Michele, The Real McCoy Contributor
and "Thib slaaHak!" are a seemingly strange arrangement of
letters. They may be, however, very vital for the survival of a U.S.
Spc. Mariam El Bakari teaches
Sailors how to say Arabic phrases in a language and cultural
awareness class in a Fort McCoy classroom. (Photo
by Tom Michele)
are using those strange arrangements as they encounter the people of
the foreign lands they are engaged in.
language has been a matter of survival for people since the beginning
of human civilization thousands of years ago," said Cpl. Ako
Akheri, a language and cultural awareness instructor at the 340th
Training Support Battalion (TSB) of the 181st Infantry Brigade conducting
mobilization training at Fort McCoy.
learn a language to stay out of trouble," Akheri said.
"People communicate by looking at body language. People look at
your face when they first try to understand you. When you smile, they
smile. When you cry, they cry. You express yourself by body language.
When you look at someone with a serious or angry expression, they
Soldiers, Airmen and Sailors attend one or more language and cultural
awareness sessions to become more accustomed to what they likely will
encounter in a foreign country, most likely at the present time either
Iraq or Afghanistan.
to "Ogaf!" and "Thib slaaHak." "Ogaf is the
first Arabic word we teach Soldiers," Akheri said. "It means
‘stop.’" The other phrase means ‘put your weapon down.’
are given a page of the 15 most- common phrases they are likely to
need to use in those two countries. Included are: ‘Hands up!’ ‘What
is your name?’ ‘ Stop the vehicle,’ and others.
language and culture instructors spend one hour just going over this
page; working on pronouncing each phrase, the Soldier in turn uttering
it. They repeat this a dozen times. The instructor then has the
students set the paper down and asks the students "How do you
say, ‘Show me your identification?’" The Soldier should
respond, ‘Shawufnee haweetak.’
Mariam El Bakari, an Arabic language instructor for the 340th TSB, along with Akheri,
who teaches Afghan dialects of Farsi and Pashto, explained Soldiers
will use these 15 common phrases right away."
need to be ready and focused wherever they go," El Bakari said.
"This language and cultural awareness class is one of many keys
to Soldiers being successful in their mission. It is important to
learn and respect that culture and beliefs so the Soldiers’ mission
is not complicated."
181st respects what we do (as language instructors)," El Bakari
said. "The 181st tells us our job is very important. I know I am
very lucky to be here. I love doing this for the Soldiers."
(Michele is a public
affairs specialist for Eagle Systems and Services Inc., contractor for
CONUS Support Base Services.)