There are many factors which affect language learning abilities in adults: natural ability, external stressors, personal interest, organizational emphasis, and frequency of exposure are just a few of the many variables which can impact the language skills of the military’s cadre of professional linguists. Understanding which of these variables are within our control——and then collectively applying our efforts to those variables——will have a greater positive impact on language abilities than any other potential option. This is true both because it concentrates the limited amount of time that military professionals have available and because it enables unity of effort across military branches and professional communities.
There are many aspects which can be easily controlled by those who lead military linguists. Some of these, like external stressors,...
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... to facilitate language acquisition and maintenance. This method would also enable year-round training without requiring long-term travel or periods of intermediate language training away from the language centers of excellence.
Ultimately, effective improvement and retention of high-level language skills relies on instituting low-level, manageable, and distributed changes to the broader language maintenance architecture, focusing on those areas which are likely to yield the best return on investment and are fully within our control as leaders. In terms of language ability and improvement, the area squarely within our control is predominantly how supervisors influence and instruct their subordinates. By changing the way our front-line leaders manage their subordinates, we can apply the principle of Controlling What We Own in order to Zero in on “Language” Excellence.
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