New UArizona program will offer language and culture training for Department of Defense

Language Training Center

U.S. Department of Defense personnel will receive intensive and immersive courses in Arabic, Farsi, Russian, Spanish and Ukrainian through the University of Arizona's Language Training Center.

The University of Arizona's new Language Training Center will deliver intensive language training to U.S. Department of Defense personnel.

Funded by a three-year, $1.5-million grant from the Department of Defense's Defense Language and National Security Education Office, the university's Language Training Center will provide language and culture training in critical and strategic areas, with both in-person and virtual courses. The first year of instruction includes courses in Arabic, Farsi, Russian, Spanish and Ukrainian. The intensive and immersive courses are intentionally kept small, with no more than eight students per class, to maximize language learning.

Established in 2011, the Department of Defense's Language Training Centers program leverages existing university and college language and culture programs to meet the needs of Department of Defense organizations and units. The Institute of International Education administers the Language Training Centers program on behalf of the Defense Language and National Security Education Office. The UArizona Language Training Center is one of only nine in the country.

The UArizona Language Training Center builds on the university's international renown for research and instruction in second language acquisition and teaching. The university has a long history of partnering with Department of Defense units, particularly Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, for language training. UArizona houses multiple federally funded centers and programs that support language and culture training for diverse types of learners.

The co-principal investigators on the grant are Kimberly Jones, vice dean for academic affairs in the College of Humanities and a professor of East Asian studies, and Sonia Shiri, director of the Arabic Flagship Program in the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies and a professor of Arabic. Jieun Ryu, director of the Critical Languages Program, will be the LTC's executive director, overseeing implementation and assessment.

Courses typically include 160 hours of instruction, following a rigorous and innovative curriculum that supports higher-level language abilities through proficiency-based, communicative and task-based approaches. All students take entry and exit oral proficiency exams. The first year's courses, which will run in roughly monthlong October through May, will train about 65 students.

A second component, unique to the UArizona Language Training Center, will be foreign language instructor certificate courses in which Department of Defense personnel learn how to support less proficient learners studying the same critical language. The first year's certification courses will train about 60 students.

The foreign language instructor certificates, which come in both a 40-hour and 120-hour format, provide students with the essential foundations in second language acquisition, language teaching methodologies, curriculum and materials development, classroom management, assessment techniques and cultural awareness.

"The 'train the trainer' component was the top priority for our Department of Defense partners. It will dramatically expand the DoD's internal training capabilities, again serving as a force multiplier," Jones said. "Language specialists who go through these programs are well equipped to serve as language mentors, with a solid understanding of best practices for training and supporting lower-proficiency personnel studying the same target foreign language."

A version of this article originally appeared on the College of Humanities website.