. He grew up with an aunt who was fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) due to the fact her parents had been deaf.
“I would normally go and hang out with them just about each other weekend or each weekend and it just intrigued me to understand additional about sign language,” Reed stated.
Reed attended higher college in Indianapolis, Ind. and required to take an elective foreign language class to get his core 40 honors. He decided to take sign language due to the new teacher basically becoming deaf. Reed stated he saw this as an chance to understand additional and be in a position to surprise his aunt with his understanding.
“I was extremely intrigued on finding out how it all worked and just finding out additional about sign language,” Reed stated, as he knew absolutely nothing of the culture prior to the class.
Spc. Tristan Reed (left) shows Spc. Connor Templeton (proper), each from the Headquarters and Headquarters Business, 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Group, Indiana Army National Guard, how to spell his name in American Sign Language, in Kosovo, Feb. 25, 2023.
(Photo Credit: Sgt. 1st Class Herschel Talley)
As with finding out any new language, the class began with the alphabet and greetings, prior to moving on to presentations on signing and obtaining hands-on practice. Reed stated each year the class would place on a concert in sign language throughout Christmas time.
“I recall my junior year, we did ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ in sign language and her [the teacher] complete deaf neighborhood came out as we sang and signed,” stated Reed.
Reed nevertheless made use of his abilities outdoors of college when he worked in the neighborhood hospital’s cafeteria. He stated the nurses knew he could sign and would ask him to aid communicate with individuals.
“Most nurses would know a further language or they would have some kind of translator, but they had no 1 for sign language,” Reed stated.
In ASL, realizing the culture and the nuances is crucial. Reed stated he discovered a lot of signing is applying your expression and physique language when speaking, if you want to be understood.
“The basic truth is when you ‘speak’ in sign language, you have to use expressions and feelings, otherwise the context is lost,” Reed stated.
Reed, along with Bartkaitis, Babcock and Steelman, all agree that realizing a second language is invaluable. Although becoming in a position to communicate in a further language is beneficial, it is the understanding and appreciation of a further culture that tends to make the struggle to understand worthwhile.
“It provides us a distinctive point of view of life general,” Bartkaitis stated.
He stated he knows it is no effortless process to understand a further language, but with every single language a individual learns, the additional about the culture they can comprehend.
Steelman stated realizing a further language assists expand your horizons and comprehend distinctive views.
“I believe it also delivers a deeper appear into other cultures,” Steelman stated. “I discovered a lot about it is [Farsi’s] folks, about how they view the planet, their point of view on all the things, and I believe the language seriously assists with that.”
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