Go Ahead, Learn a Foreign Language… Or Ten

I’ve written before about the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, and the ridiculously large amount of resources they provide at their field support website. (They are, among other things, the people who brought you the cultural-awareness legends and folktalkes of the world website earlier this year.)

Well, it turns out that they produce a whole bunch more stuff as well, at their Language Materials Distribution System website

If I’m counting right, they produce materials for thirty-four languages or dialects from around the world (including two varieties of Chinese and seven of Arabic); these are typically in the form of a CD (or DVD, in a few instances) and an accompanying booklet, which you can, if you’re in the military, I guess, theoretically order and purchase.

However, they also make just about everything available for download – the books as PDF files, and the CD contents as MP3s. It might not be the most user-friendly way of doing things, but if you need (or just want) to learn at least a little bit of a foreign language, however obscure (some of them I had to Google to figure out where they’re from), this is probably the easiest and best way to do so, for free, legally. Some of the resources (Iraqi Arabic) are more comprehensive than others (the Iraqi Arabic “headstart” is an eighty-hour, ten-course program on one – downloadable – DVD), and some of the instructions are obviously a bit military-centric (let’s be honest, the odds of a casual tourist, or even a business tourist, needing to know how to say “hydraulic fluid” or “400-cycle alternating current” or “grappling hook” are fairly low) but there’s enough universally-applicable content (“where is the bathroom?”) to make these packages valuable well beyond their intended target market. You won’t necessarily become fluent, but you’ll learn enough to get by, and a lot of the time, that’s more than enough.

Published in: General | on March 13th, 2009| Comments Off on Go Ahead, Learn a Foreign Language… Or Ten

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