- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Army has invested $4.2 million in a Web-based software program to improve the foreign-language skills of overseas personnel.

The program was created by Rosetta Stone, which provides training software in 30 languages. The contract, entering its second year, allows software access to any member of the active-duty Army, National Guard or Reserve, and civilian personnel in the Department of the Army.

“You can’t send everyone to language training school,” said Stan Davis, project manager for the Army’s E-Learning program. “But this is a capability the Army needs in today’s operational environment.”

More than 64,000 soldiers are using the software, Mr. Davis said, and that number is expected to double next year. “We’re getting about 2,000 to 3,000 people signing up a month,” he said.

The military has been criticized for a lack of foreign-language speakers during the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Rosetta Stone provides courses in Pashto, spoken in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan; Farsi, widely spoken in Iran; and Arabic, which is used throughout the Middle East.

Mr. Davis said Arabic and Farsi are among the top courses for soldiers, but Spanish is studied most.

Linda Trude, Rosetta Stone’s senior director for institutional marketing, said the “dynamic immersion” process provides more success than traditional language courses.

“It’s done in the same way we learn our first languages,” she said. “When your mom or dad were teaching you, they didn’t give you in-depth grammar and language tests. They pointed to an object and said, ‘Ball.’ ”

The software gives instant feedback without using memorization or translation exercises.

Ms. Trude said the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and other segments of the Army have been using the Rosetta Stone software for several years.

“We’ve heard from people in the Army who don’t necessarily need it in their day-to-day jobs, but have said they can use the basic communication skills when they are interacting with Iraqis at the local market,” she said.

Ms. Trude said soldiers in the field have given positive feedback.

“Our goal is not to make them linguists, but to help provide them with basic communication skills,” she said.

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